Saturday, May 26, 2012

Service-Learning in Cambodia - Act 3

This is the third time that we have taken a group of students to Cambodia for service learning, and the second time as part of a credit-bearing subject.  On the way from the airport, I was reminded of the difficulties the people faced. There are few places in the world where people have to stand like packed, hanging sardines on these “buses”, which run between the countryside and Phnom Penh, ferrying people to work and studies.

We visited a community center run by the local Cambodian YMCA, located in a slum north of the filled-in Boeung Kak Lake, to prepare for the workshops that our students are going to conduct there next week. 

The community center cater particularly to the children on the street.  Many of them are too poor to attend the local government schools.  Government schools are free.  But the teachers are paid poorly, less than 100 US dollars a month.  Many teachers charge each student a daily fee of roughly US 12.5 cents.  Many children cannot afford even that much.  Some children drop out because they don’t have the discipline required to study.  Others have to work to support the family. 

The CYMCA works effectively as a preparatory school for the government schools. They teach the children Khmer and English, feed them lunch whenever they can find the funds, and work with the parents to convince them that it is better for them to send their children to school to get an education.  After one year of such preparatory teaching, many of their children are accepted at government schools. 

Next week, a team of our students is going to teach digital story-telling at the CYMCA community center.  Some students from the Human Resource Development Institute (a local community college) are going to work alongside my students, mainly as translators.  During the past 2 days our advance team has been giving a workshop to the HDRI students to prepare them for the service.  Tomorrow my students are going to arrive from Hong Kong. 

Our whole team is composed of ~90 people overall, including staff and students from our university, the HDRI students, and several volunteer translators from a local church.  The work is just ramping up. 


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