Our speaker this month is eRotarian Maria Baalack sharing her experiences in Cambodia with John Isles
John: Welcome Maria I understand whilst you were on a recent holiday in Cambodia you visited a branch of the Hope & Human Association. What inspired you to do that and please tell us a little about their work.
Maria: Thanks to Tim I got a contact in Cambodia; Sally Marre working with Human & Hope Association. I corresponded with Sally and to my delight she lived and worked in Siam Reap, the most ancient and historical place in Cambodia and this was indeed on my itinerary. So I hired a bicycle and cycled out to the commune where this NGO was situated and met Sally and was shown around. H&H.A is working from one of the houses belonging and adjacent to the Pagoda in this commune and just outside the Temple area is the local Primary school. The rented house has two floors with a veranda on the bottom floor. The Temple area is spacious ,seems quiet and safe for the children.
This N.G.O. came about just two years ago when a Monk from this Pagoda saw the absence of English education in the commune. Together with some of his students started teaching English to both children and adults and later recruited volunteers both from a wider area and from abroad to help out.
Sally came into the organisation through a friend whom volunteered there. She started to work as Operations Manager with the goal to initiate new projects, develop and support the team with new skills and ensure a sustainable future for the organisation. She saw how hard working the Khmer volunteers were so they soon stopped recruiting volunteers from abroad. They now have a comprehensive Khmer volunteer program which focuses on empowering the locals. They work on a broad field with education- both children and adults , vocational training and community support. Their aim is to get this NGO completely Khmer run, which I think is vital and important.
Apart from English they teach Morality from preschool age about tolerance and how to be a good friend and stimulate team work. They have Art Classes to the community and a four months Sewing Program for grown-ups. The Microfinance Program recently set up has already resulted in three lady’s sitting in their homes making and mending cloths with their new sewing machines and being able to have their children around. What I understood there is need for this kind of service in the commune. Also during the course the pupils produce clothes and other items for sale. I was shown a very nice and well made dress that was produced on the course and for sale. That’s the dress on my photo.
They also provide University Scholarships and Further Education Scholarship to the staff. I liked what I saw and heard on my short visit. I fell for their diversity and their grass root approach and I felt a good and genuine atmosphere here.
John: I read their Mission Statement on their website “To empower Cambodians to create a sustainable future for themselves through projects focused on education, community development and vocational training.” It struck me that this statement could apply to so many Charities. Why is this just Cambodia?
Maria: At present the Charity only operate in Cambodia.
John: How do you feel our E.Club can help?
Maria: Here is a Program, which I like and which we could support? it’s called Opportunity Scholarships – for students from poor families whom show interest to study. These students receive every semester a textbook, a notebook, pen, pencil, pencil sharpener, ID-card and free tuition. They are provided with these items in a recycled bag, which is made by their sewing teachers from old rice bags.
They are provided with a bicycle lock once a year so their bicycle is safe whilst studying at H&HA. The purpose of these Scholarships is to give an opportunity to a student, whom otherwise might not be able to get English education due to economical problems or due to parents not understanding the value of education. The cost is calculated for two semesters to about 5(US) dollars per student and the plan is to recruit 40 students for this year. This will be a cost of 200 dollars. These students will be recruited from surrounding community. The. Community Manager will do the recruiting together with the Heads of Villages and Public school Director.
This is important- the student and their parents are required to sign a contract, which stipulate they will follow their student code of conduct and ensure that they will attend class regularly. and on top of that the Manager plan to visit these families monthly.
As part of the education program they offer English classes to students whom study for one hour each day. These classes are taught by Khmer staff whom also receive English training internally and take part in weekly workshops in order to improve their teaching skills.
Another positive thing is that the interaction is greatly facilitated by the close proximity between the school and H&HA.
John: Many thanks for sharing this with us and I’m sure the E.Club will want to help with this program.