On March 21, Alexis and I visited Cambodian Children’s Education Fund scholarship recipients’ schools, and we had dinner with a recipient family of CCEF’s scholarship program. A quick note before I share about the site visit… since the Khmer Rouge, education in Cambodia is basically starting at square 1. The Khmer Rouge killed/wiped out anyone who was educated in order to destroy the social class system/rich vs. poor – they murdered an estimated 1/3 of the population. The country is now in a state of re-building its education system, educated citizens, and even re-teaching and preserving its cultural heritage (all of the former documents were destroyed by the Khmer Rouge party). The importance of education in a country where every highly educated citizen was murdered or fled the country is EXTREMELY vital and organizations are now working to ensure that children are able to COMPLETE their education since a large number of the population cannot afford for the kids to finish schooling much less afford books and uniforms. The children normally have to stop going to school in order to start working some at the age of 10 to provide additional income for the family. On to the site visit…
The first stop was New York International School in Siem Reap, Cambodia where 12 students are being sponsored by CCEF. Alexis and I were able to observe a class with some of the sponsored students and then meet with the staff and principal. The school has grades kindergarten through 12th grade. We asked what the difference is between the public and private schools and the staff explained: security, holding students accountable (for example when they are absent the school calls the parents), and number of students per teacher and class. The students were getting more 1-on-1 support and courses in both English and Khmer (the local language). Later in the day, we visited Sunrise Children’s Village where CCEF sponsors 10 students. This is an orphanage that takes not only children without parents but also children whose families who cannot afford to take care of them or provide education – “economic orphans”.
That night we had dinner with Somalin, the first scholarship recipient, and her family. Somalin, received a full scholarship since she was 3 to attend private school, and now has amazing English skills. Her dad often stopped to ask her how to say a word. Her dad said that she is determined to do well, doing more homework than is required and studying more than necessary every night. Somalin’s father is a tuktuk driver – a common form of transportation in Cambodia which barely provides sufficient income for an entire family. Because of her education, her father now learned English too, and they both teach the whole family at home. Her dad also stays up late to help her with homework and says sometimes he has to keep the dictionary out to be able to complete it with her when it is very difficult.
Somalin’s education has installed the importance of education in their family. She was the first to receive formal schooling, formal English, and math training. It was incredible and inspiring to meet the children who can afford to go to school now, receive an education, and contribute to breaking the cycle of poverty.
Alexis and I at dinner with Somalin and her family