Tuesday, September 29, 2015

September Inspiration - Success story for our Preschools

Begoña ready to deliver toys to our preschools
This month we would like to share a success story from the field. Begoña Iturregui was one of our on-site volunteers in Pursat for 7 months. During her time with us, she participated in different projects, mainly related to education. Her main focus was teaching English and conducting science workshops in the SLMS school in Pursat town. Students loved her workshops and had a lot of fun doing experiments. However, it was during her visits to different preschools that she realized that small children were having some urgent needs.

Children at one of our preschools
Thanks to research we now know that the first six years of a child's life are key for the development of the human brain. But to be able to reach it's full capacity, the brain needs to be nurtured from an early age. Unfortunately, parents in Cambodia struggle to provide their children with this much needed education before they start attending school so children lack of cognitive stimulus. That is why Sustainable Cambodia supports a number of community preschools in the Pursat province, which give support to children under six years of age. Preschools' budgets are really tight so they run very short on educational materials and toys needed to develop motor skills, language skills, counting skills and spatial awareness.

Begoña providing toys to the children
Investing in young ages, even before primary education is reached, in decent nutrition, in well-being, in a safe environment and in the cognitive development of young children is absolutely crucial, as consequences can last throughout the entire subsequent life of the child.
First look into the new toys
Begoña wanted to do something to change this so she created a campaign to raise money to provide our four Pursat preschools with these much needed toys and educational materials. In one month she raised enough money to buy toys for the four preschools in the Pursat district. Way to go Begoña!

Everyone enjoying the new toys
The work does not end here though. There are still a lot of other SC preschools in the province who need help. On the other hand toys break and need to be replaced. So we continuously need to provide each preschool with new materials. So if you want to make a difference in the lives of many young Cambodian children, you can join Begoña. Her campaign is still running and she is only $200 away from reaching her goal. You can make a donation and learn more about this campaign here: Fundraising Page

We are extremely grateful for having supporters like Begoña and all the people that contributed with her campaign!

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

A brighter future for students in Kravanh district

One of the main problems with students dropping-out of school is poverty. In the surrounding areas of Phnum Kravanh district, one of Sustainable Cambodia's more remote locations, poverty is widespread and many families cannot afford to buy school supplies for their children, provide transportation for children that live far away from the school, or afford supplementary classes if the child needs it.

To help those rural students to stay in school and developed, in 2008 Sustainable Cambodia, with the helped of the TRIVANI Foundation, opened "The Kravanh Bright Future Center" (KBFC). This was the first expansion of SC Education Program beyond the Sylvia Lasky Memorial School in Pursat Town. 

A class at KBFC
KBFC is an after school education center where students receive free supplementary classes, school supplies, study materials, and bicycles so they can attend classes. 

Students with their school supplies
In 2008, KBFC started with 2 teachers and 85 students, but with the help of our sponsors and supporters, now it has 6 full-time teachers, 6 part-time teachers, and 300 students.

KBFC students and educators
We have many success stories from KBFC students, like the one from Sina Namleng and Lor Sinhchhinh, two outstanding students who won 5-years scholarships to study at the United World College of South East Asia (UWCSEA) in Singapore. They are the example that with effort and dedication a brighter future in education is possible.

Namleng (left) and Sinhchhinh (right)
Since its beginning, 46 KBFC students graduated from high school and pursued their dreams of higher education through Sustainable Cambodia's university scholarship program, and 36 of them came back to Kravanh to help to empower and develop their own communities. 

KBFC students who attended university
The success of KBFC has inspired not only students, but also the entire community to understand that education is the key for a better future.

At SC we continually empower students and communities to improve their lives and you can be part of the process. Learn more about us and how we do this on our website.

Monday, August 17, 2015

More than 80 young Students are now First Aid Experts

Steph Kemp and the students during the workshop
During the first week of August, whilst on official school vacation, 80 students aged between 6 and 11 came into school to participate in first aid classes.

Steph illustrating first aid techniques to our students
The workshop was conducted by British first aid trainer and registered nurse, Steph Kemp, who is currently travelling through Cambodia. Steph, who made a stop at the Sylvia Lasky campus on Monday stated that "first aid is the first response to an accident, the actions taken in this time are vital and can often mean the difference between a treatable injury and long-term suffering."

“Accidents can happen to anyone, children are not immune to injuries, nor can we be certain that they may never be faced with a situation that demands their help. Teaching first aid skills equips them with the skills to be able to react in the event of an injury.”

Kids learning how bandaging works
Students were taught how to clean cuts and the importance of a sterile area. Following the theory section of the training students were given the opportunity to practice bandaging arms and legs and to correctly fit a sling for a broken arm. Later on students were posed with the situation of an unconscious volunteer who needed to be placed into the recovery position, ready for help to be found. Through this exercise students were taught to check for danger of injuring themselves, the response of the unconscious person and whether they were breathing, before placing them safely in the recovery position and calling for help.

Students putting into practise what they learned

Steph remarked: "I was astounded at how quickly the children picked up the techniques, these situations can be confusing and not to mention high pressure, but the kids watched the demonstration once and then they could repeat it flawlessly!"

Many of the students left the session inspired stating that they wish to be a doctor or nurse in the future!

Just like Steph, you can join our team and become part of something big. Wondering how to do that? You are only one click away

On a mission to Educate

Our teachers brainstorming new ideas for our students
Helping our students to reach their potential is at the heart of our Education Programs. But to achieve this, we need to ensure that our teachers are effective. It is critical for teachers to receive support to continually develop their own teaching skills and have the opportunity to learn from other teachers as well.

While students were enjoying their school break, teachers and school principals came together to share their challenges and experiences on the classroom. During a period of two weeks, we organized daily sessions for teachers to share ideas, lessons learned and to think about how they can engage students in the classroom.

Our teacher, 
With coaching and interactive sessions, we discussed a variety of topics: new teaching methodologies, ways to use technology to teach, how to track education achievements from teachers.

Sokvorn sharing his experience with the teachers
Mr. Sokvorn Chhim, who has been managing one of our schools for the last couple of years, said: "I liked the workshop very much because everybody participated to share and ask for idea properly. In particular, the new English teachers learned the method and had English teaching practicum. Moreover, we learned how to teach the students with the real life materials, shared how to teach in the library, and teach without textbooks."

Sopheap (left) and our teachers practicing new educational games

Sopheap, our SLMS's principal, expressed his feeling that: "The workshop was really wonderful, I myself feel really proud of all my teachers because they are the great human resources who can help to lead our education program to run smoothly. I hardly believe that most of them really have a lot of good ideas to share in the team. I hope after wonderful workshop our teachers will have much more confidence of teaching methodology and the students will be very happy to learn and improve their English. Our Education Program will be very interesting to all SC staff, volunteers, students and the village families." 

For the next couple of months, the Education team will be using all the data collected in the workshop to improve our curriculum, to ensure that we are giving teachers and students the resources they need to develop and grow.

Interested in learning more about how we are educating kids in Cambodia? Visit our website.

Dragonfly Transitions students visit us in Cambodia

Dragonfly Transitions Students in KBFC classroom
For the last five years, different groups of Dragonfly Transitions students come to Cambodia and spend three weeks sightseeing, doing volunteer work and learning about Cambodian culture and its people. This trip provides an unique life-experience to these students.

After some days visiting Phnom Penh and volunteering at the Elephant Valley Project in Mondulkiri Province, they arrived into Pursat. Their first stop was visiting our campus and then going to Kravanh Bright Future Center (KBFC) to meet the students and teachers.

As part of an ongoing initiative to help develop KBFC's students English skills, Dragonfly created an annual “English written contest”. Every year, Dragonfly students will take the winners of the contest (along with some teachers) to visit Angkor Wat. This initiative gives the opportunity for our students to learn and be rewarded for their efforts. With the help of Dragonfly, these kids could travel to one of the top landmarks in the world for the first time, something that wouldn't be possible without Dragonfly's help.

Dragonfly team and our students in Angkor Wat
Not only Dragonfly Transitions students help with teaching English to KBFC's students, but they also donated school supplies and materials to 135 students as well as emergency food support to 40 students that will ensure that kids attend classes every day. 

School supplies and food support from the Dragonfly team

But Dragonfly Transitions students contribution doesn't end up in the classroom. They also donated resources to build a gate for our Agriculture Training Center, they install a shallow well, and they work really hard with our team and people in the village to make all these projects happened.

Building the bridge with our team
We couldn't be more grateful for their help and involvement in our projects. Here is a big THANK YOU to this amazing group of students. And some of KBFC students didn't want to miss the opportunity to tell us how they feel about this experience:

Our student Suy Breb
“I am very, very excited to be in Siem Reap with everyone and be able to see the amazing temples. I would like to thank the Dragonfly Transitions team for their wonderful kindness and support to me and other students at KBFC so that we can fulfil our dreams. We promise to study hard in return for their help.” Suy Breb

Our student Norn Sokny
“Thank you very much to everyone in the Dragonfly Transitions team for supporting me and other students at KBFC. With your support, we feel more hopeful to successfully graduate our high school and be able to go on to university. In the future, I hope I can have a good job to support my family and help my community.” Norn Sokny

You and your organization can find more information on how to partner with us and help us to empower rural Cambodians families here

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Crowd-funding campaign

Sustainable Cambodia now has a CauseVox campaign

After many years of steady growth, the sponsorships and grants that kept SC alive have significantly dropped this past year. As part of a new initiative, our onsite volunteer team has now set up a crowd funding campaign through CauseVox. Now ANYONE can easily create his or her own personal campaign on behalf of SC. 

Crowdfunding is not a new concept – after all, soliciting funds from large groups of people is exactly what nonprofits and political campaigns have done for decades! However, the Internet has dramatically altered the ability of non-profit organizations like Sustainable Cambodia to reach out to its vast network of supporters. Websites like CauseVox provide a unique platform for non-profits to showcase specific projects or causes and accept donations. 

The funding quandary

Right from its inception, Sustainable Cambodia has always been funded by multiple sources. While the individual proportions have varied over time, broadly speaking, SC receives its funding from:

The founders and board of directors
Major grants, including Rotary club grants
Corporate sponsorships, usually for specific projects (such as the KBFC school)
Student sponsors and individual donors
Online donations via the website

Two years ago, SC lost a major sponsor for the Kravanh Bright Futures Center (KBFC school), thus reducing its annual funding by nearly $50,000. In the intervening years, thanks to a few generous sponsors and Rotary grants, SC continued to operate the school at its normal capacity. But over the last 6 months a number of big grants have drawn to an end and the ones that took their place haven’t been sufficiently large enough to offset the shortfall. This imbalance, coupled with the fact that online contributions haven’t grown significantly during the same period, has left SC in a very challenging situation.

The campaign

In response to the funding crisis, a group of volunteers launched an online fundraising campaign through CauseVox. SC’s master campaign page allows supporters to donate directly towards the fund raising goal, while also providing the tools for anyone to set up their own individual campaign pages on behalf of SC. This then allows SC supporters to personalize the message to their friends and colleagues and in-turn, recruit them to the fundraising effort.

The journey so far

Over a dozen individual campaign pages have been launched and nearly $900 raised in online donations over the course of a month. 

Campaigners like Dan Ridley and Kate Bleasdale have pledged to run a half-marathon and have begun training in earnest. 
A number of past SC volunteers have also accepted the torch and begun reaching out to friends and family through both their individual campaigns and via social media. While there is still a long way to go before the goal is reached, the response so far has been very encouraging. 

Everyone’s needed!

The power of a crowd-sourced campaign lies in its ability to make the community its ambassadors. Thus we need EVERYONE’s support to raise awareness for SC’s education and community development efforts. Please consider starting a campaign today! Or alternately, share SC’s campaign page with your friends and family through Facebook or email! We need your support, because every dollar donated is money that will go towards a child’s education!

Spreading smiles – on a Tuk Tuk

Tuk Tuk Theatre visits rural Cambodian villages

Children in rural Cambodian villages start helping their parents in their farms from a very young age and rarely ever get to experience much of a childhood. Most of the efforts and funding in Cambodia are typically focused (and rightfully so) on education and health. And so a team of SC volunteers decided to pool their resources and launched Tuk Tuk Theatre. 

Most villages in rural Cambodia are quite remote, with a vast majority of them still lacking electrical power. Children growing up in these villages rarely ever venture out too far from their place of birth, much less travel to urban centers like Phnom Penh or Siem Reap. A few may attend the local school and learn about the world outside of Cambodia, but the stark reality of their lives is that they will be unlikely to ever visit any of these places.

Edutainment – A different approach

A few months ago, a group of 7 SC volunteers decided to come together and pooled their resources to launch Tuk Tuk Theatre. A tuk tuk, that ubiquitous tri-wheeled Cambodian people carrier, was retrofitted with a TV and a sound system and then powered using a large car battery stored under the seat. The modifications to the tuk tuk allowed it to be a truly mobile theatre, capable of operating in remote locations even when there is no availability of a power source. And thus Tuk Tuk Theatre was born!

The goal of Tuk Tuk Theatre is simple – while it’s not possible to send all of these kids on excursions to far off places, it is certainly possible to bring the world to them through a television. By showing movies and nature documentaries, Tuk Tuk Theatre aim to expose kids to the wider world and allow them to dream of things that are bigger than what life currently provides. The hope is that it will one day motivate them to venture out beyond the confines of their village life and seek out these sights and experiences for themselves.

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

Since its launch 2 months ago, Tuk Tuk Theatre has visited kids in over a dozen villages and schools showing movies, cartoons and National Geographic documentaries. In late June, the TTT team decided to go on an 800 km road trip around the Tonle Sap lake. The 10 day long trip saw them stop for a showing of Richard Attenborough’s “Planet Earth” at a high school in Battambang, entertain the neighborhood kids in Siem Reap with a fun night of Disney’s “The Lion King”, watched Donald Duck chase Chip and Dale with the kids in the rural village of Okuru Kae, and joined over 50 kids in a friendly game of tug-of-water at an intra-school sport’s festival in Kampong Chang! Follow their journey through their regular blog posts at this link! 

Campaign trails

As with all ambitious endeavors, scaling up will requires the influx of fresh funds. The team has an ongoing crowd funding effort to raise funds to expand on their vision. Visit their campaign page and support them in their innovative effort to spread smiles among the children of Cambodia! Or you can also support them through their website and Facebook page!