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Teach Film & Media in Cambodia | No Fees | 100% Fully Funded

Overall Rating

9/ 10

  • Volunteer Experience

    9

  • Program Administration

    9

  • Living Situation

    9

  • Community Impact

    9

  • Health and Safety

    9

  • Social Life

    9

Superheroes

In lieu of writing a comprehensive review of the program, I feel moved to share a story. One that I feel encapsulates what was intensely challenging but extraordinarily rewarding about the program.

Sopheap is 12, she is a student in my youngest class. She is generally taciturn and has a hard time cooperating with others. This is understandable given the stress she is under this year; her mom has been diagnosed with a terminal illness and her extended family has been having great difficulty to pay for the cost of medicine. For much of the time I know her, she is under the constant pall of her mother’s imminent death. Compounding the fact, her father ran out on the family to stay with his mistress many years previously, and her biggest brother has joined a local gang that sells meth. When things get especially serious with her mom, her dad actually returns to pitch in as he can, and miraculously, against the odds of the doctor’s prediction, mom has survived through the end of the school year, but the prognosis is still shaky. Needless to say, as a teacher and outsider, this is absolutely heartbreaking to witness.

In this time of final projects, the culmination for this class is to make a super hero movie about a heroine named “Student Girl” who battles the nefarious “Drop-Out Boy.” Sophia has never acted in a film up to this point, she always refuses. Somehow, I convince her to try out being the lead for just one scene, where mild-mannered student Sopheap disappears into a bathroom, and through the magic of a jump cut a jump cut, emerges as the omnipotent Student Girl. Showing Sopheap the results of this scene was enough to hook her; I never saw her smile so big. She ended up throwing herself into the role of Student Girl, giggling and working hard and being creative with her peers the whole time. She really came out of her shell for the first time. I expect it was very meaningful for her to get to see herself as powerful, with a sense of agency that she had never experienced.

This was just one of many stories from my time teaching filmmaking in Cambodia. If you are up for the challenge, I suggest you go out there and unknot some stories of your own; you won’t regret it.