When one thinks of a couple of umpiring mates heading overseas during off-season, images of beaches, bars and a few bevvies spring to mind. Not for AFL umpire Nick Brown and AFL Rookie Daniel Butcher who spent a week teaching English, as part of Helping Hands Cambodia, a grass-roots Globalteer organisation that runs a complementary school for over 300 children in a rural village Prasat Char.
In Cambodia, there is a huge lack of educated adults due to the Khmer Rouge regime eradicating education (books were burned, schools became prisons, educated people were executed). With over 50% of the population aged 20 or younger, a large amount of unskilled and poorly educated youth are now seeking to enter a weak job market.
Nick and Daniel had previously thought of volunteering to supplement their off-season fitness training with a trip to Africa, however due to work commitments, they focused on a shorter trip to Cambodia and decided to volunteer with Helping Hands. Nick accessed the AFLUD professional development monies, which provides AFL field umpires access to funding to further their education and development.
What particularly impressed Nick and Daniel was how engaged and enthusiastic the students were to learn. “Students are grouped together based on their English competence rather than age, so you can have students who are 5 years old sitting next to a 13 year old.” said Daniel. “I was particularly impressed with how polite and welcoming everyone was.”
Students attend English classes and are supported to attend their local state school for the other half of their day.
From a cultural prospective, Nick noted how difficult it was for students to balance their education with life in such a rural community. “The kids would be up at 5am picking crops, hauling water and undertaking other chores before a full day at school.” He said, “After school, they would walk their cows or bulls and finish other chores, their days stretching to 14/15 hours a day.”
Students who attended all their English sessions were rewarded with a donated shirt. It didn’t matter that the shirt might be 3 sizes too big, each was received with a polite thank you and a big smile.
Both found the experience extremely rewarding and made them appreciate some of the basic things like clean water, basic commodities like toothpaste and a toothbrush, things a number of Australians take for granted.
“I would certainly love to go back and volunteer again,” said Nick. “You really feel like you are making an impact on these young kids’ futures, which makes you feel fantastic.” Daniel agreed, “If the opportunity arises, l would go back for sure, the teacher and kids were so welcoming and willing to learn, which made our job so much easier.”
Article written by AFLUA Marketing and Communications Coordinator – Peter Kelly
Pictured: AFL Rookie Umpire, Dan Butcher and AFL Field Umpire Nick Brown
Pictured: AFL Field Umpire, Nick Brown
Pictured: Dan Butcher