Saturday, April 21, 2012

Khmer New Year---Taking Stock

Youth Scholars on Vacation During Khmer New Year

What have we accomplished on the first anniversary of the Cambodia Scholars Program?

            The Cambodia Scholars Program celebrates its first anniversary this April, coinciding with Khmer New Year. All the youth in our program come from backgrounds of very serious deprivation, but our focus is determinedly upbeat, facing promising futures rather than difficult and traumatic pasts. We have had many significant accomplishments in our first year. Here are the highlights:

We established a residential scholarship program for 7 youth in April 2011, and added 4 more in August, for a total enrollment of 11. Many of these young people had left the Cambodian orphanage system unprepared for adult life, with uncompleted educations. Thanks to our program, all remained enrolled in public school, and also enrolled in supplementary education programs at the private Seametrey School.

In August 2011, by adding 4 additional students, we reunited two families previously separated within the Cambodian orphanage system. The Bet family (mother and 5 children) and the Hat family (mother and daughter) now live together thanks to the Cambodia Scholars Program.
The Bet Family

In October 2011 we achieved:

Entrance of our first scholar into college life at Pannasastra University of Cambodia.
Srey Pov In Front of Pannasastra University

Enrollment of 9 into public high school at the well regarded nearby Aknuwat High School, with strong supplementary education at Seametrey School. These youth range from Grade 9 to Grade 12. Aknuwat High School is known for its respectful treatment of students and relative lack of corrupt practices, such as bribes and cheating on tests. However, as with all Cambodian public schools, instruction is only half day. Seametrey is a private Montessori school which is especially strong in teaching foreign languages, including English and French. Seametrey fills out the Cambodia Scholars' academic day.
Six Cambodia Scholars in Front of Their High School

English Class at Seametrey School

Enrollment of our youngest scholar into Grade 5 at Seametrey Children’s Village private Montessori School.
Sophorn, the youngest member of the Bet family, attends Seametrey School full time as a fifth grader.

From April 2011-April 2012 we continued our emphasis on:

Life skills training. The Bet family, for the first time, has established a household in Phnom Penh, Mum Samnang working as a maid at You Khin Guest House, and four of her children (Piset, Vicheka, Sophea and Sophorn) enrolled in school, while living together in one apartment. The Hat family, with Mum Sokhom and daughter Sophorn, live together with six other youth (all girls), while all the youth are enrolled in school. Whether a nuclear family or an extended one, everyone has to learn to get along and be responsible to one another---shopping, cooking, cleaning, and generally respecting one another. It has been especially gratifying to see how well everyone gets along. Minor frictions here and there, but within a spirit of friendliness and mutual support.
Down at the River


Srey Neang Doing Laundry Chores

Mum Samnang Cooking Dinner

Mum Sokhom Fixing the Veggies

New Horizons and growing networks. In interviewing all the Cambodia Scholars (and the two mums) this month, several mentioned freedom as one of the great gifts of the program. Although everyone has significant responsibilities (such as school attendance, successful study, getting long with one another, managing stipends wisely, and doing domestic chores), everyone in the program also has an array of choices never before experienced---shall I learn a musical instrument? Should I visit relatives this week? Might I do something with a friend at school? Should I research some subject outside of school? Should I consider setting up a Sunday side business to make a little money? Should I pursue interests in traditional crafts? How can I make the best of my part time work at the You Khin Guest house, with its endless opportunities to converse with and exchange ideas with foreigners? We regard practice in the wise use of freedom as essential to real self sufficiency as adults.
Practical Thinking
Chenda Practices Public Speaking

Piset Working Part Time at You Khin Guest House

Cambodia Scholars Do Original Art Project with Visiting Teacher at Seametrey School