We had an unforgettable holiday and training at Ratanakiri province. It was our first time going there for four days. Ratanakiri is 588 km far from Phnom Penh city, which took us exactly 9 hours and a half by a 12-seater-van.
Of course, when we arrived there, we were so tired. However, we fell deeply in love with the natural views there because the green is almost everywhere and the weather is wet all the time due to the fact that it is in the rainy season. These made the air so fresh, and made our heads clear. It was unbelievable.
In fact, our main purpose of going there was to train around 25 students – mostly from high school and a few from university – about fundamental human rights, introduction to democracy, and land rights of indigenous people. This was because most of them are indigenous people. To run this project, we were sponsored by an NGO called Equitable Cambodia.
In the morning, we walked from a guest house near Beng Kanseng, a small lake in Banlung, to a teaching house. The contents of our lessons were what a norm, a law and human rights are, an introduction to the rule of law, separation of powers, rights of indigenous people on collective community land, and the prohibition of collective community land sale. Throughout the whole facilitation process, it was really satisfying that the students were so keen and very active to learn what we prepared for them. It was such a great energy for us, the facilitators not the teachers, to share as much as we can to them. The fact of being the facilitators is because we wanted our participants to get involved actively and enthusiastically through answering our thought-provoking questions about the lessons concerned, group discussions, their role-play, and playing games. We do believe that it is the best way to help them get the most from the lessons. So, our main role was merely to give them some introduction to their rights as humans, and specifically, as indigenous people. One memorable thing to be grateful for is we have earned deep respect from them. At the end of the training, we delivered them post-test papers. We were so excited as they did very well. Last but not least, we focused on not only the lesson contents but also sharing our academic life experiences in Phnom Penh as many of them will finish their grade 12 exam in the next coming years.
Let us mention our enjoyable activities other than those of the facilitators. What was fun was we were able to borrow the students’ bicycles to find places for lunch. After teaching at about 4pm, it was another time to explore! We went to Yeak Loam Lake. It was really amazing that we could go there with our around 10 students by motorbikes. Yeak Loam is so natural, so taking photos with our lovely students and the nature became a must. Actually, there are many tourist attractions there, we did not, however, have adequate time to travel all. On the last day after teaching, we went to Kachanh waterfall with our participants by motorbikes again. Unfortunately, the water was not good for swimming since its color was like a red-pebble road. Despite that, we admitted that along the way, it had so beautiful landscapes.
To talk about food, in a few restaurants we went to, it can be said that people eat wild animals. Of course, we tried some too. We liked them but as they are rare and protected animals, we did not eat much.
In conclusion, not only was Ratanakiri a destination for us to explore the real life of indigenous students who are hungry and enthusiastic about learning their basic rights and some current illegal indigenous community land sale but we got along well and, most importantly, we explored the nature altogether.