When we recruited students for a second daily preschool class at Human and Hope Association in October 2013, *Srey (not her real name for child protection purposes, so I am using Srey as it means ‘girl’ in Khmer) was one of three students we recruited. Our Education Coordinator had struggled to find students, so Srey studied in the class with just one other girl for an hour a day. Seeing that these two girls were lonely, as they only had each other to play with, our Education Coordinator decided to merge the classes and teach those 11 students for two hours a day. Despite our initial hesitation to merge classes as the original preschool class had already been studying for seven months, the two girls caught up in class.
Srey’s mother would bring her to school each day by bicycle, then ride back to her rented house where she had the responsibility of watching over the mango trees for her landlord. Srey’s younger sister would come along for the ride, and I would often ask that confident little girl if she wanted to study in preschool, too. She always replied yes, and I promised her mother that she could be enrolled in the preschool program when she was of the correct age.
Srey had a sullen look on her face most of the time and often disengaged in class. When I tried to talk to her, she would frequently ignore me. As time went by, Srey’s behaviour improved. In October 2014, just before we moved to our new community centre, Srey graduated from preschool with six of her fellow students who were of age. Her mother couldn’t attend the graduation as she had something on, so she sent another relative instead. I will never forget the look on Srey’s face. What should have been a glorious occasion was overshadowed by the lack of a parent.
When we moved to Sambour Commune, we lost many of our students, including Srey. She was too young at the time to ride her bicycle by herself on the dangerous, potholed main road, and her mother was unable to bring her. I never forgot my promise to Srey’s mother though, and when it came time to recruit students into the 2015/16 preschool program, I told our Education Manager to find Srey’s mother. The issue was though; we didn’t know where Srey lived. I knew that she lived near the local market, but as our Education Manager didn’t know Srey when she studied in preschool, it was difficult for him to identify her family. I persisted and told him that we had to fulfill my promise. A few weeks later, he successfully located Srey’s family, and her mother was thrilled for her young sister to study in the preschool program.
Things hadn’t been going well for Srey, however. Despite excelling academically in our preschool class, she had failed grade one and public school and was being forced to repeat the class. This meant that Srey’s friends would move up a grade, and she would be left behind. We encouraged Srey to attend our Khmer language class, and given her mother had to bring her sister to study in preschool at a different time, Srey was permitted to ride her bicycle to class.
Shy and under confident at first, Srey began to thrive after a few weeks. After she had studied Khmer each day, she would head to the library and read, making new friends. The next semester, Srey also added English class to her agenda. She would come to Human and Hope Association early each day and play with her new friends. She would then study in two classes, head to the library, and head home.
When I returned to Human and Hope Association for three weeks in December 2016, Srey would confidently come up to me each day, without prompting, and greet me in the traditional Khmer fashion. I would watch as she engaged with other students in the play area, assertively answered questions in class, and had a smile plastered on her face all afternoon. I couldn’t believe the transition in Srey. Despite living in poverty and facing challenges I could never comprehend, Srey had flourished into a respectful, confident and polite girl. She continues to study at Human and Hope Association with her sister and has progressed at public school.
The reason I am persistently fundraising for Human and Hope Association, even when I feel overwhelmed or am constantly rejected, is because of children like Srey. With the funds to pay for her teacher’s salary and a scholarship pack, Srey has a bright future.
We need to continue to help Srey, her sister and other Cambodian children. That’s why we have just launched a crowdfunding campaign, Scholarships for Cambodia. By raising $7,000 in the month of October, we can ensure that 50 Cambodian children will receive scholarships to study at Human and Hope Association in 2018.
When you donate to our campaign, you will have the opportunity to receive our exclusive new range of Children’s Education Kits. These kits are perfect gifts for Christmas and will keep the kids entertained on road trips, hot Summer days and whilst waiting for the school bell to ring. These Children’s Education Kits are made by sewing graduates from Human and Hope Association, so not only are you providing education to children with your purchases, you are also providing an income to the women who made them!
Naughts and crosses kit – Who doesn’t love playing naughts and crosses? This kit features a game board and playing pieces and closes neatly with a coconut shell button.
Games Kit – Featuring a pad of coloured paper and eight crayons in a foldable pouch, along with a game of elastics, this games kit is perfect for children who love to burn off energy!
Hangman Kit – Let the kids battle it out with this Hangman kit! It features paper, pencils, and fabric Hangman parts.
Old School Kit – Want to keep kids entertained without a screen? Head back to the ‘old days’ (aka 1999) with this game kit! Featuring a 24-piece puzzle, memory game and 25 pieces of Origami paper, this game is a great present for siblings to share.
Please, help us to help Cambodian children living in less than ideal situations. Together, we can change their futures.