Our Impact in Cambodia
1. Little Girl at School
With the The Hearts Company we used our first opportunity in Cambodia to provide over 250 children with the right supplies they needed to excel academically. We knew this was only a short term fix for the poor education systems in this area, however we were able to see something that had not been there before we arrived, that is seeing hope and chance for new opportunities in the eyes of these kids. The teachers expressed to us that for once these kids felt like they had what they needed to get them to the next level.
The small village we visited only had a couple of teachers who dedicated their lives to these kids education, a small school area with 4 classrooms, planks of wood hammered into benches and desks as well as whiteboards and fans that we were able to provide for them. However, they did not have the resources needed such as school supplies for the children or enough teaching supplies. In such a poverty stricken community where teachers only getting paid $5.00 a day made it difficult for teachers to afford these supplies. This left kids coming to class with scratch pieces of paper, the small amount of schools supplies they had in a plastic bag, and most came empty handed each day.
The Hearts Company believes that education is not a privilege it is a right. Supplies are the fundamental resources a child needs to help bring their thoughts and ideas out into reality and to ultimately help develop their skills to assist in the success of their futures. A musicians love for the piano is nothing more than love without the proper instrument to portray this out into reality. A child's mind is filled with so many ideas and being able to have the proper utilities to learn is life changing for these kids future.
UNICEF Data shows, many Cambodian children take 10 years or more to complete primary school due to being held back consistently. Overall, more than half of Cambodian school children do not complete primary school at all.
During our trip we set up a day to visit the local village school where we individually handed out the supplies to each child. However we couldn't help but to notices this girl that hid quietly behind the building. One of our co-founders went over and set a backpack filled with supplies right next to her, since she wouldn't take it from her hands. The teacher, Chhaiky Theourm, explained to us that she had been trying to invite her into her class for the longest time and that she would come to the school various times a week and just watch from afar, but never step foot in the classroom.
For the duration of our time at the school, this is where the little girl stood and watched. Watched as the backpacks were given to the children and as the children played with their new soccer balls and toys in the school yard.
The little girls family was extremely poor and did not encourage their children to attend school, but instead work in their fields. Chhaiky explained that she has visited the girls house numerous time to express why education was so important and to convince her parents that education is so crucial for her future. She knew she was interested in learning but may have just been scared. Shortly after our trip was over we received an message on facebook from Chhaiky filled with pictures of that same little girl attending school that next week with her new backpack and also sitting front row in the classroom. Chhaiky expressed how we may have changed her entire future by simply giving her that backpack, and if that’s the only impact we made in that village then that was just enough for us.
“According to Child’s Fund International “Approximately 31 percent of Cambodia's population of 14.3 million people live below the poverty line.”
— Child’s Fund International
It is hard to know where to begin when talking about Chhaiky and her story. She is by far one of the most inspiring people we have had the pleasure of coming across on our journey to Cambodia.
Chaikky is the principal of the school we worked with. Not only does she inspire confidence and knowledge in her students, but she also embodies the generous spirit and selflessness that inspired us to invest in her community. During our trip to the school where we donated over 250 backpacks filled with school supplies and an array of supplies for the school, we had the chance to sit Chhaiky down and interview her about her story and how she created her school and brought her dream to reality.
Chaikky has dreamed of being a teacher since she was a child. Despite her poverty stricken upbringing and her parents disapproval for pursuing her secondary education, she persevered and found a way to acquire her certifications to finally become a teacher in her community. There was only one problem, there was no school.
Her husband Damdin, who was our contact and guide for the entirety of our first mission in cambodia, recognized his wife's passion for education and knew he had to do something to help her pursue her dream. With the help of a friend and GoFundMe, Damdin raised about $1,800 to build a school in their community for Chaikky and had a school built just for her. Of course you would think Chaikky’s dream was realized, but there was one more hurdle to overcome; Finding students to fill the school.
One of the main issues that faces Cambodia is ironically the education around education. Getting families to understand the importance of a primary education is a difficult task, especially when you have to compete with putting food on the table. Convincing parents to sent their kids to school to learn English in lieu of working for the family could seem like a tedious and impossible task. Most families require their children to either start working at a young age in their rice fields or take care of their siblings.
Chaikky was not faltered by this obstacle. Once the school was built Chaikky traveled door to door, explaining the importance of education to the families in her community. It took a decent amount of convincing and time but slowly her community school grew from just a few children to what is now 300 students and counting.
Not only did Chhaiky help us organize our initial trip, her husband was our guide and translator in the community as well as introduced us to other communities that were even poorer than theirs. Chhaiky told us that her passion for her students to have a better life was her motivation to be a teacher. In order to better provide for the children, she split her $5 a day salary, and used half of it to hire and pay another teacher. Even though she’d left herself with almost nothing on which to live, she was still more concerned with her student’s futures than her own.
We were beyond touched by this story and knew we had to do something. When we got back to our hostel, we created a brief video explaining Chhaiky's story and asked for help from our friends, family and followers via social media. When we woke up the next morning, we realized a generous community of givers also touched by Chhaiky’s story, had raised almost $3000 on the GoFundMe we created and we also donated $1,000 of our only leftover funds to her. The money was meant to be hers and her families but instead she chose to use it to hire two new teachers, as well as buy new supplies for the school. Despite the impact on her own family life, she refused to accept any of the money for herself.
Investing in the future of Cambodian children not only offers them an education, but it also gives them hope. It is due to selfless teachers like Chhaiky that schools in low income villages are able to thrive with the help and support of people like you.