The exchange program between PEPY and DPETNS which took place from 6th to 25th March 2017 in Donabate and Portrance Community Schools was such a life-long memorable experience for two PEPY scholarship students, Sithong and Thida and PEPY staff, Sarakk and Manin. Many different learning opportunities were created for both PEPY and the partner schools in Ireland.
A warm welcome was provided as soon as the four Cambodian visitors arrived at Dublin Airport. The School Principal, teachers, students and community representatives came to greet the PEPY delegates with the Cambodian flag just as they exited the airport. The weather in Ireland during March was extremely different from Cambodia’s. It was very cold in Ireland, 4oc, where as in Cambodia it was hot, 35 oc. Manin said, “The weather was super cold, but we enjoyed with the smokes that came out from our mouth.” All four Cambodian visitors got a wonderfully warm welcome from the host families as well who all had welcoming words and signs for them.
On Monday 6th March, it was a Manin’s birthday. Donabate Portrance Educate Together School, DPETNS, organized an assembly in the big hall and gave Manin a surprise birthday song with a fantastic cake which made Manin’s day. At the Primary School, our four visitors delivered lessons with Sithong and Thida taking the lead on many of the subjects.
The students from infant, junior and year 6 classes had lessons on life in Cambodia, Dream Management, the education system & the life of primary school students, religion, fishing tools and making paper airplanes. In addition to that, students, teachers and PEPY visitors joined together in some outdoor activities and played sports, and different games. They all really enjoyed every single minute that they spent together.
At the weekend, PEPY visitors and some teachers went exploring different tourist spots to find out more about the history of the cultural sites. They all climbed one of the highest mountains in Ireland called Croagh Patrick in County Mayo. It took them about 5 hours to climb to the top and back down again. But no one complained about their tiredness and they felt so proud that they made it to the top of the mountain together. Sarakk has learnt that climbing a mountain is like our life. We must face a lot of challenges until we reach the top. Sometimes, we really want to give up because we feel extremely exhausted, but when we eventually reach the top, we feel very proud of ourselves and are full of energy straight away.
The second week was spent at Donabate Community College. The classrooms, lessons, curriculum and education system were very interesting for our visitors. The Principal, deputy principal, teachers and students were delighted to have the Cambodian visitors in their school and gave them such an amazing and supportive welcome. PEPY students and staff provided lessons to the Irish students on Cambodian culture, language, the education system, Cambodian way of life, students etc. and at the same our delegates got to learn a lot from the science, woodwork, technology, business and religious classes. It was most a mutual learning experience.
The Cambodia Fun Run was a great opportunity for students from different classes and schools to come and celebrate diversity. All the runners represented different countries – Ireland, England, France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Nepal, India, Bangladesh, Thailand and Cambodia. Everyone really enjoyed running for different countries which demonstrated a sense of love and caring for others around the world regardless of race, colour or nationality.
In the evening, the community organized a Cambodian social night where many parents and teachers came together to share their special musical talents, and to strengthen the collaboration between parents, and teachers as well as their Cambodian friends. The night began with many different types of Irish performance which was amazing along with some speeches from DPETNS and PEPY representatives. Everyone had a lot of fun, made lots of new friends and shared many ideas with one another.
The final week before returning to Cambodia, the PEPY team went to more schools – Francis Street, St. Paul’s, and Balbrigan Education Together School to share lessons with students and teachers. They asked to have more time with them as the lessons provided were very interesting. The PEPY team also got the opportunity to meet with Irish National Teachers’ Organization (INTO) who are the main sponsors of the exchange. They shared with them all the many positive impacts from the exchange program so far. The INTO team were delighted to listen to the PEPY team and watched the videos they had made about the exchange activities.
The final two important things the PEPY team did was firstly meeting with the President & Dean of Education Department of Dublin City University, which is one of the biggest universities in Ireland, to explore further on how we can promote globalization in both countries through technology. The meeting went very well. And secondly a coffee morning meeting in DPETNS where principals, parents and other organization’s representatives came together to learn more about the impacts of the partnership.
Above all else, the PEPY delegates had many amazing experiences in Ireland this year which they will never ever forget. PEPY also looks forward to seeing more Cambodians visit Ireland and experience different aspects of the life there in the future.