Our supporters: Alan’s trip to a Cambodian classroom Our supporters: Alan’s trip to a Cambodian classroom

By SeeBeyondBorders -

Alan and his wife Janice, from Sydney, Australia, have been generously supporting SeeBeyondBorders since 2015. In 2017 they were able to see first-hand the difference our support is making when they visited our programs in Cambodia. Here Alan reflects on the trip.

"Janice and I were impressed with Ed and Kate Shuttleworth’s presentation and enthusiasm when we attended a fundraiser for SeeBeyondBorders in Sydney. Since then we have supported the charity with modest donations.

In February 2017 we visited Cambodia on holiday. We contacted SBB to see if we might visit a school in which they operated. By happy coincidence, Sarah Reynolds, their Fundraising Manager, was visiting Siem Reap while we were there. We met with Sarah and Pov, the SBB Country Manager, for dinner and made arrangements to visit a rural school about 30 kms from Siem Reap a couple of days later.

Pov met us at the hotel and we made our way by tuk-tuk on a sunny day with just an early morning nip in the air.

The school was about 300 metres off the sealed road. The school building has a shingle roof and three basic classrooms;  surrounds have a large area for playtime and activities, shaded tables and benches, a large water purifier donated by Planet Water, a hand pump and two school dogs having a snooze in the shade.

"We were impressed with the bright-eyed enthusiasm and participation of the children, the dedication of the teachers and the determination to seek improvement through the mentoring process"

We joined a class of Grade 1 boys and girls who were learning all the combinations to count to six (5+1, 4+2 etc.) from the teacher Makara. Children sat in pairs at wooden desks and Makara taught from a raised platform using a large chalkboard. There were 38 children in the class, each with their own slate board and chalk. They looked smart in their uniforms of white shirt with blue skirts or pants.

Makara was using oranges, leaves, and pieces of cardboard to illustrate the exercise, showing them to the class then drawing each combination on the chalk board.

Pov had previously explained that one of the main challenges was school attendance.  Parents, generally uneducated, would prefer their children to help farm the family plot of land  than attend school; the challenge was to persuade parents to release their children and then make the learning experience enjoyable so that the children preferred to go to school.  SBB’s emphasis on pupil engagement and problem solving contrasts with traditional Cambodian methods of rigid rote memorization, and so complements other SBB programs to gain community support to improve attendance.

"Pov, Janice and I rode back to Siem Reap as midday approached, happy to have shared an uplifting experience with people and organisation determined to give young children the best gift in life – an education"

While the children were having a break, Janice and I were invited to join an assessment of Makara’s teaching by her mentor, Sovan. Janice and I were asked if we would like to make an observation or comment.  We mentioned that we had heard Ed and Kate talk with enthusiasm and passion about the project in Cambodia and that from our involvement with schooling in Indonesia and Papua New Guinea we were convinced their vision and direction was well worth supporting.

We thanked Sovan and Makara for inviting us to visit their school and allowing us to participate in the classroom and mentoring sessions.  We said how we were impressed with the bright-eyed enthusiasm and participation of the children, the dedication of the teachers and the determination to seek improvement through the mentoring process.  We said that we were happy to be a small part of the SeeBeyondBorders program and that our short visit was probably the highlight of our holiday.

Pov, Janice and I rode back to Siem Reap as midday approached, happy to have shared an uplifting experience with people and organisation determined to give young children the best gift in life – an education."

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