Almost to the End– Project BREAKIN Week Four
Blog 3 July 5th, 2010
We only have three more days of our project left—including today. We’re all more than a little disheartened to be leaving Tiny Toones. Spending everyday there for a month, hanging out with the staff, teaching some of the kids, and being taught by many of them in turn feels completely worth all of the work we put into writing the proposal and formulating the project.
Unlike Stephen and James, I’m not a break dancer. Because of this I thought I had to find other ways to connect to Tiny Toones. But Tiny Toones offered us so much more than a link between Mac Breakers and the center through break dancing. There’s no doubt that the dancing at Tiny Toones and reaching kids through hip hop is what draws all of the youth in Phnom Penh there. Proof of this is seen almost every night on the Mekong river side where hip hop music and break dancing happens—a lot, if not most of the dancers know Kay Kay, were taught by Kay Kay, or taught by the mentor staff at Tiny Toones. But what the center has become today does a lot more than that. The majority of the kids who come daily to the main center come for the non formal education and the rest of the creative program. The non formal classes, like Khmer, English, Art and Computer receive the largest portion.
The kids apparently have also been getting younger as well where the range of students is now from age 3 to about 16. Tiny Toones has certainly evolved from its beginnings to something incredibly well developed to help the kids in Phnom Penh and even the provinces. Being there everyday has showed me a side of Phnom Penh that I’ve never really been exposed too and with any luck my Khmer will have improved.
Even though we all feel so much richer from our experiences in Cambodia and with Tiny Toones, this month has been very hard on all of us. The majority of the time we’ve been sick and going from one upset to another. With almost no exception, every day we’ve been here at least one of us has gotten sick. Unfortunately, despite how amazing the food tastes and how much we’d like to explore all of the street vendors and restaurants Phnom Penh has to offer, at least one of us always suffers from the experience. The illnesses will be the one and only thing we will not miss about Cambodia. But even those experiences will leave a mark on us.
Although we’ve been here for almost a month, it feels like we haven’t been here for more than a week. The time has gone by so fast and I wish we all had more time. It’s so tempting to change the dates of our flights in order to keep volunteering at the center and to continue to familiarize ourselves with the city. We’ve gotten to know a lot of the kids who go to the center and have come to really enjoy teaching them when we get the opportunity. Playing with them everyday has been more than a blast. I’ll miss running into the little kids on their way back home, and having them spot us from a distance to scream hi and goodbye teacher. They’ll remember us now, but probably not later nor as long as we’ll remember them and I wish we could stay longer to change that.
Tiny Toones has this amazing atmosphere of encouragement and enjoyment, but it still is what it is: a youth center started for troubled kids. Without mentioning names, even with all of the support from the Tiny Toones community, it is hard for some of the people there to completely forget their past. Some of the dancers often run off and are missing for days because of a number of issues. Their always welcomed back but their return is never easy. Kay Kay can’t turn his back on them so he seems to constantly be struggling between accepting them back and punishing them for stepping out. It seems as though he constantly has to ask himself how he should help this person and whether or not he should be playing a cat and mouse game to get them back. How far does Kay Kay have to go for a handful of kids when he has hundreds more he also needs to worry about. He knows this and so do the kids who slip up. As amazing as Tiny Toones is, it’s sometimes hard to remember that these kids used to be on the streets, run in gangs, and at one point needed all of the help that they are now responsible for giving.