Category Archives: Samrong Education Centre

Samrong, by Marcus Fedder

Last November I was on business in Cambodia.  It’s a country I had visited on numerous occasions as I was on the board of a Cambodian microfinance bank for a couple of years.  So I knew life away from the urban or tourist centres, the incredibly tough life farming rice and raising children on two dollars a day, life in urban slums where one’s house is totally submerged by the rising rivers during the rainy season.  Thus, when Jean Marc created Children of the Mekong, it was an easy choice to support that charity as I could connect to it.  So this November I visited Samrong to get a direct impression of the kids and the centre Children of the Mekong would be supporting with the sale of paintings on January 22nd.  

The garden in the centre Samrong is about a two hour drive from Siem Reap and the centre lies idyllically on the outskirts of the small town.  The centre itself is charming with a large football pitch, colourful buildings, wide open-air classrooms, happy cats, a dancing dog, chicken, flowers – and yet it is simple, and the classrooms and accommodation are rather spartan.  The most noticeable feature is however that the whole place is full of enthusiasm and loads of positive energy.   

Bruno, a civil aviation engineer and his wife Lucille, an art-restoration specialist and wonderful artist are the volunteers running Samrong this year with amazing dedication.  It’s a 24 hour job, taking care of the kids, organising the centre, the surrounding schools, participating in the activities which range from football to harvesting rice.  Both have a great rapport with the kids and neither seems to be missing life in France too much.  

Lucille showing Marcus the sponsored children's picturesThe names of the kids are on a big white-board in the office.  Most kids have a ‘guardian’ who is paying the bills.  Don’t forget, only twenty four pounds a month is the difference between construction-site slavery and higher education.   All of them asked how Jean Marc had done in his muay thai boxing fight as if they feared they’d be kicked out of school if he lost.  

So how does the centre work?   Most kids come from surrounding villages where people live as farmers on less than two dollars a day.  Their parents are too poor to allow their kids to be educated.  Girls are usually married off at a young age and end up farming or working in factories and boys work on the fields or go across the border to Thailand where much more money awaits those 15 to 16 year olds who are prepared to slave away long days on construction sites.  

This is where Children of the Mekong come in and break the cycle by enabling bright kids to get a proper education.   So these youngsters come to live in Samrong in one big and evidently cheerful community and go to a local high school.  The problem is, however, that the quality of public schooling is so poor that even the brightest children would not have a chance to get decent enough A-level results to go on to university.  So Samrong organises intensive extra classes from early morning to night and thus these bright kids get a chance to move on.

At the centre, boys and girls live in separate dormitories which consist of large rooms with beds on the sides.   No luxuries like single rooms.  And the day starts well before sunrise.  Already before 6 am the first classes start at the centre, giving the students a headstart before trodding off to the local school for ‘official’ education.   After school it’s games, or rice harvesting and more classes till dinner.   We joined the girl’s dorm for Sunday dinner and sat on the wooden floor enjoying a delicious meal the girls had cooked.   Khmer cuisine is, in contrast to Thai food, not well known abroad but wonderfully spicy and varied and in my view more delicious than Thai food.  It certainly was that evening.  

The mistery of a chemistry formulaAs school starts early and as there are no Youtube or TV distractions, the place should have been dead by 9pm but walking past the classrooms showed how determined the children are.   A large number of them were still studying.  So I looked at the blackboard where some 15 year old boys were arguing over some chemistry formula.  To be honest, I did not understand the formulas so I asked Bruno to explain, who, with a thorough French scientific education would be better able to understand things.  Alas, the level of chemistry these kids were discussing was beyond all our reach.  

What was great to hear was the plans for the future each of the kids already have.   Whereas in previous years most wanted to become teachers or doctors, as these seemed to be the only academic role models they knew, now the picture was more differentiated:   a number of girls wanted to become lawyers, but some were thinking about journalism and even chemical engineering.  Each of them seemed fully aware of a potentially great future ahead of them.  Each of them was incredibly enthusiastic and determined to see it happen.  Without Samrong, it would not happen.  Instead, these future lawyers, doctors and engineers would end up marrying as 16 year olds or in factories, on the fields or building sites. 

So, back in London I felt inspired and motivated again to paint to raise money.  And each painting sold will change some kid’s life for the better.    

Marcus Fedder will hold his Art Auction at Reed Smith, on Wednesday 22 January 2014. All the proceeds will go to our Education Centre in Samrong. Click here for more information.

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Something to be Interpreted

A few days ago, we updated you about our development project in Samrong. We are thrilled about the progress of the school, education rates and child sponsors. However, we realise that just telling you how happy we are, might not be enough to convince you about the effect our programme has had. So, we leave you with not only one, not two, but four student testimonies  from earlier this year.

MoeurpAgn Meurp
My name is Ang Meurp, I was born in Kok Khpos village. I study in grade 10 in Samrong high school. In my family we are seven, 2 brothers and 5 sisters. 3 of them stopped school, and 3 are married. I am the only one who continue studying. When I was younger, as my parents live in Sras Sran Village, far from the school where I was studying, I was living with my grand mother in Kok Khpos . The situation was complicated. In 2008 when I was in grade 7, “Enfant du Mekong” came in my village and they proposed me to support me. I reach the exam : I was so happy and my family also. Because of EDM, I could continue to learn in the school!! It was a wonderful surprise for me : until then, I was thinking I could not reach anything in my life because of my poor family… In 2010 my gran mother died, and I was alone in her house.  Unfortunately, my parents wanted me to stop school and to come back with them… but I love school and I didn’t want to stop! The voulunteer bamboo knew about this situation and proposed me to come in Samrong in the foyer.  This volunteer saved my life! I will never forget her!!! Now I study very well and I’d like to be an accounting.

Kim

San Kim
My name is Sam Kim. I am 16 years old. I study in Grade 8 in Samrong. I have 4 brothers and 2 sisters. They all stopped school, and 3 are married. Two of my eldest brothers have a mental disease. I was born in Srei Ban Village in the south of Phnom Penh. Because of the impossibility to find a job there, all my family moved for Otdar Meancheay Province. They are living near Samrong in my oncle’s house. My parents are poor and they don’t have any field, so they went to Thaïland to find money and to be able to support my family. At the beginning of the year I pass the exam with “Enfant du Mekong”. My family didn’t have enough money to let me continue to go to school. It was a great opportunity for me to continue! I accepted immediately to come in the Foyer in Samrong. I’m very happy to be here, and I think there is no place better than here. I have a lot of new friends here, and I want to be a translator.

KonthearAnn Konthear
I’m 19 years old and I was born on 29 october 1994 at Soeung Village.  My family lives in Kok Mon commune. We are 7 brothers ans sisters in my family. I have an older brother, Khyen, which is disable (physical and mental disease) ; he stays on a wheel chair. Two others brothers are “sourds-muets”. My family is very poor ;  I’ve got a sponsorship since grade 3. I studied in my village school and then I’ve got the opportunity to study in Samrong. I’m very happy because I’ve got here a lot of new friends, very good teachers ; the members staff of “Enfant du Mekong” are very kind with me. It’s a very good place for education and life style. I am very proud to be part in this EDM family. For me all the volunteers who came here are like my eldest brothers and sisters. I’m a very lucky man to be a student in “Enfant du Mékong”. I want to do something great in my life being an engineer or a teacher.

Sombat

Sae Sombat
I’m a 15 years old. I was born in 10 october 1999, in Sombour Village. I’m now in grade 8 in Samrong Secondary school. I’ve 2 brothers and 2 sisters. I’m the oldest. My parents are divorced. My father left from the house; I live with my mother since I’m 8 years old. Then, my mother got married several times. She left my village two years ago to go in Thaïland. There, she works as a builder. These two last years, it’s my grand-mother who took care of my youngest brothers and sisters. But some days, ago, my grand-mother left also the village to go in Thailand. Normally, she will be back after 3 or 4 months. During all this period, my brothers and sisters will be alone to take care of themselves. I pass the exam of “Enfants du Mekong”  when I was 10 years Old. Since then, I’m very happy to be here, for studying, and also for the friends we can make here. Teachers and the volunteer’s are very generous with us. In the future, I want to be a teacher. My favorites subjects are math and physics.

 

Ches mok pi rean

  “Ches mok pi rean,mean mok pi rork”
“Knowledge comes from learning, wealth from business”
    – Cambodian Saying

all students

We believe that every child deserves the right to an education, this is why our education centre in Samrong, Cambodia, provides education to underprivileged children in North West Cambodia..

DSCN1829

Samrong is the capital city of the Otdar Meanchey province , in North West Cambodia, which remains to be one of the poorest provinces. In 2011, the enrolment at primary school in the province was 36,247 children. This drops dramatically to 6,597 children for lower secondary school level. For enrolment at upper secondary school level, the figure drops lower to 2,863children.

These figures have been horrifically shrinking over the years, so we have stepped in to help them grow, to allow each child access to the full education they deserve. After looking at the problems, we addressed the needs by:

  1. Running a sponsorship programme in Otdar Meanchey province, which supports impoverished families and sends their children to school
  2. Opening an education centre in Samrong (since 2006) offers extra tuition (18h/week) as well as extra-curricular activities
  3. Opening five foster houses, which welcome the more distant students and gives them access to secondary education

DSCN1834This year, whilst receiving a grant to help us support the education centre, most of the funding has come from the support of the British 10K London race runners in July, which we are so grateful for. The amount of improvements made is so overwhelming and we are so pleased. We are even more delighted to tell you that there have been 320 student beneficiaries for 2013. When taking into account of the families of the students, over 1,500 lives have been improved. Among them, 153 students will receive a free tuition and 52 students have been hosted in a foster home.

DSCN1846sponsorship distribution

If you’d like to know more information and some of the technical details about the project, you can learn more here: Samrong education centre. You can also check out our video to experience the daily life of the students in our centre here!

Please get in touch if you’d like to become a sponsor and add to these growing numbers.