Volunteering 30: Tuk Tuk Theatre

The TukTuk Theatre was created as a Sustainable Cambodia’s (SC) volunteers side project. Four volunteers put money together to create an unique model to inspire preschool children from rural villages to focus on education, expand their imagination and motivate them to dream of something bigger than what life currently provides.The heart of the operation is a TukTuk with a widescreen TV mounted in and a sound system. Pretty cool huh?

When we arrived at Pursat, Adrian, Mayu, Arvind, Lucy and Bastien were running the project. They were visiting different preschools located in the rural villages in Pursat and showing some movies to the children. When arriving to the desire location, first step was to set up the TV.

While they were setting up the TV, they played games with the kids which included football, frisbee, throwing balls into boxes hanging from the guys’ backs, and dancing sessions.

After 30 minutes of fun games, some classic Disney movies were shown and sometimes some new ones like Kung Fu Panda. Favourites? The Lion King and Finding Nemo!

Mario really liked this project and got engaged as soon as he heard of it. When we arrived, Arvind was leaving and he was one of the volunteers who founded this project (as well as a tuk tuk driver). So Mario learnt to drive the tuk tuk and started joining Adrian and the guys as the new driver. It didn’t take long for Mario to get used to driving a scooter with the extra weight from the trailer attached to it.

Over the time, Adrian wanted to put a bit more of structure in the project so it was more than showing movies to kids and developed their imagination. With the help from some volunteers and people interested in the project, he slowly started to introduce different elements to the Tuk Tuk Theatre. Mario helped in identifying new places to go, and developing a more structured plan to have a system of visits to the preschools (including an online map with all the locations). He also created a record of the activities done every time they went to a village and how many kids attended the session. There were many other supporters and ideas brought together to improve the project. A healthy snack (mainly bananas or watermelon) was given to the kids while they were watching the movies.

Mayu and the students from SC’s Youth Club started doing presentations about hygiene and sanitation (hand-washing, tooth-brushing) before showing the movie to the kids. This was a great idea to start teaching kids the importance of hygiene and how to prevent getting sick.

Mayu also contacted a Japanese cartoon maker who created little Khmer animations for physical education, to show them during the sessions. Hannah brought elements of her waste management training into it too.

Raising funds to keep the project running was very important. When Lucy’s dad (Alan) came over to Cambodia to visit his daughter, the guys came up with a great idea. Alan is a cyclist so they thought of connecting a bicycle to an alternator which will power the tuk tuk TV. The idea was that he had to maintain 14 volts throughout the duration of The Lion King in the afternoon sun (35 degrees C) to make sure the kids could watch the entire movie! While doing this he fundraised money to support Tuk Tuk Theatre and he did an amazing job and the kids loved it of course!

By the time we finished our time in Pursat, Tuk Tuk Theatre had engaged more than 800 kids from at least 5 rural areas within the Pursat region. The schedule of a Tuk Tuk Theatre session had developed and looks something like this: 20 to 30 minutes of games, 5 minutes physical education session, 5 minutes of waste management, 5 minutes session on hygiene and sanitation and 45 minutes of a movie/cartoon.

Adrian got further help from one of his friends, Rob, who used to be a school principal in Australia to develop a pre-school students evaluation program to further on build a curriculum. Furthermore he hired a full time Khmer and English speaking teacher to join the session and make the Tuk Tuk Theatre even better. Mario enjoyed every time he went out to the villages with the tuk tuk. And many other volunteers joined in on different session to enjoy as well of this amazing project.

Tuk Tuk Theatre was developed purely to spread smiles and engage the imagination of Cambodian children living in rural villages and we can assure to everyone that it is achieving its mission!

For more information about the Tuk Tuk Theatre, visit their website. And for some more lovely photos you can check our Flickr album.

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