Final reflections from our amazing Aimia volunteers

The AIMIA team made their last two visits to schools in the Siem Reap district. They carried out an art visioning program and a health day, to highlight the importance of education as an agent of change. AIMIA finished their volunteering work with some new perspectives on education and its impact.

We dedicated Thursday 1st of December to Peaksneng primary school and the art visioning program. More than 80 community members showed up, breaking the record previously set at Sonn Dann primary school. This is quite remarkable considering a lot of the community are prioritizing this event over work and their subsistence farming.

picture5

For one of the activities, we threw around a ball of wool, each holding a piece of string, as a means of introduction. This was a good game to enable us to communicate with each other despite the language barriers.

We then moved onto the art visioning activity. Many people in the community had never held a pen or a paintbrush before. They drew what they wanted their children’s future to look like and their view of a safe school.

picture6

Both these activities allowed the community members to think critically about education and how it can help their children’s goals to be achieved. As for the safety of the school, simple things such as stopping the cows from entering school grounds were mentioned, as well as building fences to prevent children from running out on to traffic. These are things that we don’t even consider at home: simple safety measures that we completely take for granted.

Gabrielle, James H and I made the most of being in close contact with the community and heard about some heartbreaking stories of the impact of the Pol Pot regime on their families’ lives.

picture7

The following day we went to Sras primary school and helped facilitate a day of health activities. The day was broken down, like in Rohalsoung Kert primary school in Battambang, between health and weight measuring, teeth-cleaning and handwashing. Unlike last week, this school was in a much poorer district and seeing these children without any shoes, dirty uniforms and headlice was eye opening. Unfortunately, there is only so much one can do, and SeeBeyondBorders continues to support this school as best it can for the third year running.

picture8

Thank you to everyone for all their support. Both to those who supported us in the past year and the AIMIA team on the ground. The work of the SeeBeyondBorders team is also astounding, change whilst being a slow process is only possible one step at a time. Change most certainly begins with education.

The Aimia team explores Siem Reap

The Aimia trip to Siem Reap kicked off with a visit to the temples of Angkor, followed by visits to four of our schools in the surrounding districts. Sarah shares her thoughts with us in this third blog.

‘We started our trip in Siem Reap with a visit to the Angkor Wat temples. Some decided to take tuk tuks, whilst otherwise chose bikes. After a slow start and a surprise flat tire, we made it in time for the sunrise. We cycled for a total of 10 hours, stopping at several of the main temples including Angkor Wat, Bayon and Ta Prohm.

picture1

We then met up at the SeeBeyondBorders office in Siem Reap where we were greeted by Pov and the rest of the team. They described to us the area surrounding Siem Reap and the hardships people are facing on a daily basis. Children will often have to work in rice fields in order to provide the family with food, at the expense of schooling. SeeBeyondBorders are working towards changing this mentality and helping the community understand the importance of education and its long-term benefits.

picture2

On Day 11, Tuesday 29th of November, we travelled to Sonn Dann primary school to take part in ‘art visioning’ activities with the community. The aim of the art visioning exercise is to encourage the community to engage with the dreams they have for their children, using art to express their ideas so that even those who cannot read or write can take part. About 30 community members were invited, but much to our delight more people than expected showed up.

Picture3.png

After a tasty community lunch, we painted some of the flower beds and planted some flowers around the school. This was part of the school’s plans to make their environment more attractive for both students and teachers.

picture4

On Wednesday 30th of November we visited Tropaing Kranh primary school, one and a half hours away by bus, tucked away in the jungle. The work ahead of us was more labour-intensive than the previous day, as we had to clear the school from overgrown bushes, and dig a trench to lay down some pipes for a new toilet. Here again, we worked alongside the community and managed to finish in time before our ride back home.’

Check back for the final instalment in this blog series as the Aimia team’s trip comes to an end. 

Week 2: From one world to another…

Aimia continued their community outreach in two different schools over two days before travelling to Siem Reap, where they will visit more schools and explore another district. Sarah from the team has shared her thoughts with us here.

‘We all travelled to Kouk Dong primary school ready to play some sports with the children. The four sports included sack racing, hurdles, running and relay. The children were all split up into three groups, red, blue and yellow, before becoming extremely competitive. The children loved the sports, and were able to engage with us. After this, Reasmey kindly took us to some local places to allow us to really immerse ourselves within the Cambodian culture. We visited a rice paper farm, and then a Pagoda, which ended the day nicely.

img_1646

Another reflection ensued, and today, out of all days, seemed to be everyone’s favourite. Despite arriving at a school which had very little space to carry out the sports activities, we managed to make it work. I feel like I am slowly changing my perspective on both SeeBeyondBorders and my broader understanding of Cambodia. I am slowly learning to stop looking at SeeBeyondBorders through a business lens, and look at the values that are being implemented to enable long-term change.

picture1

Another early morning, which is slowly starting to take its toll. People are emotionally and physically drained, partly because of the heat but also because of the effort this requires. Nevertheless, we travelled to Rohalsoung Primary School for a health activity day. This consists of teaching children proper hygiene techniques, from brushing their teeth to washing their hands.

We set up three stations, one for hand-washing, the other for teeth-brushing, and the last for height and weight measurements. Many of the children had never held a toothbrush before, despite being between the ages of 5 and 10. One child went up to an elder and pointed at his missing teeth, before saying something in Khmer. The locals laughed: I imagine we can all guess what he said!picture2

The height and weight data is recorded to determine how many children are stunted and underweight. SeeBeyondBorders will share this data with a health center or NGO who can help underweight children.

After a busy morning, we spent the afternoon taking in some local attractions and sites of cultural and historical significance. We went to Phnom Sampeau, known for its ‘bat caves’ (a spectacular sight when the bats fly out of the caves en masse at sunset), but also for its darker history. During the Pol Pot regime, the Khmer Rouge killed and buried people in the caves, a truly horrific story.

img_1679

The following day we kayaked down the Sangker river in Battambang, where we met laughing children, to fisherman, as well as a lot of rubbish!

We travelled to Siem Reap later that day and were greeted by an entirely different world. Large hotel complexes, lots of tourists and extremely western bars.’

Check back for more updates from the team’s experiences in Siem Reap.

One week down: drawing, digging and duck-duck-goose!

The second in our series of blog posts from Aimia, the team share their perspectives on their first week in Cambodia, helping to deliver our programs in Battambang. The group supported with a number of community outreach activities as well as school repairs and improvement works as part of our Better Schools program.

The next three days consisted of community outreach in three different schools: Sdey Krom, Sdey Leur and Prek Norin. As part of our School Development Program, the activities undertaken by the project team were agreed in advance by the school and members of the local community, based on their needs. A mixture of physical labour and artistic talents were thus on display.

picture3

On the 22nd, the team travelled to Sdey Krom primary school, located 15 kilometers outside of Battambang, where they were greeted by 100 students, ready for their art activity. Gabrielle from the project team shares her thoughts.

‘Reasmey, an employee at SeeBeyondBorders, greeted us with a big smile at the school. Pastels and water colour butterflies were the first task for the kids. These children had never used water colour before, making it a very exciting activity for them. Once finished, the butterflies were all framed and hung on the wall. Our day at the school was topped off with several games, including duck-duck goose and even some singing.

img_1034

After a busy day, we all reflected on the day’s activities. The Aimia group shared their reflections, noting how much fun the children had, and how sports and games had helped them to bridge cultural and language boundaries. Some said they had found the experience very humbling.

picture1

The day after, we all travelled to Sdey Leur primary school ready to lay concrete in two classrooms and create a walkway. We all introduced ourselves and started. We finished concreting the classroom two hours ahead of time, a feat that the SeeBeyondBorders staff were very impressed with. We then had lunch with the local community, who had cooked us an amazing meal: a mixture of fresh water fish, vegetables and rice.

picture2

Another day, another reflection session. This time we discussed how important community involvement is with the school, and how creating something tangible was very rewarding, especially as the school had been built in 1994.

On the 24th, we squeezed into the back of a van to Prek Norin primary school. Three activities were awaiting us, including painting toilets, repairing student’s desks and creating a walkway with grit and mud. The school and local community had prioritized these three tasks, and were ready and waiting for Aimia to arrive and help them with the realization of these projects. We split into three groups and everyone carried out their respective tasks. The children even came to help! Another amazing community lunch was organized, which gave us a chance to regain some strength. After another long afternoon finishing our tasks, we all returned to the hotel before heading towards the Battambang circus. It was seriously impressive!’

Check back soon for more updates from the Aimia team!

AIMIA’S arrival in Cambodia – the start of an eye-opening experience

 

28907897565_49b463479b_z

This week SeeBeyondBorders welcomed a project team from the UK and Canada to Cambodia. The team from our corporate partner Aimia arrived in Cambodia on Friday 19th of November, after spending the past year raising a whopping £20,462.49 through several great charity events. Their first few days have been exciting, tiring and eye opening, as they arrived in Phnom Penh and took in the sights of the capital city, then made their way over to Battambang to visit SeeBeyondBorders’ programs.

img_0836

Sarah from the project team joins tells us what the team have made of their first few days.

“On the first day we really took our time to get used to the city and explore the various temples around Phnom Penh. It’s a complete culture change, there’s endless traffic in the city, cables hanging from electricity poles and searing heat. We looked forward to a good night sleep after travelling.

“On our second day we rode along the Mekong River.  We took in the many roadside villages and experienced Cambodian kindness as everyone greeted with us waves and smiles. We stopped at a silk shop where we ate fresh fruit and watched silk weaving.

img_0822

“We had time at the end of the day to reflect on our experiences in Cambodia so far. Some of the group have visited the country before and could definitely see that there had been rapid growth in Phnom Penh, but wondered if the same could be said for outside of the city. We’re keen to find out what the poorer villages in the countryside are going to be like in comparison”

img_0864

“Day three was full of contrasts.  We travelled to Tuol Sleng and the Killing Fields in a brightly coloured bus, despite the gloom that lay ahead. Naturally, some of us were worried about the morning visits, although we know that these experiences are essential in order to understand the impact of Cambodia’s past on its current day development. A tour guide took us round the Tuol Sleng prison, explaining the horrors which took place in this school before recounting her personal story. Our visit to the killing field left us with very few words.

After an eye-opening morning, we made the journey to our next stop in Battambang where we’ll be until Sunday, engaging with the schools where SeeBeyondBorders works, and communities in the surrounding area.

Watch this space for more…

SeeBeyondBorders celebrates the work of outstanding teachers

img_8666In 2012 a third of Grade 2 students in Cambodia could not read a single word (USAID). The work of teachers is fundamental to progress in Cambodia. Primary schools in Cambodia now boast a 98% net enrolment rate, and substantially increased literacy rates. As a way to mark this progress, every year SeeBeyondBorders celebrates the achievement of teachers, throughout the four districts in which it works.

Through a ceremony we call Krou Laor, which means ‘good teacher’, SeeBeyondBorders acknowledges the importance of teachers as agents of change. SeeBeyondBorders provides these teachers with support and training, but their commitment to self-development so that they can provide their students with a quality education is of their own doing. On the 31st of October and 1st of November, SeeBeyondBorders hosted two awards ceremonies to commemorate and celebrate the achievements of teachers in the Puok and Angor Thom districts.

The awards are broken down into three categories: bronze, silver and gold. In 2016, 63% of teachers or mentors were awarded bronze or above, highlighting the excellent quality of teachers in the schools in which SeeBeyondBorders works. A teacher who achieves gold must have high student test results, a high level of commitment to professional development, and a low level of student absence throughout the year .

On the first day, 17 teachers and mentors from the Puok district were welcomed to collect their awards. Choeung Chet won a Krou Laor award in Puok district. He recognises the pressures facing Cambodian families with little income, and tries to solve this problem by talking to the parents within the community and stressing the importance of education. The issue, he says, is that people ‘live from hand to mouth’, meaning they are unable to make long-term plans. He wants to help people to understand that education teaches ‘knowledge and skills which help the community in the long-term.’

A second ceremony was held in Angkor Thom district for 63 teachers and mentors. Sak Uddom achieved gold for his progress as a teacher, in spite of the numerous challenges contributing to high absenteeism in his school, and little access to resources to assist his teaching. According to surveys, 80% of children who have dropped out of primary school have said that they did so “to contribute to the household income”, because they “must help with household chores”, because they “don’t want to study” or because they “did not do well in school” (Mekong Economic Research Network). The importance of quality teachers is essential in changing mindsets within the community and encouraging children to attend school regularly.

Through our ‘Teach the Teacher’ program, SeeBeyondBorders has trained 523 teachers, and helped some 27,000 students. By celebrating teaching progress, we are motivating teachers, families and communities to strive for a brighter future for Cambodian children.

Handwashing and education go hand in hand

28761371842_9eefcb2234_o

Did you know that Saturday October the 15th is Global Handwashing Day? A day devoted to spreading awareness about handwashing. Handwashing is a process you probably never even question, you just do it. But did you know that the risk of newborn deaths is reduced by 44% if mothers regularly wash their hands? And that diarrhea is the second greatest cause of death for children under five? With regular handwashing, so many of these deaths could be avoided.

As part of SeeBeyondBorders’ commitment to improving education and encouraging long-term behavioral change in Cambodia, health programs are carried out in eight schools across four districts. One of the primary activities carried out in our ‘Getting to School’ program is handwashing. This activity is essential in improving the health standards of communities and reducing the incidence of preventable diseases that so often keep kids out of school.

Improving facilities

Access to clean water and soap is not widespread in Cambodia, and awareness of good health and hygiene practices, including how to wash your hands properly, remains low. Since early 2013, SeeBeyondBorders has been working with Kok Dong primary school to improve their facilities so that they don’t have to make a 300-meter trip to an unsanitary pond. We have also held health workshops with parents and members of the local community, demonstrating how to wash hands thoroughly to avoid spreading illnesses. Alongside demonstrating how to clean your teeth and providing soap, toothbrushes, and toothpaste, these workshops aim to instil good practices for both students and their families.

6788304453_dcbe56beb9_o

Better education

Handwashing has contributed to an increase in average attendance rates in the schools where we run programs from 91% in 2015 to 93% in 2016. By encouraging hand washing at home and at school, overall health is improved, enabling children to regularly attend class and substantially reducing their risk of getting sick. Handwashing enables better education.

The 2016 theme is ‘Make Handwashing a Habit’. Whilst the process is simple, behavioral change is a lengthy process.

Raising awareness is not limited to the 15th of October and can be done throughout the year. SeeBeyondBorders commits to raising awareness all year around by visiting schools and carrying out these health workshops. If you would like to support our work please donate so we can continue to reach more children in communities across Cambodia.

Happy World Teachers’ Day!

It’s World Teachers’ Day today (5th October) and we’re in Paris collecting a global award for improving teaching quality in Cambodia.

We were thrilled to hear earlier this year that UNESCO had honoured our seminal ‘Teach the Teacher’ programme with the prestigious UNESCO-Hamdan bin Rashid Al-Maktoum Prize for Outstanding Practice and Performance in Enhancing the Effectiveness of Teachers. The award identified three outstanding programs worldwide to honour with the prize that includes US $100,000 to help reach more teachers, children and supporters.

We wouldn’t have been awarded this prize without the hard work and dedication of our teachers and SeeBeyondBorders staff. Teachers are absolutely vital in the ongoing rebuild of Cambodia. We believe that changes comes about with education. This World Teachers’ Day we asked them to share with us their thoughts on how education and teaching has shaped their lives.

Watch the video

We have reached over 27,500 Cambodian children through ‘Teach the Teacher’ – the skills development programme designed to improve the quality of education offered by teachers in primary schools. In Cambodia over 50 per cent of teachers have not completed high school themselves.  We designed ‘Teach the Teacher’ to address this by working directly with groups of primary school teachers in rural areas where the need is greatest, to equip them with new skills, competencies and confidence.

The huge improvement in the pass rates achieved by students in their end of year exams is testimony to the hard work and dedication of all of the team. Over three years the pass rate of our grade one to three students in Maths has increased from 48 per cent in 2013 to an incredible 80 per cent in 2016.

We believe that building the knowledge and confidence of Cambodian teachers is the key to providing a brighter future for Cambodian children. Thanks to this award we will be able to reach more teachers and communities where children are eager to learn.

The Prize will be awarded for the 4th time at a ceremony that will take place during World Teachers’ Day celebrations at UNESCO’s headquarters in Paris on 5 October 2016.

Help us support even more teachers and improve the lives of Cambodian children by donating here.

We’ll be posting a video from our trip to Paris very soon so do like us on Facebook and Twitter to get our latest updates.

 

Olympic fever: How sport is keeping kids in school in Cambodia

We’re captivated by it; the fun, the loud noise, the colour! The Olympics can bring nations together and promote a sense of unity and togetherness that makes us all want to celebrate in our defeats and triumphs. That’s the really positive impact that sports can have on the world. At SeeBeyondBorders we see that sports can have a huge impact on children’s futures.

28161149684_8e1cdd651e_k

In Cambodia there is often limited access to quality education for children and nearly half of children do not complete primary school. SeeBeyondBorders is addressing this through a range of programmes including our flagship work Teach the Teacher and more recently through our supporting focus areas, ‘Better Schools’ and ‘Getting to School’. One of the key components of Getting to School is the sports programme because we know that creating a fun educational environment will not only get children into school but keep them there in the long term.

28778755375_12226d4333_k.jpg

What’s even better about using sports as a tool for education is that it also brings the community together to help the children learn. Sports has the power to inspire and motivate everybody. SeeBeyondBorders trains teachers to create fun sports activities, like track and field and basic gymnastic skills like hula hoping and bar work that will stimulate and engage students. We also work with parents and others in the local communities to encourage them come on board as Assistant Coaches so that everyone feels a part of the project. By adding the sports element to the children’s schooling and involving their parents and community we’re seeing fewer drop outs; with a 4% reduction in school absences in the last school year, and much happier students.

28778794215_e50818b172_k.jpg

Hing Meing is from very poor family in Bavel. She has to look after her brothers and sisters as well as going to school and would often end up missing classes because she wasn’t engaged and inspired. Thanks to SeeBeyondBorders she’s had a chance to play sports with friends and this is helping to keep her coming back to all of her lessons.

sports.png

In the last school year alone SeeBeyondBorders;

  • Introduced sport to 14 schools
  • Trained 70 school teachers in three districts
  • 154 members of the community as Assistant Coaches

One of our trained Assistant Coaches, Thom Toi, sums up our work with the community perfectly for us;

“It is our role to support the school and it will be strengthened from our involvement. The school does not belong to one person, but to everybody and it is important for the community to be involved.”

And what better way to do that through sports!

You can find out more about our work promoting sports in schools here

Find out how you can get involved in our work www.seebeyondborders.org 

 

Let Louise Linton’s public humiliation be a warning to gap year volunteers everywhere

Tegan Rogers

It’s worrying that the ‘White Saviour’ trope is still being peddled by the likes of The Telegraph. But as those looking to ‘do good works in faraway places’ are finding more and more organisations willing to indulge their voluntourism fantasies, it’s worth looking deeper at the ethical implications.

The existence of White Saviour Barbie, the Humanitarians of Tinder, or any of these brilliant aid parodies, shows that, happily, many people now recognise that any volunteering opportunity in a developing country should be cautiously analysed, thoroughly researched, and accompanied by a hefty dose of personal responsibility. Also, that it’s never okay to use a human being as a prop in your profile picture. Then an article like this one by Louise Linton comes along and sets us all back a couple of decades.

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 09.02.28

Others have already rightfully pointed out that the historical inaccuracies in this memoir are unacceptable. It seems that this writer’s passage of self-discovery would not have been nearly as readable without a few embellishments to the facts.

But my gripe lies less with Linton herself (laughably misguided as she is) than with The Telegraph for peddling such nonsense. I’m tempted just to tweet this hilarious spoof article and get back to work, but what troubles me is the implication that many people – intelligent people, like The Telegraph’s commissioning editor – still haven’t grasped just how damaging the ‘White Saviour’ trope really is. See, when you give ideas like this one such a prominent platform, it lends them credibility. Somebody might actually pick up The Telegraph and think that this sort of behaviour is okay.

For those of you who have missed the debate about darker side of voluntourism, let me explain to you why it isn’t.

1. By its nature, Voluntoursim promotes an unequal power balance between the ‘helper’ and the ‘helped’.

Organisations that offer voluntourism opportunities are selling the idea that you, privileged Westerner, can make a positive difference to this poor, less fortunate person/ community’s life. Often, voluntourists aren’t expected to analyse the relationship much beyond that.

A telling quote from Linton’s article is the bit where she writes: “Needing my own escape and hoping to continue my mother’s mission to do good works in faraway places, I’d accepted a position in Zambia. It was the most remote country on the list I was given and the one most in need.”

You see, Zambia’s history, culture and local capacity are less important than the perceived ‘exoticism’ and ‘neediness’ of this country in the eyes of voluntourist Lou. How do you think the people at the receiving end of this ‘help’ feel about this suppression of all other aspects of their identities?

pic3

2. Voluntourism is usually a transaction – and buyers want to get their money’s worth.

If you go on a package holiday and the swimming pool is dirty or the food is substandard, you’re likely to demand a refund or write a petulant comment on TripAdvisor. Organisations that sell voluntourism experiences for a fee have recognised that there’s a lucrative market in capitalising on the Westerner’s desire to ‘do good works in faraway places’ (see also, The White Man’s Burden, a poem that really shouldn’t be warranting reference any more).

But in doing so, these organisations are entering into a transaction comparable with the package holiday provider, but one with far more uncomfortable implications. What does “getting your money’s worth” entail here? An authentic insight into the neediness of this country or community? An irrefutable sense that what you’ve done has really made a difference? Those are the sorts of expectations that lead organisations to take voluntourists on grisly ‘poverty parades’ where the local people are expected to perform as obsequious beneficiaries.

On the flipside, it can mean organisations feel obliged to provide their voluntourists with a relatively luxurious experience, providing ‘Western-style’ food and accommodation. Not only is this money spent on expensive services that could otherwise be channeled into, you know, the actual work this organisation is supposed to be doing, but there’s something less than noble about the idea of bounded face-time with the people you’re allegedly helping, with their strange foreign foods and habits. I once sat by a pool in a luxury hotel in Cambodia, overhearing two gap year voluntourists, sunbathing and complaining about how much they missed chips and jacket potatoes. Tell me, what’s wrong with this picture?

Screen Shot 2016-07-08 at 09.24.05

3. It’s almost impossible to make a lasting impact as a voluntourist.

It’s a struggle trying to find meaningful projects for volunteers when they’re only visiting for a few weeks at a time (more of our own experiences of that later). Often, the best option is a nice and simple construction project – come over for two weeks and build a school/ church/ library, and the results speak for themselves. Everyone’s happy, right? Except even basic construction requires some level of ability (have you ever tried laying bricks in a straight line?), and did that community really want said school, church or library in the first place, which, when all is said and done, is just an empty building needing maintenence, staffing and resources? There are far too many testimonials floating about on the internet recalling trained construction workers going in after hours and re-doing the building work completed by volunteers earlier in the day.

And what about teaching? There is an absolute glut of organisations offering the chance to teach children English in underdeveloped and remote locations – the only qualification needed being that you can actually speak English. Sure, the kids get to practice their language skills with a well-wishing Westerner. But with a constant revolving door of new teachers, each with their own ideas about the ‘difference’ they want to make, and almost none possessing any formal teacher training or lesson plan guidance, what is the real impact? At best the children will learn at a far slower and less efficient pace than they would with a proper education, and at worst… well, they may be taught conflicting or unhelpful information; they may form attachments to volunteers who then abandon them; those with behavioural or learning difficulties may never receive the ongoing support they need – and so the list goes on. What development organisations need to provide is sustainability, and by definition voluntourism cannot support that.

pic4

4. Worse still, voluntoursim can often exacerbate poverty, exploitation and inequality.

More often than not, activities like construction and teaching can be very well performed by members of the local population. As we’ve just discussed, voluntourism projects often deny vocational opportunities to the local community in favour of unskilled, unsustainable voluntourists, who pay the organisation money to perpetuate the cycle.

But there’s an even darker side to this industry. When poverty or degradation is the draw-card, unscrupulous people are going to step up to supply what’s in demand. Horror stories abound of children snatched from parents to populate fake ‘orphanages’, of sham schools controlled by shady ‘businessmen’. Remember that scene in Slumdog Millionaire when the kids have their eyes burnt out to make them more pitiful beggars? I’m talking about that, but on an industrial scale. The cruel irony is that it’s always going to be the most vulnerable who are the ultimate victims in this gruesome charade.

Slumdog-Millionaire-0194

So what to do? Explaining these risks, especially as a representative of a development organisation myself, is in itself a bit of a minefield. What I’m certainly not advocating is that all would-be volunteers stay at home and forget all about their desires to help people. It’s certainly not hopeless, and we certainly shouldn’t feel bad about wanting something more than the world of instant gratification, self-centredness, and have-it-all greed that as affluent Westerners we’re taught to pursue.

However, if you feel that nagging urge to look beyond your worldly comforts, be realistic. This is as much about you and your fulfilment as it is about whoever you might encounter on your journey. You have a responsibility to research the opportunity as much as possible. If you’re planning on taking a volunteering trip, be wary of organisations that charge a fee. Ask yourself what is the transaction here. Ask the organisation questions about the long term sustainability of their work. Look at other ways you can help to address the root causes of the problems in that context, rather than just providing a very temporary band-aid. Are there advocacy groups you could support who are effectively lobbying governments or corporations to redress the inequalities you see?

At SeeBeyondBorders, we’ve been grappling with these issues for years. In fact, SeeBeyondBorders is one of the few non-profit organisations that rarely turns away a volunteer who wants to help. But our approach has always been to invest in skills-based volunteering where it’s needed. We have a long term volunteering program, where qualified individuals with particular skill sets, such as finance, communications or project management, can come to Cambodia for six months or more and provide these ‘back office’ functions in the field, participating in project activities (like school sports days or health demonstration workshops) where they’re needed. But far from taking jobs from local people, the volunteers have mentored local staff in their particular area of expertise so that eventually all the international staff will be led by the Cambodian team.

We also run a ‘project team’ programme, which is our attempt to provide a worthy option in the voluntourism market. This is where we host groups of volunteers for a couple of weeks at a time, either qualified primary school teachers or members of staff from our corporate partner organisations. The former are invited to participate in our annual teacher workshops, where teachers from Western schools can share ideas with teachers in Cambodia.

The latter we invite to participate in – you guessed it – construction or maintenance activities. Crucially though, we implement a year round program under our Better Schools focus area, where the school staff, students, their parents, and members of the local community are able to contribute to a School Development Plan – their vision for the school and a wish list of all the improvements they’d like to see. The project team activities could involve anything from building a fence around the school, repairing a toilet block, or painting a mural, but importantly, these activities are always determined by the local community, who come out to help too – whether or not there are foreign volunteers to support.

We still ask ourselves everyday if there’s a better way to be implementing our programs, or to channel the positive energy of our supporters more effectively towards the complex reforms that are so desperately needed in Cambodia’s education system. With a growing tourism industry in Cambodia, there’s no shortage of well-wishers who could be easily persuaded to avoid the common mistakes that only perpetuate the shocking levels of inequality. We hope that by always putting first the needs and wishes of the people our organisation was set up to serve – Cambodian teachers and students – that we’re at least on the right track.

Photos:

Main http://www.thinkchildsafe.org/thinkbeforevisiting/
Pic 2: https://www.instagram.com/p/BDLlkaaMfQC/?taken-by=barbiesavior&hl=en
Pic 2: https://www.buzzfeed.com/genamourbarrett/how-my-dream-gap-year-in-europe-turned-into-a-nightmare?utm_term=.cbGZo3795#.maOW3r01P
Pic 3: http://theplanetd.com/images/pepy2.jpg
Pic 4: http://screenmusings.org/SlumdogMillionaire/images/Slumdog-Millionaire-0194.jpg

Sports in schools: Not just child’s play

Setting up for a sports carnival is a lot of fun, but can involve a fair amount of work! Luckily during our recent sports carnival in Bavel parents and members of the community were on hand to support the smooth running of the morning’s activities.

IMG_6851.JPG

Our sports carnivals are part of our Sports Program, designed to increase sport in school and provide fun learning environments for students.  Through structured weekly sports lessons, children are shown that school can be active, fun and involve laughter.  We provide opportunities to learn new skills, and build positive associations with learning which supports our aim to increase attendance.  Students are far more likely to attend school when they feel connected, and sport is shown to be one way to achieve this.

The sports carnival goes one step further than the weekly sports lessons, involving a whole morning of sport and competition.  Divided into teams the students compete in hurdles, sprinting and sack races.

IMG_6969.JPG

runningsport.jpg

By taking part in sport, children learn to develop self-confidence, motivate themselves and lead active lifestyles.

Using sport as part of an approach to encourage attendance in school is widely used around the world, in both developed and developing countries.  Sports-based programs in school have shown to improve learning performance of children, encouraging school attendance and a desire to succeed academically (UNICEF).

What makes the SeeBeyondBorders’ Sport Program unique is the emphasis on the community’s role. We support teachers by training them to deliver structured sports lessons, and engage community members as Assistant Coaches. We also encourage community members and parents to attend sports lessons and sports carnivals.

IMG_6862.JPG

In 2015 we trained 70 teachers and 146 assistant coaches to deliver effective sports lessons. In addition, 110 community members were involved in our sports program, either through the sports carnival or regular sports lessons. So far in 2016, 65 teachers and 135 assistant coaches have been involved in and engaged with the program.

Sport is seen as a powerful tool in promoting development and bringing people and communities together. We see the community involvement in our sports program as vital to its longevity and ultimately wish to see the program running without the support of SeeBeyondBorders’ staff in the future.

“Sport programs seek to empower participants and communities by engaging them in the design and delivery of activities, building local capacity, adhering to generally accepted principles of transparency and accountability, and pursuing sustainability through collaboration, partnerships and coordinated action.” (United Nations, Sport for Development and Peace).

Our recent sports carnival in Bavel provided an opportunity to speak to one of the Assistant Coaches involved in the sports program. Toi Tum has four children and two grandchildren.

IMG_7026.JPG

“I enjoy being involved in the sports activities, and helping to support the school. I like that SeeBeyondBorders helps to spread information, and ensures we can come and see our children learn and helps us to solve the challenges we face together.  We have a responsibility to help the school and it will be strengthened by our involvement. The school doesn’t belong to just one person, it belongs to everyone.”

“I have been an assistant coach for 18 months now and enjoy helping the teacher with the sports lessons. Bringing enjoyable activities to school is really important. I think it is good to make school fun, so that children will attend.”

To see more from the recent sports carnival in Bavel check out our latest short video below.

Conditional Cash Payments: How such a simple intervention can dramatically improve a child’s chances

Savong is still in primary school, but as the eldest of six children his mother often looks to him to help support his family when his father is away at work. I met Savong at his school in Ek Phnom district, and afterwards he took us to his house – just a shack by Western standards – where we met his mother and siblings. Cramped under this makeshift shelter – sheets of corrugated iron held up by planks of wood, with fabric strung up to section off a sleeping area – Savong’s mother Sam welcomed us in and began to explain their situation.

IMG_2082
Savong outside his home with his younger brother

“My family is suffering because we do not have enough food. It is difficult to earn enough money to support my children,” she told us, cradling her youngest child in her arms.

Often in situations such as these, the older children have no choice but to work in order to earn some extra cash for the family. Also common in North Western parts of Cambodia – where Ek Phnom is situated – is for families to pack up and move to the Thai border, where they can earn more money in the farming and service industries. Both options are disastrous for a child’s education – at best forcing them to miss extended periods of school, and at worst forcing them to drop out entirely. SeeBeyondBorders’ Conditional Cash Payments Program (CCP) provides families like Savong’s with support to help them keep sending their children to school.

Savong has been receiving CCP support for nearly a year, and the result has been positive. SeeBeyondBorders has provided his family with a small cash payment (which averages at 41GBP or 83AUD per year for one student) on the condition that his attendance at school improves.[1] “It is easier now to come to school,” Savong told us. “I have bought books, pens and clothes for school.”

Sam too is grateful for the support that CCP provides. She says that she’d like Savong to stay in school and eventually become a teacher himself, although “he likes painting and he wants to become an artist. When he has free time, he always paints at home.” Whatever Savong chooses to do in future, a solid education will give him a fair start in life.

IMG_2081
Savong’s mother Sam holding her baby daughter

Organisations such as UNESCO and the World Bank have widely evidenced the effectiveness of Conditional Cash Transfers as a way of tangibly addressing poverty. UNESCO reported in 2015 that cash transfers have helped to ensure equitable access to education in Cambodia, while a 2009 World Bank report concluded that cash transfers have generally been successful in reducing poverty and encouraging parents to invest in the health and education of their children.

More broadly, over the past two decades there has been a noticeable shift towards cash transfers as the intervention of choice for aid and development organisations, in recognition of the fact that it respects the agency and rights of the recipient. As a 2013 article from The Economist puts it: “For decades, it was thought that the poor needed almost everything done for them and that experts knew best what this was. Few people would trust anyone to spend $1,000 responsibly… From around 2000, a different idea started to catch on: governments [and organisations] gave poor households small stipends to spend as they wished—on condition that their children went to school or visited a doctor regularly… Households can absorb a surprising amount of cash and put it to good use.”

Over the past two decades there has been a noticeable shift towards cash transfers as the intervention of choice for aid and development organisations, in recognition of the fact that it respects the agency and rights of the recipient.

At SeeBeyondBorders, the evidence for CCP’s effectiveness has also been compelling. The program was only introduced in early 2015; another aspect of our Getting to School focus area, which aims to raise attendance levels by addressing the causes of absenteeism. (As well as CCP, we hold community health workshops to tackle preventable illnesses; we provide supplementary lessons to help students who have fallen behind in class catch up with their peers; and we help teachers deliver sports lessons to make school a more fun and appealing place to be.) In addition to Ek Phnom, we introduced CCP to schools in Bavel and Angkor Thom district – 9 schools in total, reaching 190 students. Already we have seen the attendance levels of those students selected to receive CCP support increase from an average of 79% to 93%.

For some children, the solution to their poor attendance levels is even more simple than a cash transfer. Dara[1] attends the same school as Savong in Ek Phnom, and was also identified by the CCP Committee as at risk of dropping out due to extremely low attendance levels. The Committee, made up of teachers from the school, supported by SeeBeyondBorders staff, personally visit all of those families identified as underprivileged, to assess their circumstances and ensure the CCP goes to the most vulnerable.

IMG_2077
Savong and Dara at their school in Ek Phnom

When they visited Dara’s family the cause of her absenteeism was immediately clear. Situated off a narrow dusty track in rural Battambang province, it took Dara almost an hour each way to walk to school. With just one bicycle as the family’s only means of transport, Dara was able to cycle to school on the days that her mother stayed at home – but often her mother needed the bicycle to travel to the market to earn their income. The CCP Committee recommended that SeeBeyondBorders provide Dara with a bicycle, on the condition that her attendance improves and that she take responsibility for its maintenance.

“I like the CCP committee because it helps me to go to school,” Dara said. “Now it is just a few minutes [to get to school]. I hope that the CCP will continue because I like to study.”

Dara’s family are in a similarly precarious situation to Savong’s. Technically homeless, they have constructed a one-room property beside a relative’s house, itself not much more than a raised platform with a roof to protect its inhabitants from the rain. As we spoke to Dara’s mother, her husband was busy repairing fishing nets round the back of the building, which he uses to catch fish from the river.

She described to us her situation. “Typically I spend my mornings doing housework, and looking after my son [Dara’s younger brother, who is four years old]. In the afternoons I prepare the fish sausage to be sold in the market.” She refers to a common snack in Cambodia, produced by mincing fish and packaging the paste in small plastic tubes. Tied together into strings of ten or twenty, fish sausage is a common sight at market stalls in Cambodia. But for her afternoons of fiddly and repetitive work, Dara’s mother can only hope to fetch around 2,000 riel (or 50 cents) for every 100 sold.

IMG_2091
Dara’s mother at home in rural Battambang province

“Before I was concerned I needed to find money to buy Dara a bicycle,” she told us. “I am very happy that Dara is able to use the bicycle from SeeBeyondBorders to go to school.”

Back at the school, we had a chance to meet the members of the CCP Committee who identify these families most at risk. The job, they explain, is not without challenges: all of the children who attend the school are from families that would be considered ‘low income’, and those who do receive CCP can sometimes be the target of some jealousy.

“We have been able to help 10 children so far [at this school], but so many more could use help.” CC

The Cambodian Ministry of Planning has taken steps to gather data on poverty levels through their Identification of Poor Households Program (IDPoor). Three categorisations enable comparable countrywide data on household incomes and assets, with IDPoor Level 1 households being the most impoverished. Anecdotally these families are described as those with little or no assets to speak of. The CCP Committee starts by undertaking their own assessment of those families categorised as IDPoor Level 1.

One member of the CCP Committee described to us the difficult decisions they face. “I am very happy to be part of the committee, but here we have many more poor students. We have been able to help 10 children so far [at this school], but so many more could use help. Our staff visited 50 families and we chose the 10 that we felt were most vulnerable. Some of the others [for example] had IDPoor cards but they do have homes and motorcycles. It is very difficult.”

IMG_2100
These two girls, who attend the same school as Savong and Dara, also receive CCP support. Both of their parents have gone to work at the Thai border and have left them in the care of their grandparents. Their teacher, who is also a CCP Committee member, can be seen here in the background.

With so many families in Cambodia living in poverty, it is easy to see why education is not prioritised. The first year of CCP has shown us that such a simple intervention can incentivise families to support their children’s education. But with limited funding at present, SeeBeyondBorders has to ensure that CCP support is only targeted towards the most vulnerable few, even though many more are desperately in need of help. With the help of our supporters and partners, we hope to scale up CCP, helping more underprivileged families to send their children to school. And with our Teach the Teacher and Better Schools focus areas, we intend to give them the best education we can when they are at school.

Please help us continue to strengthen our work by donating here. 83AUD is all it costs on average to support a child’s education for one year through our CCP program. While this is just one small aspect of what SeeBeyondBorders is doing to help rebuild Cambodia’s education system, it goes to show how much your support counts.

 

[1] Name has been changed

[1] The payment is delivered in two instalments, and while the payment is not required to be returned if the conditions aren’t met, it does affect eligibility for future support.

Maths camp success

In April, a two day Maths Camp came to the Bavel district in Cambodia, facilitated and supported by SeeBeyondBorders’ staff.

Pic1mathscampblog.jpg

As part of SeeBeyondBorders’ Getting to School focus area, the Maths Camp (also known as our Supplementary Lessons Program), is part of a suite of programs designed to address the root causes of low attendance at school. Children with a history of poor attendance are far more likely to fall behind, become disengaged and drop out of school altogether, creating a vicious circle which is hard to break.  By providing interactive, intensive and engaging additional lessons for those who are at risk of dropping out, SeeBeyondBorders aims to support these children and help them to stay in school for longer.

pic2realformathscamp.jpg

Our first Supplementary Lessons started back in 2015 taking the form of a two day Maths Camp, where 29 students from grades 2 and 3 participated in interactive activities to improve understanding of maths concepts.  End of year results showed that in grade 2, 11 out of the 14 students who attended these supplementary lessons passed the test with an average score of 72%. In grade 3, 14 out of the 15 students who attended passed the test with an average score of 79% – an above average score for their year group.

pic3blog.jpg

Due to the success, we were delighted to be able to bring the Supplementary Lessons Program to Bavel this year.  In April 2016, 28 students were selected with the help of the school community as those most at risk of dropping out and who would benefit from additional support. In addition, 4 representative teachers from 3 different schools in the Bavel district attended. The two day Maths Camp included various interactive activities taking the form of group, pair and individual work, all using concrete materials to support learning.

pic4mathscamp.jpg

Various elements are vital to ensure the success of these supplementary lessons.  Due to the small class sizes students benefit from more one-on-one teacher time and are able to learn with students of a similar level.  Class sizes in Cambodian rural schools can often reach over 40 students to one teacher, which can lead to a broadening attainment gap between those students who have difficulty understanding or keeping up with lessons and those who easily grasp the concepts.  Providing opportunities for students to learn in small groups, as well as with others at a similar level, increases confidence and engagement, and lessons are far more interactive as a result.   

pic5blog.jpg

 “We often see students who are not engaged normally in class become more active in these lessons. They are also far more likely to work together.”  Sophen, SeeBeyondBorders Education Program Coordinator commented.

By the end of the Maths Camp the students were able to complete standard maths problems and algorithms appropriate for their grade. All attending students completed a pre and post-test which allowed the teachers and SeeBeyondBorders facilitators to gage the success of the lessons. In grade 2, the pre-test showed a 0% pass rate, compared to an 85% pass rate in post test results. In grade 3, 33% of students passed the pre-test, increasing to 69% in the post test result.  

Increasing attainment and attendance of students is an important focus of this program. But a secondary, and equally important, goal is to provide teachers with practical understanding of how to both identify individual student needs and use appropriate strategies to support them.  Various techniques are used during these lessons providing teachers attending a ‘live workshop’ to witness these strategies in action.

blog6pic

Khen Pharin is a grade 2 teacher within the Bavel district. Three of her students were selected and attended the maths camp, where she was also in attendance. She commented on how much she had learnt about various strategies, classroom management, using resources and how to identify specific student needs.

Math Camp is really fun and helps slower learners to catch up on their math lessons. I also learnt a lot from math camp because it felt like a brilliant demonstration workshop that was taught by professional and skillful teachers. It gave me a good opportunity to observe and see clearly how SeeBeyondBorders staff apply all different concepts and activities”. Khen Pharin commented after the two day Maths Camp.

Check out our video below of the recent maths camp in action, and some of the techniques used.

 

 

Bringing new meaning to Maths concepts

Over the last three days in Ek Phnom district our senior mentors have been leading a series of multiplication and division workshops to strengthen understanding for our teachers within these key areas.

Attended by 11 teachers, the workshop has been facilitated by 4 senior mentors. They have been providing practical sessions on teaching multiplication and division, guidance on using SeeBeyondBorders resource manuals in-line with government issued text books, and how to use concrete materials to aid learning in the classroom. Ensuring that teachers are able to not just understand these concepts, but to effectively teach them and pass on this knowledge, is vital to bring quality education to the schools within our program.

IMG_5860

Sophen, our Teach the Teacher Program Manager, spoke about the recent multiplication and division workshop, which he attended to provide support and ensure its smooth running:

“Our senior mentors have capacity and a high understanding of the concepts used. They have been trained to be facilitators in these workshops so new teachers are supported and able to learn. It also provides modelling for the teachers to understand good teaching practice and styles. Teachers believe in the SeeBeyondBorders model and workshop, so it makes it run smoothly and very well. I am very proud to watch how the senior mentors have provided technical knowledge and training to the teachers in these workshops.”

IMG_5870.JPG

Sophen and his team of mentor development co-ordinators have provided in-depth training for our senior mentors to be able to facilitate these workshops, the first where the senior mentors are themselves leading these sessions. Empowering teachers to develop themselves and support others is at the heart of SeeBeyondBorders’ work, and ensures our programs are led by those at the very center of education in Cambodia.

IMG_5874.JPG

Solida has attended both the previous addition and subtraction workshop and the most recent multiplication and division workshop at Prek Norin School. She has been a teacher for one year and has been on the SeeBeyondBorders Teach the Teacher program since she graduated from Provincial teacher training college:

“I think the SeeBeyondBorders workshops are very good. I have learnt a lot about methodology and strategy and how to use resources properly. I have also learnt how to get my students more involved in lessons. Before I didn’t really learn deeply about maths concepts, but now I can break down the concept and teach maths with a detailed explanation for my students.”

IMG_5884.JPG

Our senior mentors’ ability to deliver these workshops is a fundamental part of the Teach the Teacher model, and vital in ensuring the continued sustainability of our programs. The senior mentors bring much needed support, advice and guidance to new teachers, and bring a deeper understanding of teaching strategies. Through this cascade of knowledge we are able to ensure teachers have the confidence and skills to deliver classes which are engaging, practical, and effective, and to provide quality learning for the next generation of Cambodian children.

Forward-thinking Principal improves his school

Forward-thinking Principal and his team innovate and improve their school and have no plans to stop here!

On 17 March 2016, SeeBeyondBorders visited Prek Norin primary school to discuss the changes that have been made since the new Principal took on the role a year and a half ago. Prek Norin is in Ek Phnom district and has 19 staff and 530 students.

Moa Sokhouen, previously a secretary in the school office, became Principal of Prek Norin in October 2014. Since then, he and his team have worked hard to improve both the quality of teaching and the school environment, much of which has been with the support and encouragement of SeeBeyondBorders.

Already, walking through the school, the improvements – as well as the ongoing efforts – are clear to see. There is a new building currently under construction (with government support) which will house kindergarten, there is a newly expanded play area (formerly a rice field – one rice field remains) and there is a colourful area with painted swans and plants (some of which are cleverly constructed into maths symbols), which we later discover is the bio-garden. The paths are littered with brightly painted car tyres, and there is a large cage which collects plastic bottles, clearly highlighting the efforts made to recycle at this school.

IMG_2810.JPG

IMG_2812.JPG

Prek Norin and its grounds look clean, tidy and colourful – and this, the Principal says, encourages the children to respect it more. SeeBeyondBorders has helped with fixing a roof, adding doors and painting the classrooms, and last month sent a corporate project team in to help with concreting two classroom floors – a task that took place on condition that the Principal would create an enlarged play area – which after 150 trucks of soil delivered to the school is almost complete. Additionally, Prek Norin is enrolled in SeeBeyondBorders’ Teach the Teacher program and has three mentor teachers supporting seven mentees and also benefits from SeeBeyondBorders’ sports program. Moa Sokhouen is grateful and happy with SeeBeyondBorders’ help – what he likes particularly is that we don’t set rules, but provide help and support for example suggesting teaching methodologies and providing workshops for new teachers.

IMG_2814.JPG

It is clear that a lot of effort has already gone into improving the school and it is encouraging to hear that the Principal and his team have no plans to stop here. Current initiatives include a charity box which raises money to help the less wealthy students with resources for school (such as books and pens), and a suggestions box for students to leave a message if they are not happy about something – a recent complaint has been that their marks haven’t been high enough! The school also promotes honesty among the students – if they find a ‘lost’ item they are encouraged to hand it into a teacher. When the owner of the item is found the two children (finder and owner) are united in front of the other students so that the owner can receive thanks and the finder be publicly commended for their honesty. Other future ideas include building a statue of a prominent figure (such as a Buddha), planting more flowers in maths formula shapes, adding a school information board, a water station where the children can wash and clean their hands, thus improving hygiene.

One of the key things Moa Sokhouen seems to get right is communication and engagement – with parents, students and the community – an area SeeBeyondBorders encourages and helps schools with as necessary. One initiative that will be commencing on a monthly basis is meeting the parents of both under-performing/commonly absent and over-performing students, to understand why the former might be struggling at school and with the latter, to encourage the parents to keep supporting their children. This is not common practice in Cambodia. His strong relationship with the Buddhist community, in particular the monks, has led to the monks coming into school each Thursday to teach life skills, part of the MOEYS (Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport) curriculum. The presence of the monks, says Moa Sokhouen, also improves the behaviour of the children. The increasing support of the community over the past year and half can also be attributed to his Moa Sokhouen open and transparent communication with them. He meets often with the village chief and if there is something he wants to do at the school he always checks with the community; he is sure to outline what it is, why it is needed and a breakdown of the costs. What’s more he is open to discussing ideas further. The community supported the school and School Support Committee with the soil project financially and this is in no doubt down to the open communication he had with them in advance. It is no wonder the engagement has improved!

But Moa Sokhouen admits there are challenges, especially as he is still relatively new in the position. He feels he could benefit from more leadership training and moreover, he knows there is a lot more work to be done at the school.

Prek Norin is a great example of the initiatives that can be implemented to improve the quality of teaching and the general school environment. Moa Sokhouen and his team are a great inspiration and we look forward to continuing to support them and seeing what other plans they have up their sleeves!

Celebrating International Women’s Day

People throughout the world today will celebrate International Women’s Day, a day to highlight the huge accomplishments women have made in society, but also to bring to the forefront some of the pertinent issues women still face.

Women and girls are an essential part of building healthy, educated and sustainable communities. But they are far too often over-looked. Globally, around 57 million children are not attending school, and girls make up 31 million of this number. Cambodia is making huge strides to ensure that girls and boys have an equal opportunity to access primary education, with UNICEF data suggesting that the net enrolment ratio for boys and girls is now 95%. Despite the improvements in recent years in access to education, the quality of education and dropout rates for both boys and girls is still an issue. Drop out rate data from three districts in which SeeBeyondBorders works suggests that the gender divide is far more complex than the global argument suggests, with data suggesting that girls have in fact a lower absentee rate. An average taken from three of the four districts that SeeBeyondBorders works in indicates that girls’ absenteeism over a four month period from November 2015 to February 2016 was 5.9% compared to 7.8% of boys. This compares to an average of 9% across the country, suggesting the work that SeeBeyondBorders does to decrease both boys and girls rates of absenteeism is better than the country average.

The following individual stories of achievement celebrate some of the many women who work with SeeBeyondBorders to increase access to quality education for boys and girls, ensure schools are a safe and fun place for all, increase community involvement in school development initiatives and reduce absenteeism. All of these women work tirelessly to improve education in Cambodia, and to provide the very best for the next generation.

Vasna engaging students

vasna

Ms. Vasna has been part of the SeeBeyondBorders teaching program for three years in Bavel. Before joining the SeeBeyondBorders’ program, she found it really hard to engage students during classroom sessions. “I didn’t know how to start a lesson and could not identify specific concepts or use concrete materials in lessons,” she told us. After participating in five training courses, being provided with materials from SeeBeyondBorders as well as receiving regular support visits from her mentor, she is now more confident in managing her classroom. I am more confident in teaching mathematics now because I can breakdown concepts, use concrete materials to introduce abstract concepts, and I find that it has really helped my students learn easier.”

Champa supporting sports lessons in Bavel

champabig

Mrs. Khut Champa is an assistant coach at Khum Bavel Primary School in Bavel district.   As part of our aim to increase student attendance and provide greater opportunities for parent involvement in school activities, Champa supports our sports program helping teachers with lesson planning and facilitation. Champa believes she has developed a great deal in the last year in sports coordination skills, sports capacity and cooperation with both teachers and students. “I enjoy the sport program more this year than last year because now I understand a lot about sport concepts and activities that can make me feel confident to support sport lessons with teachers. Teachers welcome me and we work well together,” said Champa.

Savein supporting school development

savein

In February 2016, SeeBeyondBorders conducted a School Development Planning workshop in Bavel.  These workshops help guide the school management team, teachers, and the community to create a vision for what the future of their school and their children’s education could be.  From their feedback, around 95% of parents said that this was the first time that they had been involved with the school to give their opinions about how they would like the school to develop. Savein is a mother of four children and has been involved in the School Development Team for 2 years. “This is the first time that I have been involved in making a school vision and school development plan, even though I have been a member of the school support committee for quite a long time. This workshop has given parents an opportunity to talk and share their ideas about their dreams for the school. I believe that everyone will help to implement this plan in order to make our school develop” said Savein.

Samoeuy planning Improved classes

Samoeuybig.jpg

Ms. Samoeuy teaches a combination grade 1&2 class the Puok district. Like many other teachers in the district, she teaches and does farming work outside school hours. She has found in the past that she does not have enough time for planning lessons. As a result of SeeBeyondBorders’ Teach the Teacher program she has been provided with math workshops, resource books, materials as well as regular mentoring sessions. Samoeuy now feels she can teach with more confidence and can provide clear concepts of the lesson to her students. She said, “I am happy to collaborate with SeeBeyondBorders because I have gained a lot of knowledge, resources and assistance from my mentor to teach with concrete materials and lesson planning”. The mentoring system is very useful to her because her mentor supports her in the classroom, providing constructive feedback and specific teaching strategies. “I would like to thank SeeBeyondBorders for providing me a lot of knowledge and strategies to teach,” she remarked.

Sayoeurn receiving recognition

sayoeurn

Sayoeurn has been a mentor for three years in the Angkor Thom district and was among 14 mentors who received an award at the Krou Laor Awards last year. The Krou Laor awards operates in conjunction with SeeBeyondBorders Teach the Teacher Core Program, to recognise outstanding progression and motivate teachers to continue to strive for improved teaching skills. Sayoeurn received a bronze award at the ceremony in October last year, demonstrating how far her teaching and mentoring skills have come in two years of work with SeeBeyondBorders.

Kimlen supporting communities with SeeBeyondBorders

kimlen

Kimlen has been a Community Liaison Coordinator for SeeBeyondBorders since February 2015. She is responsible for supporting community members, families and parents become more involved in school activities and engage in making decisions about the future of their school. She supports families, and works with both the wider community and school, to increase enrolment and participation, and decrease absenteeism. Her work, and the work of all our SeeBeyondBorders team, is vital to ensuring there is a direct and lasting link between SeeBeyondBorders and the community, to ensure long-lasting ownership of school activities and involvement in their child’s education.  Kimlen spoke recently about why she works for SeeBeyondBorders; “I want to help the education system and I like the way that SeeBeyondBorders values the community’s involvement, and engages them to support and develop the school and community.”

These stories are just a few examples of the contribution women who work with SeeBeyondBorders are making- as  Schools Principals, teachers, mentors, assistant coaches, and as mothers and members of the community. These women are all dedicated to improving the standards of teaching and creating a fun and safe environment in their own schools, to provide more children with the opportunity of a quality education.  Without the equal contribution of these women, the improvements in educational outcomes that SeeBeyondBorders achieves would not be possible.