Presentations by students from Cambodian Living Arts

In a previous post, I looked at working with a non-profit organisation and planning for a sustainable outcome, since short term placements can sometimes be problematic, in that they may be doing more harm than good. See also, Making it mutual: Appropriate and constructive engagement of short term volunteering with local projects.

In my post, I addressed working with students from Cambodian Living Arts (CLA), Pon, Pree and Tip, to improve their level of English and develop their presentation skills with the aim of achieving a sustainable outcome. Here, a sustainable outcome pertains to the students learning and continuing to improve skills that will be useful beyond the time that Jess and I spend in Siem Reap. Hence, we proposed a presentation event where Pon, Pree and Tip, present their art-form to SHINE International school and Build Bright University.

Left to right: Tip, Pon, myself, Jess and Pree, rehearsing for the presentations.
Left to right: Tip, Pon, myself, Jess and Pree, rehearsing for the presentations.

In greater focus on the presentations, Pree, for example, demonstrated a significant level of improvement in his written and verbal English, and in his presentation style – confidence, pronunciation, eye contact, gesture, voice projection. To facilitate Pree’s learning, I scaffolded sessions in much the same way I worked with Pon, focusing on:

  • Greeting the audience
  • Self-introduction
  • A brief background of his experience learning the Pei Or and being a part of Sounds of Angkor
  • Describing the Pei Or, including what it is made from and how it is played
  • Describing the genre of music and explaining its significance

Here are some samples showing only part of the early stages of written work for the presentation event. These responses were word-processed, formatted with the guiding questions and then printed for Pree’s workbook.

Left: the Pei Or, Jess and Pree. Top: wedding music, myself and Pree. Bottom: Areak music and conclusion, myself and Pree.

When presenting at Build Bright University, Pree did not use his palm cards, indicating confidence for the presentation. In addition, where I had thought we had covered a significant amount of content for his presentation, Pree managed to add important facts and ideas about his involvement with Sounds of Angkor and CLA. In this case, the aim of planning for a sustainable outcome was achieved because Pree took initiative in his work, realising that the presentation was an opportunity to share part of his story. It was also pleasing to see Pree present at a steady pace, meaning that he could pronounce most of the terminology correctly. His approach here is indicative of further improvement because in practice, he spoke rather quickly and mispronounced some key words. Please observe part of Pree’s presentation which I recorded with his permission at Build Bright University.

After the three presentations (one at Build Bright University, and two at SHINE), I maintain that our event proposal enabled myself and Jess to make the most effective use of our time with CLA in Siem Reap. The presentations at these two institutions enabled their students, who are not entirely familiar with traditional art-based groups, to directly engage with these traditional forms. For example, the university students asked questions after the presentation. One student asked how traditional Cambodian (art-forms) will survive in the context of being increasingly surrounded by Western culture. The answer, given by Tip on the day, recognised that while traditional Cambodian culture may ‘merge’ with, and continue to be influenced by Western culture, it is always important to know which (part) is Cambodian culture.

At SHINE, it was obvious that the children in both classes were engaging with the presentation. They interacted with the CLA students and experimented with the instruments and shadow puppets. It was also nice to find out that the CLA office in Siem Reap is looking at forming a partnership with SHINE in support of traditional Cambodian art-forms. Not only is this a step towards ensuring youth in Cambodia will continue to learn about traditional art-forms, but it also reinforces the success of the presentation event as a sustainable outcome, since presentations such as this one will take place more regularly.



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