The year is coming to an end, today is Christmas Eve. Time to come to rest, think of others and celebrate with our loved ones. To mark this occasion, I would like to introduce you to the Village Homeschool in Angkor Park, run by my long-time and very best Cambodian friend Seiyon. A portrait representative of all the wonderful people and institutions that are involved in Cambodia and work for the locals, nature, culture and much more.
There are many of them in Cambodia: small schools that teach mainly English. At the state schools, English is taught from the 7th grade onwards.
Admittedly, these small schools are not everyone’s cup of tea. Again and again one hears that the children do not really learn English. That the state is challenged. That the teaching staff is not qualified and is constantly changing. But what would be the point if all the additional English schools had to close? Would that help the children? I don’t think so.
Kimchheang: One of the best in Cambodia
Kimchheang has been there from the beginning and has taken part in the English lessons at the Village Homeschool. And this despite the fact that he is one of the best in the country.
In his free time, he tutors his friends in mathematics, chemistry and physics. And at Seiyon’s small school, he helps with English lessons. Kimchheang recently graduated from the state high school with honours. The government rewarded this achievement with a motorbike, an iPad, $500 and a four-year scholarship to any university where he wants to do his bachelor’s degree. For the children of Village High School, Kimchheang is a hero and important role model. Currently, the 18-year-old lives with his parents and older sister in Nokor Thom commune in Siem Reap.
The story of the Village Homeschool
In 2011, Seiyon established her first small school for free English lessons in her village on Srah Srang Lake. A wooden structure covered with tarpaulins. Underneath, a few tables and a blackboard. The idea came to her because she saw many children risking their safety by running around temples after public Khmer school, selling postcards and souvenirs to tourists.
However, Seiyon was in doubt whether she should not rather go back to work in a regular job. Many around her simply could not understand why she chose this path instead of earning good money. After 2 years, she finished school and worked in a hotel. But after some time, the work seemed pointless to her. Thoughts about the children in her village continued to occupy her mind. For they reminded her of her own life as a child, which was just like the lives of these children. She had also sold souvenirs and postcards to tourists.
Job as souvenir seller at Banteay Key temple
At the age of 8, she started her first job as a souvenir seller at the local temple, Banteay Kdey. Although Seiyon was still a child, she had to go to work to help her family, who lived in poverty. Every day she went to work, leaving the wooden house early in the morning and returning after sunset. It took 25-30 minutes each way to Banteay Kdey temple and back.
Seiyon loves being with children and teaching. She has (also during the time she had a regular job) many years of experience teaching English to different age groups (kindergarten to adults).
But the Village Homeschool is much more. It is a centre for music, sports, painting, art, environmental awareness and much more. It is a fun, joyful meeting place and a place of sharing for everyone, including the adults. It’s hard to imagine: all the pupils come voluntarily, 5 days a week, to take part in the lessons. It started with 25 pupils. Now there are more than 300 in 11 classes between 5 and 8 pm. Highlights are the events at Halloween, Christmas or just in between.
Every time I am in Cambodia, I visit the Village Homeschool. The last time was in August 2022 with my daughter. 3 classes were taught at the same time. One of them, wrote a test. For fun, my daughter sat in and participated. And what can I say, she passed with flying colours. My proud heart as a mother is brimming with pride <3
Unfortunately, the photos didn’t turn out so well, so I used a trick I learned from Andrea back in the day: Simply convert to black and white :-)
Support the Village Homeschool
You can always contact Seiyon and visit her school. Donations are always welcome. For school material and equipment, for food, for the furnishing of the school and whatever else is needed. For example, on site or via GoFundMe. As soon as money is deposited, Justin forwards it to Seiyon for her school. You can find more information about the Village Homeschool on the Facebook page.
And while we’re on the subject of support, it’s Christmas and I know of many other great initiatives thanks to our community, here’s a little hint at the list of 25+ great aid organisations in Cambodia.
Rüdiger and I wish you from the bottom of our hearts
Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year
Frohe Weihnachten und ein glückliches Neues Jahr 2023
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