Today’s update is written by Rocio:
For the next two days we work on a project SeeBeyondBorders is piloting in some schools of Angkor Thom, one of the poorest villages of the region. The project aims to reinforce the importance of education and children attending school as the majority of them have very low attendance rate. Families often need their children to help at home, look after their relatives, earn a daily wage or simply can’t afford the transportation to school.
In these schools between 45-65% of families hold ID poor cards (live below the poverty line of $2 a day) and around 45% are illiterate. Shocking figures to start another hard day in which we will be dealing with parents from the local community.
We arrive at the primary school early in the morning and divide the parents into three groups to make the communication easier. We start with an icebreaker game using a ball of wool to show we are all connected and equal which warms the community people a bit before getting started.
First of all we ask parents to draw their children on a piece of paper. Very interesting exercise taking into account some of them have never even held a pencil before. Shyness is soon replaced by laughter and big smiles when they start drawing, in some cases really nice pieces of art! It is impressive to see their reactions and how quickly they learn. If only they had had a better chance in life…
Second step is to try to generate a debate by asking them what would they want for their children in the future, how can they achieve it and what do they expect from the school. Answers don’t differ much from what we would get in western countries; however there is a big handicap: they are so poor that in some cases the theory is difficult to implement. We try to show them that they can get as far as they want but education is key and schools play a determinant role. Change begins with education.
After this they have to draw those future expectations on another piece of paper that will be posted as a collage with the previous ones. At this stage pencils and sharpeners don’t intimidate them anymore.
The project seems to be a success in both schools. Parents seem to have had a really good time and seem committed and concerned about the issue. We will have to wait to see the results.
We then leave the schools satisfied but also a bit shocked at the reality we have just seen. Families who struggle to give their kids a proper education because of the lack of resources. It reminds us that the world is not fair at all.
After an early lunch we head to a different school where we will be painting a classroom building and helping them to organise the rubbish by building some collection boxes and a fire pit. The painting is relatively easy now that we have some experience though involves some interesting scaffolding. However the second day we are caught by an amazing thunderstorm that prevents us working outdoors. We naively still hope the rain stops at some point. But when it rains in Cambodia, it pours. It is fun though to see the kids running through the water and again it makes you think how different life is on the other side of the globe.
Many of those community people we have been working with will come back home completely wet (as we are) to their homes with no electricity and no tap water while we have a comforting hot shower in the hotel…