Belinda Delaney, Cambodia

Belinda Delaney is working as a Non-Formal Education Advisor for Tiny Toones as part of AusAID’s Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program. Tiny Toones Development Director, David Hewitt interviewed Belinda about her work and her life in Cambodia

Belinda Delaney moved to Cambodia at the end of 2012 following a stint as an Australian Volunteer through AVI in China. Her passion is for working with local people and making a different at a community level. She was fascinated by the opportunity of working with Tiny Toones, a local Cambodian NGO that uses breakdancing and hip-hop to engage, inspire and educate kids from the poorest areas of Phnom Penh. It was the combination of creativity alongside literacy and numeracy that excited her, especially as it was for kids from challenging circumstances.

Her position at Tiny Toones is ‘Non-Formal Education Advisor,’ a role in which she “supports staff so that they can be the best they can possibly be.” This can involve anything from reminding them what lesson they’re supposed to be teaching at what time and in what room to suggesting lesson topics and different ways of managing the classroom and delivering their lessons. “In some cases I physically show them how to use our books and other resources, imperfect as they are! “

Belinda has found it challenging being a foreigner in Cambodia but enjoys haggling with the locals and loves the rainy season. “I come from a very dry place and don’t get to see many downpours like we see here. Even when everything turns into a mud-bath I love it. It’s funny how bad the driving gets – just like back home.”

Her first experience of Tiny Toones, meanwhile, was that there were some really dedicated people working to make a difference: “It’s mainly Khmer people who work here and they want to bring about changes for themselves.”

Initially she spent a lot of time observing the classes, the kids, the staff and the interactions between them. She wanted to know what people could change, what their capabilities were. This led to the development of a new program and timetable. The aim was to increase the number and variety of classes, reduce class sizes and end the repetition.

 “I think both the staff and the kids were bored. Since the new timetable we have many new kids coming regularly, including a group that make their own way here by bicycle from the other side of the river. A greater variety of activities are on offer, which both the kids and the staff enjoy, and learning has become more evident. After only five weeks we had to increase the number of activities on offer again to accommodate the new kids and to keep the class sizes small.”

“It feels like I’ve been here ages and I’m still very excited about moving forward, which must be a good sign!”

Written by David Hewitt, Development Director, Tiny Toones

Photo: Tiny Toones students on their way home in a Tuk Tuk. Sarah Streets/AVI

This is a position of the Australian Volunteers for International Development (AVID) program, an Australian Government, AusAID initiative. AVI is working in partnership with AusAID to deliver AVID.

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