After 3 Econocom employees went on volunteer missions in 2010 to Vietnam, Cambodia and the Philippines, in February of this year Eliseo Di Nicolo spent 2 weeks teaching CIST students in Phnom Penh.

Arriving at  CIST

First thing on a Monday morning, after a 14-hour flight and jet-lag, I received a warm welcome from the CIST, (Center for Information Systems Training) opened by Passerelles Numériques in Phnom Penh in 2005.

Without further ado, after a tour of the classrooms, we started working on the schedule for the lessons I was to give.

From the very first moment, from the students’ rapt faces, I could sense their thirst for learning and their desire for a gratifying career.

CIST’s formidably efficient IT support team had my laptop up and running and connected within 10 minutes.

A rewarding experience

My mornings were spent preparing the afternoon’s 4-hour lessons, thinking about the best way to apply the theories to the college’s existing procedures.

Quite apart from the students’ motivation and application, the volunteer mission was also a very rewarding experience, based on sharing and exchanging. The Cambodians were amazed and delighted with the Belgian chocolates I had brought, and which were perfect for our morning coffee breaks, whilst the saucisson added a distinctly Belgian touch to one of the other volunteers’ leaving drinks. It’s so gratifying to see how much pleasure can be brought by such tiny gestures.

An average day with the students

Eating in the canteen with the students was also quite an experience. On the menu: rice for breakfast, lunch and dinner, but mealtimes were considerably brightened up by the constantly-smiling faces of these young people.

Their generosity and solidarity was boundless: they let me stay at their residence, and even though they had practically nothing, they would go out of their way to make sure that each volunteer was as comfortable as possible in their room, even lending me coat-hangers whilst they had nothing to hang their own clothes with, and sleeping on a straw mattress on the floor with just a mosquito net for cover.

An extraordinary personal journey
At the weekends I visited the treasures of Angkor Wat and the forest on the river at Siem Reap, 300 km north-west of Phnom Pen. Seeing children fighting over fishing rights and food in the river is a testament to the sheer poverty of the country. I also went to the village school, where the teachers sell tourists pencils and exercise books to give to the children. If you could have seen the joy on their faces when I gave out the pencils I’d bought!

During the second week, I took a photo of the class sponsored by Econocom. A volunteer gave me a laminated copy of the photo, which I now keep in my office to remind me of my time there.

After 2 weeks, it was hard to leave this amazing group of people. The experience taught me a valuable lesson about how people in the world have to struggle to make a decent living. It certainly puts all our petty everyday problems into perspective!

Econocom and Passerelles Numériques

Econocom became involved with this charity to:

  • Provide tuition  for  a class of 25 students for 2 years
  • Provide on-site training with hands-on involvement from Econocom staff volunteers
  • Supply IT equipment

Passerelles Numériques

Through its education scheme, Passerelles Numériques helps under-privileged children find jobs in the IT sector, thereby helping them and their families escape from poverty. For over 5 years the organisation has been committed to breaking down the digital divide in South-East Asia.

> The official website of Passerelles Numériques