Impressions of my first visit to a British school

My name is Pov[1]. I have been working in the education sector in Cambodia for almost 15 years, in various positions (teacher, school principal, district education officer) in public institutions and several education-related NGOs. I’ve now been working with SeeBeyondBorders for more than 4 years, and it is this work of which I am the most proud.

I have a dream of a better quality education for Cambodian children and ultimately a better society economy and orders. However, I was not clear what an internationally recognized quality standard of education looked like until I recently visited Orrell Holgate Primary School for two days.

My colleague Reasmey and I were very privileged to visit the UK for two weeks in September 2017. With support from our great friend Sarah Reynolds (UK Country Manager for SeeBeyondBorders) and many other generous people, we managed to see many cities and interesting places. I was keen to observe ways people live, children learn and parents engage in education, therefore, the visit to Orrell Holgate Primary School in Wigan (near Manchester) was a highlight of the trip.

We stayed at Sarah’s sister’s house not far from the school, so we walked there easily. Though it was wet and cold outside, we felt excellent inside with a very warm welcome from Mrs Gail Worrall, the school’s head teacher, as well as all other school staff and students. Mrs Worrall showed us around, introduced us to the school development plan, and the deputy head teacher explained the process of curriculum design and we saw examples of actual lessons delivery.  Teachers explained us how they engage children from different backgrounds and how to track learning progress of individual students. Everyone answered loads of questions from us.

 Reasmey with class           Pov with class

We were very impressed with the high quality of the following:

  1. Management of consistencies: school leadership, teachers, students and parents implement activities written in the school development plan systematically with strong ownership.
  2. Challenging and lifelong learning environment: students do a lot of research. We did some brief presentations about Cambodia to classes in years 2-6. I was very surprised when I saw some research reports written by year 2 students, and they were very brave standing up and asking me many questions.
  3. Ambitious expectations of students: during the House assembly, some students told the audience they want to become internationally famous as a footballer, lawyer, etc.
  4. Teaching quality: teachers use interactive activities, engage all students actively in every lesson. Through regular tracking, they know their students clearly and then try the best to fulfill individual need of students. Moreover, all teachers are so enthusiastic about professional development.
  5. Variety learning equipment: one teacher, one teaching assistant, smart board and lots of teaching materials were there for every class of about 30 students. No doubt that the government put huge investment in education there.
  6. Community Engagement: I just could not believe it that many parents with regular jobs turn on board at school every Friday. This takes creativeness to run the meeting and conversation with those parents for sure.

I’ve tried not to compare Holgate School and schools in Cambodia in details but I can witness that they are completely different in many, many ways except birth intelligence. Children anywhere in the world are born very similar but receive different opportunities to grow up and learn.

Having visited Holgate School, Reasmey and I are even more committed to bring better opportunities for Cambodian children through the work we do at SeeBeyondBorders.

[1]Pov Pheung is Country Manager of SeeBeyondBorders in Cambodia
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Cambodia’s poor human capital scores reflect ongoing problems in education

A report released this week shows Cambodia has improved its ranking on the Global Human Capital Index, but at the same time, has fallen behind countries in the region with whom it is usually compared. The report also emphasizes that broad-based improvements in education are critical to sustainable, inclusive growth.

The Global Human Capital Report 2017 released by the World Economic Forum, ranks 130 countries on how well they are developing their human capital, and allocates a score on a scale from 0 (worst) to 100 (best) across four thematic dimensions to capture the full human capital potential profile of a country.

The report points out that human capital is critical to economic success.  “How nations develop their human capital can be a more important determinant of their long-term success than virtually any other factor.”

In 2017, Cambodia ranked 92 out of 130 countries, up from 100 in 2016. However, its neighbours are showing much greater improvements.  Myanmar’s ranking of 90 this year was up from 109 in 2016, while Laos jumped from 106 last year to be ahead of Cambodia at 84 in 2017. Other near neighbours, Thailand and Vietnam, are substantially ahead of the Kingdom on this index.

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In addition, while Cambodia achieved an 8-place improvement in its Human Capital Index ranking (100 in 2016 to 92 in 2017), in absolute terms, the situation is less positive.  On a scale (from 0 – worst, to 100 – best) used to assess each country’s performance, Cambodia lost ground, dropping from 58.9 in 2016 to 57.3 in 2107.  At the same time, its neighbour, Myanmar, improved from 56.6 in 2016 to 57.7 in 2017.

Quality of Cambodian education

The Report includes figures for the quality of educational institutions based on The World Economic Forum’s Executive Opinion Survey that captures the opinion of business leaders around the world on a range of topics for which conventional hard data is unavailable or unreliable. The figure for quality of primary schools represent business leader’s perceptions on the level of excellence of primary schools in their country of residence.

On this qualitative measure of quality, the result for Cambodian primary schools was low.  On a scale of 1 (poor) to 7 (excellent) Cambodian primary education was rated 3.1 (ranked 100 of 130 countries).

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What’s the answer?

In future, Cambodia’s economic growth will be constrained without increased investment in human capital – it’s people.  The Kingdom’s low Human Capital Index ranking shows the Government needs to invest more in education to address poor standards of education, particularly in rural areas where more than 2 million Cambodian children attend school.

In a comment that should be noted by education authorities in Cambodia and other developing countries, the Report points out that picking winners in the education stakes is not an effective strategy.  “All too often however, human potential is not realized, held back either by inequality or an unrealistic and outdated faith on the part of policymakers that investment in small sub sections of highly skilled labour alone can drive sustainable, inclusive growth.”

The work of SeeBeyondBorders and other NGOs, along with reforms being rolled out as part of the national education reforms, should improve education standards in Cambodia, and help to improve Cambodia’s standing in future.  However, systemic change in the quality of public education is required to deliver significant improvements.

Teacher quality is recognised as the single most important factor in learning outcomes, and SeeBeyondBorders is the only NGO in Cambodia supporting teachers to train their peers, effecting systemic change and promoting sustainability.

 

PHOTO:  Teachers at a SeeBeyondBorders’ workshop receive training in mathematics concepts and teaching skills

tna partners with SeeBeyondBorders to support sustainable, quality teaching

We’re excited to announce a partnership with tna solutions who is generously funding the transition phase of SeeBeyondBorders’ Quality Teaching program in Angkor Thom district near Siem Reap, Cambodia.

“This is a critical stage of our Quality Teaching program,” says Ed Shuttleworth, CEO of SeeBeyondBorders.  “After successfully training and mentoring teachers in Angkor Thom for 3 years, we are entering a transition phase that involves supporting teachers to take responsibility for their own professional development.  The tna grant will cover all direct program costs and support 54 teachers and 26 mentors, and will benefit almost 2,000 students in grades 1-3.”

tna solutions is an Australian supplier of a full line of processing and packaging solutions, with operations in 30 countries worldwide.  In 2002, tna established a foundation committed to sharing its success with those less fortunate.  The foundation has supported over 200 charities across 30 countries in range of projects, focused on assisting the poorest of the poor, prioritising children and concentrating on providing education, shelter, food, healthcare and relief work.

The slogan for the tna foundation is …
We will continue to share our success with the poorest of the poor – in particular children

Dave Everett, tna foundation manager says, “We’re excited to be able to support the work of SeeBeyondBorders.  tna builds partnerships with organisations to ensure donations are used in the most effective and efficient ways as well as making sure this support goes to the people it is intended for.  We’re impressed with SeeBeyondBorders’ teacher training methodology, and strong commitment to sustainability.”

The teachers in Angkor Thom district have been working with SeeBeyondBorders for the past three years. During that time, they’ve achieved significant improvement in conceptual and technical knowledge in both mathematics and general pedagogy, and have gained increased confidence in their own abilities.  A recent blog provides more detail on the achievements of teachers in Angkor Thom.

During the forthcoming transition program, teachers will take responsibility for their own professional development, and newly selected senior mentors will facilitate training sessions to benefit a wider pool of teachers in the district.

The program activities will improve quality of teaching and improved learning outcomes for students and will help SeeBeyondBorders to progress towards its vision: to empower a generation of Cambodian children through education.

 

Photo: Some of the fabulous teachers in Angkor Thom district

Community celebrates increased health awareness

Gala health day in a small rural school celebrates programs introduced by SeeBeyondBorders to improve school and community health practices and reduce absenteeism.

Last week we joined health day celebrations in one of the schools with whom we work in Ek Phnom district of Battambang Province (north west Cambodia).  The objective was to spread the message about good health practices throughout the community.

Along with members of the wider community, the school was celebrating successful adoption of health practices, as part of SeeBeyondBorders’ Getting to School Program.  Illness is a major cause of absenteeism in rural Cambodian schools, and SeeBeyondBorders conducts programs with school children, teachers and parents to promote good health and sanitation, particularly hand washing and teeth cleaning.

The gala day began with a parade around the village by more than 300 school children who spread the health message with signs and loud speakers.  Later, they presented role plays to demonstrate the benefits of health and sanitation habits, and sang songs in celebration of good health.

The school principal explained the health program provided by SeeBeyondBorders aimed to educate and encourage children and their parents to wash hands and clean teeth, and to motivate students, parents and the whole community to increase their focus on child health.

The day was captured by Radio Free Asia, and broadcast on Tuesday evening.  View the video here.

Australian Government funding helps SeeBeyondBorders expand education programs in Cambodia

SeeBeyondBorders achieved a milestone last month with the announcement of accreditation from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT). This is the beginning of a partnership with the Australian Government that will help us expand our highly successful education programs in Cambodia.

Our approach in Cambodia is unique! 

SeeBeyondBorders provides in-service training in rural schools to address the poor state of teacher quality in Cambodia, and improve the educational outcomes for Cambodian children.  Run by Cambodian teachers, our approach provides ongoing mentoring to ensure sustainable development of teaching skills.

SeeBeyondBorders is the only organisation supporting teachers to train their peers, with Cambodian teachers providing training to help upgrade knowledge and skills, but more importantly, ongoing one-to-one mentoring over several years, to consolidate learning and build sustainable ongoing teaching quality.

In a recent blog, we reported on some of the great results being achieved by teachers in our program in Angkor Thom district in Siem Reap province.

How ANCP will help

SeeBeyondBorders receives support from the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).  ANCP funding will enable SeeBeyondBorders to expand programs in Cambodia that are having such a significant impact on teacher quality in the districts in which we work.

ANCP funds will support projects vital to enhancing teacher quality, including a program to transition our teacher training program to teachers and Cambodian education authorities in Bavel and Angkor Thom districts, and implementation of new core in-service teacher training programs in Ek Phnom district and another district near Siem Reap. There’s also support for capacity building to enable SeeBeyondBorders to continue its transition to Cambodian leadership and management.

Recognition of our approach

The ANCP is an Australian Government initiative that supports the development activities of accredited Australian Non-Government Organisations (NGOs).  Only accredited NGOs are eligible to receive ANCP funding, and any organisation seeking funding must undergo a due diligence process and assessment of the outcomes of their development activities.

The rigorous accreditation process aims to provide the Government and Australian public with confidence the Australian Government is funding professional, well managed, community based organisations that are capable of delivering quality development outcomes.

ANCP accreditation recognises the soundness of SeeBeyondBorders’ governance, financial management, child protection, and monitoring and evaluation processes.

For more information about our programs, click here.

Building connections between children in Australia and Cambodia

For the second year, SeeBeyondBorders joined Mosman Public School as one of two local charities for their annual fundraising event, Mini-Mos Community Fun Run and Fair held in June. But this relationship between SeeBeyondBorders and Mini-Mos is not just about fundraising, its about building educational links between Australia and Cambodia.

The Mini-Mos is the longest running community fun run in Australia. With over 3,000 runners, it is the major fundraising activity for Mosman Public School, and also supports Raise Foundation and SeeBeyondBorders.

This is an important annual fundraiser for SeeBeyondBorders, and we really appreciate the support from staff, students and parents at Mosman Public School. The $17,156.11 raised this year will go straight to help young children in Cambodian primary schools.

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Petra Kremer receives the cheque from Mosman Primary School

But as well as the fundraising, every year we work with the school to provide some educational elements. Last year all the Mosman Public School students made maths-bags for the kids in Cambodia. This year, they coloured books to be used in a new Literacy Program to be launched in Cambodia later this year. (The photo above shows some of the coloured books already being used by children in Cambodia.)

Petra Kremer, a SeeBeyondBorders volunteer (and also a mum of two kids at Mosman Public School), spoke about the work of SeeBeyondBorders at a school assembly. She showed a video about Reasmey, a young boy at a small rural school in northern Cambodia. In the video (A Day in the Life of a Cambodian Student), Reasmey and a teacher talked about the school, and showed their library to show the urgent need for literacy books.

This was a great opportunity for Mosman children to learn more of the life and experiences of children going to school in another part of the world, and it was great to see the Mosman students take such a keen interest in Reasmey’s life at school.

Next year will be our third year in this partnership. We are looking forward to it already.

Thankyou Mini-Mos!

SeeBeyondBorders recognised with Australian Government accreditation

SeeBeyondBorders is proud to have received accreditation from the Department of Foreign Affairs (DFAT), and to now be supported by the Australian Government through the Australian NGO Cooperation Program (ANCP).  The ANCP is an Australian Government initiative that supports the development activities of accredited Australian Non-Government Organisations (NGOs).

Only accredited NGOs are eligible to receive ANCP funding, and any organisation seeking funding must undergo a rigorous due diligence process and assessment of the outcomes of their development activities.

Pov Pheung, SeeBeyondBorders Country Manager in Cambodia, says, “This is a great breakthrough for our team and a credit to their professionalism.  It’s hugely encouraging that an in-depth review of our program approaches and organisation has been recognised with this accreditation.

Since its establishment in 2009, SeeBeyondBorders has been committed to building sustainable operations in Cambodia, with full transparency.  ANCP accreditation is recognition of the soundness of our governance, financial management, child protection, and monitoring and evaluation processes.”

SeeBeyondBorders provides in-service training in rural schools in north west Cambodia.  Run by Cambodian teachers, our approach provides ongoing mentoring to ensure sustainable development of teaching skills.  The effectiveness of this model was recognised when SeeBeyondBorders received a UNESCO award in 2016 for improving teaching quality.  A critical feature of our programs is partnerships with local communities to improve school facilities, encourage children to come to school and value education.

Support from the Australian Government will enable SeeBeyondBorders to expand programs in Cambodia designed to improve teacher quality and enhance education outcomes for children.

For more information about our programs, click here.

The dramatic progress we’re seeing for education in Cambodia

In 2014, the teachers in the Angkor Thom district who SeeBeyondBorders started working with, received a score of zero on their baseline evaluation tests that look at their teaching capabilities. Zero.

In three years, 100% of the teachers who completed the program improved to a minimum score of two (out of a possible four) across all skill sets. Let us explain why these numbers matter and the drastic changes that have occurred in three years, and how it was done!

A score of zero means a teacher could not yet:

  1. Break down the concept of addition and identify the essential understanding a student must have
  2. State the intended purpose of a lesson
  3. Plan a lesson using a basic lesson plan
  4. Use a teaching resource book to find learning objectives and activities to teach
  5. Model activities and set clear guidelines for student behavior

Imagine teaching mathematics to a classroom of 40 students without being able to break down the concept of addition. It’s easy to quickly understand that in order to improve Cambodia in a systematic way, the quality of teaching must be improved

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Here’s how how we’re doing it:

  • Teacher workshops accompanied by a comprehensive manual and resource packs for targeted professional development
  • One-to-one mentor support to consistently reinforce learnings

Now, with a score of two, the teachers can:

  1. Break down the concepts of addition, subtraction, multiplication, and division, and identify the current understanding of the concept, plus address misunderstanding by selecting appropriate activities to build students’ knowledge
  2. State the intended purpose of each lesson and how the activities help achieve that purpose, plus select teaching strategies to achieve that purpose
  3. Plan a lesson using a basic outline, and also include questions to ask the students and identify ways in which the students can reflect on their learning
  4. Use (with minimal assistance) the teacher resource book appropriately
  5. Observe and listen to students to understand their level of understanding, and otherwise manage a classroom appropriately
  6. Work productively with their mentor

There are 50 teachers in Angkor Thom who completed this program. Each of their classes has an average of 40 students, meaning each year these teachers could now improve the education of about 2,000 students. And that’s just in one year! Over the course of 10 years, this one program could affect approximately 20,000 students’ futures,  those students children’s futures and children’s children’s futures, for generations to come!

Angkor Thom isn’t the only district we work in, and we see similar, amazing results in all of our districts. We’re excited to report on more results as we get them.

The only thing standing in the way of a greater impact is money. Consider making a donation today: http://www.seebeyondborders.org/get_involved/donate/

 

How to fight Cambodia’s money-making orphanage business

One out of every 350 Cambodian children lives in an orphanage, despite the fact that almost 80 percent of them have a living mother or father, according to an April 17th article in The Phnom Penh Post.

Why?

Poverty-stricken parents in Cambodia sell their children, or place their children in orphanages under false pretences. They believe their child will receive an education and have a better quality of life in an institution. The orphanages then put the children on display for “voluntourism,” a phenomenon where well-intentioned travellers volunteer with the orphanage for a short time and donate money. Thus, turning the orphanage into a money-making business, with the children being their product.

The same article states that almost 40 percent of institutions have never been inspected by the Ministry of Social Affairs, and 12 percent are unregistered, making the children susceptible to neglect and other safety risks.

At SeeBeyondBorders, we work with families to give them the resources they need to keep their children in schools in their communities, and prevent them from having to make the cruel choice of sending their children to an institution. The payments work out at an average of $60 per child per year – such a small amount in a Western country – but for children from the very lowest income families in Cambodia, it could mean the difference between having their child thrive at home with their family or sending them away in hopes of having a better future.

This is part of our Getting to School program, which aims to address the barriers leading to absenteeism and low community engagement, and today we have increased attendance across the schools where we work to 92%, compared to a national average of 84%.

To give a family hope and send a child to school, make a $60 donation: http://bit.ly/2mVJjGw

How to get employees excited about Corporate Social Responsibility

In addition to giving back, one of the best things about a Corporate Social Responsibility program is the benefits it allows companies to offer to its employees. It’s a great opportunity for companies to provide team building, increased employee engagement and morale, and more meaning to their everyday lives.

There is a fine balance between having meaningful impact and having fun. Without both, companies may find it difficult to recruit employees to participate in their CSR committee or charity projects.

This week we heard from our friends at SHAPE Australia. They recently finished a presentation to their company about the trip they took from Cambodia. In case you missed it, SHAPE sent 10 volunteers to Cambodia in February to see first-hand what their company’s donation is doing for the people in Cambodia.

A presentation like this one, especially with an fun, upbeat video was a great way to show the rest of their company what they achieved in Cambodia with SeeBeyondBorders (and all the fun they had!) to inspire the rest of the company to participate. Follow up presentations like this one are crucial to recruit employees internally to your CSR program, and we’re so glad SHAPE shared it with us… check it out!

http://bit.ly/2mRbTwI


Thank you, SHAPE for including SeeBeyondBorders in your Corporate Social Responsibility efforts! Learn more about Corporate Sponsorship on our website: http://bit.ly/2kIUtx0

Corporate Giving: How one company raised money to improve education in Cambodia (and to travel to Cambodia!)

At the end of February, we said goodbye to 10 volunteers from Australia who came to Cambodia on the trip of a lifetime. If you missed our previous blog posts about their trip, start here to learn how they volunteered in schools, ate with the local community, and took in the best sightseeing Cambodia has to offer. The trip was made possible through a fundraising event with their employer, SHAPE.

This opportunity is available to other companies who wish to fundraise and send volunteers to see first-hand where their donation is going. In this Q&A, we’ll learn from Mary Tsobanopoulos how the SHAPE volunteers fundraised, and how other companies can follow suit.

Can you give us a brief overview of your fundraising event?  

Each year, SHAPE has our Charity Golf Day, which is held at The Metropolitan Golf Club in Melbourne, Australia. SHAPE staff and sponsoring subcontractors gather for a fun-filled day of golf to fundraise for the charities we support.

How do you advertise to participants?

The participants are the subcontractors we work with everyday, so we raise awareness about the event through email, our websites,  and word of mouth. We use a flyer that is easy to share and provides all the details

How long in advance do you start planning for an event like this?

The event is held in November and we usually start planning in March. We also send a Save The Date email to our past supporters at the start of the year, so that they aware the event is happening well in advance.

save the date (1)

Tell us about the planning committee. How many people are there? What are their roles?

The organising committee usually consists of six members; however, this year we will be welcoming more. The additional members will be providing more ideas and support towards raising funds and will have the opportunity to travel to Cambodia to work directly with the schools and children for five days. Each role consists of negotiating sponsorship packages with each subcontractor.  Others will put forward ideas on future fundraising events and workshops, etc., and a few of us run the administration and marketing/promotional side of the event.

What are the ways in which fundraising benefits the company?

Fundraising helps us by 1)  Boosting our brand’s presence, 2) Contributing to our social responsibility program, and 3) Improving staff engagement and morale, which drives business performance.

What advice would you give other companies considering an event like this one?

Great pieces of advice include:

  • Start planning early
  • Ask for advice from others
  • Communication is vital, including to internal and external parties
  • Know your audience

Thank you, Mary, for telling us about your golf tournament! We are grateful for SHAPE’s continued partnership.

As a corporate partner, SHAPE provides its employees with a unique experience to give back. We are aways looking for more companies to partner with. Learn more here: http://bit.ly/2kObOak

 

 

 

 

The Storm Markers: How Can We Do Our Part to Prevent Human Trafficking

Over the weekend, PBS re-aired their 2015 film, The Storm Makers, which is described as a eye-opening look at the cycle of poverty, despair and greed that fuels human trafficking in Cambodia.   Human trafficking in Cambodia works with a web of lies that prays on the starving and hopeless. Recruiters trick families in villages […]

Last week, PBS re-aired their 2015 film, The Storm Makers, which is described as an eye-opening look at the cycle of poverty, despair and greed that fuels human trafficking in Cambodia.  

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Human trafficking in Cambodia works with a web of lies that prays on the starving and hopeless. Recruiters trick families in villages into sending their daughters to work with what they describe as a legal business agency where she will receive a monthly salary to send home so their families can eat. Their daughters are instead sold through a string of agencies until they are bought as property in Malaysia and then enslaved. As a slave, they are abused, often raped, not paid, and sometimes never return home.

To understand the complexity of the human trafficking network, the film provides a chilling explanation  by a human trafficker himself.

The re-airing of this film sparked conversation at the SeeBeyondBorders office and is a sober reminder of why the work we’re doing matters. One of our Cambodian staff members is familiar with these types of horrifying stories:

“The story in this video sounds very natural and sad. Actually, I have witnessed such cases with people from my community. Several girls (I’m sure they were below 18 when they left Cambodia the first time) from very, very poor family backgrounds were sent to work in Malaysia, hoping to save some money to feed their family. One was also hoping to save money for future businesses, which did not happen at all (her family spent all the money she had transferred from abroad). She came back home after working as a  home-maid for three years, but the other girl never returned and no one knows if she is alive or dead. The lady who was fortunate to come back described that she was made to work many hours everyday and did not have enough to eat. She was given something, like drugs, so that she could stay awake, not get hungry, and was able to work in many houses each day.

Those families are now still living in poverty; the work of those sad ladies did not help change anything for the better at all. Her mental state was not proper when she first arrived. Neighbours said she was mad. ‘That’s life!’ is all people can say about their case.”

At SeeBeyondBorders, we don’t believe “that’s life.” Our work in schools and communities is giving families hope and keeping them from the desperation that would send their daughters away just to put food on the table. By getting a quality education, the daughters of families in the future can learn the skills they need to work and help provide for their families. 

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For the most vulnerable families, we designed our Conditional Cash Payment program to prevent parents from having to make the cruel choice between their child’s education and having enough money to feed their family. The payments work out at an average of $60 per child per year – such a small amount in a Western country – but for children from the very lowest income families in Cambodia, it could mean the difference between an education, and a childhood, or a life of forced labour.

This is part of our Getting to School program, which aims to address the barriers leading to absenteeism and low community engagement, and today we have increased attendance across the schools where we work to 92%, compared to a national average of 84%.

To give a family hope and send a child to school, make a $60 donation: http://bit.ly/2mVJjGw

New locations and new schools. Our volunteer teacher visit continues in Siem Reap

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We’ve continued to follow the group of eight Australian teachers as they made their way through Cambodia, got to grips with the education system and burrowed further into what makes the SeeBeyondBorders programme to special.

After a hectic week in Phnom Penh and Battambang our teacher team head into Siem Reap to work with the SeeBeyondBorders team in the Angkor Thom.

Mandy from the team told us she was thrilled they managed to fit in some sight-seeing at the incredible ‘Temples of Angkor’. A life-long dream for her and some of the others on the trip.

The team see the temples

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The journey continues in Angkor Thom district where SeeBeyondBorders has worked since 2014.

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Melissa from the team told us that the days spent in Angkor Thom were incredibly inspiring. She said:

“There is huge contrast between my life and the villages of Angkor Thom.  Within minutes from the bustling town of Siem Reap there are villages with no electricity and limited facilities, so the hotel pool has become a little less inviting.
“The teachers in Angkor Thom were a little younger than last week and took a little longer to warm up. However the children running around the school buildings were just as inquisitive.
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“The one thing that will stay with me forever is a conversation we had with our project manager: a highly intelligent, caring, family man with two children. He told us electricity had recently been connected to his village and he received his first ever bill. He wrote out the kW usage as an algebraic equation and said he can see for the first time there is a pattern. He then said he doesn’t want any other child to have to wait until they get to his age to understand patterning; the work we are doing is crucial.
“I am but a small part of the legacy that SeeBeyondBorders is creating in Cambodia. I am so humbled to be here.”
SeeBeyondBorders  award-winning work is helping to work with teachers on news skills to enhance their teaching methods so children in Cambodia have access to a better quality of education.
You can support teachers and children in Cambodia. Visit www.seebeyondborders.org

Sports, health, art and more inspiring workshops. Our volunteer teacher journey continues

img_2539Over the last week we have been following a group of eight wonderful teachers from Australia as they make their way through the SeeBeyondBorders annual volunteer teacher trip.

The teachers have remained upbeat in the heat; when confronted by challenging workshops and when struck down by illness. They are made of incredibly strong stuff. Throughout days eight and nine our team of staff help the teachers understand more about how all of our programmes fit together. As well as continuing to run ‘Teach the Teacher’ workshops they also join with health and fitness days as part of our ‘Getting to School’ programme.  These programmes are vital in ensuring the children are healthy and happy. They aim to reduce the number of days that children need to take off school due to sickness by teaching basic hand-washing and teeth cleaning. They also aim to create an environment where learning is fun and isn’t just about being in the classroom.

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Day 8 and 9

The team split into various groups to continue our workshops on patterning techniques and to help run the art visioning, sports and health days. There was a great turnout from the community.

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Jenny from the group told us about her experiences.

“The day with the children and the sports carnival brought me closer to the familiar. Organising children, laughing with them, encouraging them and playing.

“The art visioning program was an absolute privilege to be a part of. Parents and grandparents sharing their stories and making connections through our love and care for our children and shared dreams about our children’s education and the future we want for them. Through drawing and art we worked with the SeeBeyondBorders team to foster deeper relationships with community in school life. Art the great equaliser.

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“We touched each other through our stories, we guided tentative hands on canvasses of fabric and we put paint on hands that have raised and nurtured children to create a tree of painted hands.

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“Today is a day I will never forget and I feel changed and more aware that at the end of the day we love our children and we just want them to feel cared for safe and happy.”

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Out ‘Teach the Teacher’ workshops, teaching a number of mathematics techniques continued throughout the two days and the group were thrilled to get the feedback that they did from the teachers they were working with. The Khmer teachers they have spent the past few days with gave them amazing feedback.

They told us;

“Thanks for all your hard work to transfer skills and knowledge to us. I commit to take all what I learned here to teach my students. This will make my students quickly improve their knowledge and become smarter and smarter.”

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The group told us; “We’re spending the next few days travelling to Siem Reap. We bid a very fond farewell to Battambang and a wonderful group. We’re going to be exploring the temples of Angkor and then working with a whole new group of schools where SeeBeyondBorders works.”

To find out more visit: www.seebeyondborders.org

How did our teacher volunteers find their first full day of workshops?

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We’ve been following our group of Australian teachers as they embarked on their volunteer trip through Cambodia with SeeBeyonBorders. After acclimatising themselves to life in Cambodia and after some rigorous training with the team from SeeBeyondBorders they were ready to face their classroom challenges.

Melissa from the project team shares her initial thoughts from day seven and the first day of teacher workshops for the team.

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The day started with a very formal opening ceremony where we were welcomed and made to feel very special. My team mate Joh and I ran our workshop for about 24 teachers with the help of Sophen and Reaksa, the Khmer facilitators who work at SeeBeyondBorders.

We were quite nervous, eager to communicate with the Khmer teachers and hoping they would find the day useful and enjoyable. The day was all about introducing the concept of patterns, how it leads to algebraic thinking and how to teach these concepts to young children.

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This was their first experience with this mathematical concept. In between activities we taught and played games with the teachers such as the old favourite ‘Simon Says’. It was during these games that we all really started to relax. We laughed and enjoyed many jokes, all translated expertly for us.

The room was hot and noisy and we were often competing with babies, noisy children, dogs, tractors and trucks. Patterns were made with whatever concrete materials we could find, including sticks and stones. The rewards soon became apparent however and these unusual working conditions suddenly didn’t matter.

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When we could see the teachers understand something new (that ‘lightbulb moment’) then language, experience, backgrounds and cultures were irrelevant. We were connected by smiles, bright eyes, nods, gestures and our common love of learning. There were new experiences for us all today such as brave Wendy eating a cricket and the Khmer teachers eating Tim Tams and Mint Slices.

After such a good start, we’re feeling energised and encouraged that this week will be beneficial for us all.”

To find out how you can get involved with SeeBeyondBorders visit http://www.seebeyondborders.org/get_involved/

‘Teach the Teacher’ team from Australia prepare to work in Battambang

We continue to follow the journey of our wonderful group of teachers from Australia who are with us for two weeks to support the work of SeeBeyondBorders.

Angela joins us again to tell us what the team have been up to during their first few days in Battambang, Cambodia’s second largest city.

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We spent our first day in the city getting to know our surroundings. We visited Battambang’s famous bamboo train and explored the local markets before we got down to business.

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We were all so excited to get to grips with SeeBeyondBorders ‘Teach the Teacher’ programme. We headed to the office to meet with Reasmey, SeeBeyondBorders ‘Getting to School’ programme manager to prepare for the sport and health days ahead.

On day five we spent the day in workshops, meetings the Cambodian staff and finalising our maths programme. We visited the school where we will be teaching. It’s so thrilling to be a small part of this phenomenal programme and to work with Cambodian mentors who are helping reshape the education system.
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I asked the team to share how they were feeling about the first of the teaching sessions and it was great to hear that everyone shared my level of excitement. We of course felt a little nervous about the contributions we could really make but we do feel that being here and working with such an energetic team has made us feel more confident that what I do will genuinely support teacher learning.

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We’re all so excited to hopefully inspire the teachers to enjoy teaching maths and to have fun ways to engage their students and we know that if it’s challenging we’ll have our fellow team members to rely on.

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Find out how the teachers got on in the next instalment of our blog next week…

Volunteer with SeeBeyondBorders www.seebeyondborders.org