Mum said “We’re off to Cambodia!”: the story of the Warre family as UWS Volunteers

Volunteers’ week: 1st-7th June, 2015

We’re celebrating volunteers’ week from 1-7 June – thanks to all our superstars who lend a hand! #VolunteersWeek

The Warre Family have been brilliant UWS volunteers – offering their treasure (through fund-raising), as well as their time and their talents (through in country volunteering) to support the cause.

To celebrate Volunteers’ Week, the Warre family, and all our brilliant volunteers, here’s a report from Tanja Warre on her family’s Cambodia trip:

Mum said “We’re off to Cambodia!”: the story of the Warre family as UWS Volunteers – By Tanja Warre

Learning together at UWS Som School

Many thanks to the Warre Family from Canberra, Australia, who in addition to their brilliant fund-raising efforts, recently returned after volunteering and supporting the UWS team in Cambodia for four months.

Tanja and Henry Warre (who works in one of our Partner Schools in Australia) volunteered in Cambodia from December 2014 to April 2015. Tanja writes: “…we have just finished four months of volunteering with United World Schools in Cambodia. It has been amazing. We are an Australian family of 4, and our two sons, Oscar and Pepi (aged 6 & 4) are now quasi members of the community of Som, an ethnic minority village deep in the hills of Ratanikiri, the province UWS is operating within.”

“We didn’t know what to expect; the key message was we had to be flexible, adaptable and ready for an adventure. An adventure we have had! There have of course been challenges – the heat, the remoteness, tummy bugs and the language barrier. However, the glorious moments far outweigh these challenges – bonding with the students, seeing them learn, developing the community school, swimming with the locals in the fast flowing river and experiencing the rich culture of Cambodia.”

“Unlike other volunteers who teach in a variety of locations, we spent our whole time in the one village of Som. The thinking was that our boys could build relationships, make friends and establish a routine by staying in the one location. This has well and truly paid off as the relationships we have forged are undoubtedly the highlight of this phenomenal experience. The impact the UWS School has on the community is huge.”

“We generally spend 4 days at a time in the village, teaching in the newly built school. Out in the village it is hot, dusty, no power, drop toilets and very basic living conditions. After a few days we are ready for a cold drink, a shower, a meal at a local restaurant and a visit to the laundry.”


“All this said, teaching and living in the village is just awesome. The children here are gorgeous, beautiful smiles and sparkling eyes. They are so keen to learn. On numerous occasions when a lesson had finished, they would pull me back to the board and give me a pen, signalling to keep going. Behaviour management is not a problem, if they don’t like what you are doing, or if they are bored, they simply walk out.”

“Our focus was on making the lessons more interactive, more fun – promoting independent thinking. The Khmer teaching style is very traditional – the teacher stands at the board with a stick, the children sit in rows and repeat what the teacher says. Our teaching was focussed around games – we played addition games with dice, dominoes, number lines, dividing into teams and creating competition around maths. Throw in some singing, some sport games and story telling and the days are full. The kids are warm, open, high spirited and ready to give things a go. Tears often came to my eyes as these scruffy, cheeky kids before me hooted with laughter and challenged me to another game of dice addition, shoving each other excitedly as they understood what I was getting at.”

“There are hard times and disappointments – when the lesson you have prepared just doesn’t get off the ground as you can’t communicate what you are trying to do, or when you see a star student having to skip school to go and work in the fields. The poverty is confronting.”

“Our time here has been far more than just teaching at the school – we have been welcomed into village life. We have joined in village festivities, which involved preparing a wild boar for a feast, we have seen a deer gutted, joined the kids with their endless river swimming, washed clothes in the river, been thoroughly defeated at volleyball ( this seems to be the national sport) and watched the village blacksmith at work making knives. It has been fascinating seeing ethnic village life tick over, quite traditional in many aspects, but with some modern trimmings, such as stereos and phones.”

“We are very thankful to UWS for this truly memorable experience. It is an honour to be part of the exceptional work this organisation is doing.”

Tanja Warre, UWS Volunteer

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Teamwork and Communication Exercises Jong Village School Ratanakiri Cambodia

Teamwork and Communication Exercises Jong Village School Ratanakiri Cambodia


UWS depends on the kind support of volunteers like the Warre family and we would love it if you’d join us in our mission to teach the unreached.

If you’re interested in supporting our work, please get in touch via [email protected].

For more information on volunteering see the volunteer page, for school partnership see Partner your school, if you are a company looking to sponsor a UWS school see Partner your organisation, or you can make a donation to support our work.