Imagine if you can, growing up in a little village in rural Cambodia. You probably don’t go to preschool but will make it to primary school but maybe not until you are 10 years old or older as you have to look after your little brother and sister from the age of about 5 years old. When you are not helping to babysit your tasks include walking up to 3 km’s for fresh water or helping out with the farming. The nearest big town is 5 kms away but you have never visited and the thought of going to the largest city Phnom Penh seems as remote to you as going to the moon.
This is the reality for a lot of children in rural Cambodia. How do you dream of something better if you have never been shown it? How do you make a change in your life when this is all you ever know. Tuk Tuk theatre may seem to some as a way for us to just have fun with kids but it is far more than this. We introduce foreign concepts to eager little minds and help to give them that break from the day to day working life that they start at a young age. We offer them informal education on geography, sanitation, yoga, well basically anything that we can think of to kick start their little minds and bodies into action. We hope through encouraging this inquisitive nature, that we can provide the motivation for the children to ask more questions, be interested to study and to challenge themselves to look for a better future.
How we started
Our original group of 7 volunteers were based in Pursat, Cambodia working to help educate and alleviate poverty. It was through our local experience that this concept was born. One morning while helping to build a house for a recently widowed villager we noticed all of the kids crowded around to watch the weird Barang (Foreigners). We started to play with them which only drew more kids over. That night we decided to show them a movie for a bit of fun.
Word spread throughout the village and we had over 50 kids arrive to see our movie night!
Our first issue was that the school had no power! So we got an extension lead and ran it 30 meters from a neighbor’s house. (We lost power numerous times due to cows walking through the school and tripping up the multiple extension leads) Next when we tried to run the projector but it was too light and when it did get dark enough, the parents arrived to take the kids home for dinner so most missed the movie. We decided that we needed a fresh approach!
Since that time there have been thousands of children who have experienced the wonderful work of volunteers from across the world bringing smiles and laughter to the children in this country which has such a harsh history. During our operational time there have been around 45 volunteers who have freely given of their time and expertise for as little as 2 weeks or even a number of months. Much support has also been received from abroad via donations, collections and on line support.
So why a Tuk Tuk?
Simply put, some of the villages that we will visit are quite remote, most do not have power at our play sites and traveling by bicycle is not only dangerous at night but can also be up to 2 hours ride from our home base in Pursat. Our tuk tuk is already equipped with a 32″ television, deep cycle battery and power invertor to allow us to work in these remote locations.
What do you actually do at TTT
Current Director and founding member Adrian Paschkow and his wife Mayu continue this work and whilst the organisation remains small it has built its programs a lot in recent times. No members of TTT apart from employed local Cambodian people receive any monetary remuneration whatsoever.
Briefly Tuk Tuk Theatre operates as follows;
- We run a visitation program to 6 villages in Pursat province.
- We employ a local person who acts as an interpreter as well as being part of the team.
- Each fortnight at the 6 locations the team arrive amidst laughter and cheering and begin the 90 minute visit with some games fun. Using basic equipment like skipping ropes, balls, frisbees and a locally made parachute we involve all the kids.
- More formal games are sometimes added building appropriate team skills and a simple competitive spirit.
- Often a volunteer will do a presentation about who they are and where they come from aiming at building an interest and knowledge of the world beyond Pursat.
- Part of a children’s movie is shown on the TV screen mounted on the Tuk Tuk and often some minimal translation is provided to explain the dialogue.
- Informal educational clips about sanitation and the benefits of putting rubbish in bins are shown.
- We liaise with the village elders and school leaders about our visits to ensure timing and content are always appropriate.
- We believe that our visits create a stronger bond with the local schools, make the children more confident and inquisitive, build social skills and make the children more able to communicate with people not familiar to them.