Recent News from Cambodia P.R.I.D.E.

Trip Start Oct 14, 2009
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Trip End Jul 01, 2014


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Flag of Cambodia  , Kampong Thom,
Friday, July 12, 2013

I am awe’ed with the results of Elaine Negroponte's dedication to the children and communities served by Cambodia P.R.I.D.E. Cambodia PRIDE, “Providing Rural Innovative Digital Education” maintains a low profile in a country which has many NGOs and many obstacles to success. I was so personally inspired by my visit to this project in 2011, that I have become more involved. This year, I joined Cambodia PRIDE's Board of Directors as a “special advisor.”  I am passionate about OLPC and its XO laptop project because it impacts so many children. The children that Cambodia Pride reach, even those children that don’t complete their school exams, are learning how to think, to learn, to work together with others, and to solve problems.

It’s graduation time for the children who are students in Cambodia PRIDE’s programs.  Elaine N, the hands on director is in Cambodia and is busy making preparations for the annual graduation celebration and awards ceremony. The graduation will be held on July 15, 2013. It will be a fun day for the children and a proud one for their parents and teachers.

The Elaine and Nicholas Negroponte Primary School, (a/k/a The Reaksmy Primary School) is a village school located in a rice farming village in Roveing District, in Preah Vihear, Cambodia. It's about an hour drive from Kampong Thom, pinned on the above map.

In Cambodia, there are not enough public schools for all children. Where there are public schools, children are charged tuition. They are charged for books and they are charged for uniforms. Most families cannot afford the fees and most children, and all poor children, are still without formal education.

The Reaksmy Primary School was built in 1999 and all of the Reaksmy children were welcomed there.  In 2005, Elaine founded the non-profit organization, CAMBODIA~p.r.i.d.e. http://www.cambodiapride.org/ to raise funds to help sustain and expand the school programs and related projects in the community.

The primary school English and Computer classes welcome any child who agrees to the attendance requirement. The success of the program is well known in the area, and children of all ages and even from other villages show up to register.  Cambodian children are often kept home from school to work alongside their parents in the fields, farms or markets, or to take care of younger siblings and elders. Cambodia PRIDE’s classes are free for the children, but the parents (and children) must agree to the attendance requirement. For their children to participate, parents must promise to allow their children to come to school regularly. Cambodia Pride’s classes are popular and graduation is a proud and unusual accomplishment.

The Reaksmy Primary School Project does not stop in Reaksmy, or at the primary school level. Prior to the XO program, very few children in this area continued their formal education. The success of the XO computer and English classes has motivated more children from the primary school to stay in school. The children needed a secondary school. Cambodia Pride built and staffed The Lucy & Joe Chung Family Junior High School in 2008 with the generosity of the Chung family. The 5 room secondary school serves about 285 students from several villages in Roveing, and offers English and Computer learning from grades 7 to 9. The creative English and Computer curriculum is designed to keep the kids from dropping out of school, as is very common at this age in Cambodia. That's a challenge.  16 year old Nathan Chung, spent last summer 2012 at the Chung school, with his friend Bunnard, organizing classroom games and an outdoor athletic program. Cambodia PRIDE is proud of its success and graduation is a big event there as well.

41 children (primary & junior high students) will graduate this year! The Graduation ceremonies will host a inspirational speaker, Margaret Bywater, speaking in Khmai and English. Along with their diplomas, all graduates will receive toothpaste and a toothbrush. There will be awards for boys and girls with the best attendance, best character, (willingness to help others and work collaboratively) and the best “work.” The students and teachers will join together to make the celebratory feast. There will be cupcakes (Elaine will bring them from Phnom Penh. I have never seen a cupcake out in the villages:)). And the children will play fun games like rice sack races. Game prizes will be Khmer-English Dictionaries! The plans sound meaningful and fun. Elaine has promised me photos and I’ll add them to this post when they arrive.

The folks who run Cambodia PRIDE are very busy doing the things they do for children and the communities which they impact. A goal is to update the admittedly outdated website in the near future. In the meantime, we have a newsy update. I’ll include a photo of the June, 2013 newsletter that Elaine & Channa, Cambodia PRIDE’s dedicated and gifted English and Computer teacher wrote.  I’m copying some of the text into this entry for easy reading and distribution.

SOME STATISTICS AND UPDATES

We have 117 students enrolled at the primary school and 183 at the secondary school for a total of 300 students. Five students who graduated from our programs are now enrolled at private colleges in Phnom Penh. As more graduate from high school (where we don’t run a program), we expect to see greater numbers of students continuing on to college, enabling them to get good jobs. We’ll keep you informed as our graduates continue to succeed.

We have recently, installed Khan Academy courses in math and science at both the primary and secondary schools.

Unfortunately, while we are making significant progress, we are still faced with ongoing corruption at all levels of education. Starting in the primary schools, there is a longstanding practice of paying off teachers for books and grades. This continues throughout a student’s entire school career, resulting in many of the poorest students being unable to pass their baccalaureate to graduate from high school. This is the real crime of Cambodian education.

The Teacher's Report follows. Before we read that, I must mention that all of the Teachers salaries are paid by Cambodia PRIDE. While CP pays them a fair wage, much higher than the government employed teachers earn. Cambodia PRIDE expects much more from its teachers also. The hands on learning curriculum encourages children to learn to think creatively about problem solving and to work collaboratively. This is different than the culturally taught rote memorization & learning methods typically seen in this country and the teachers do not learn how to teach this way in Education college. Elaine says that "Cambodia PRIDE's teachers deserve all of the credit for the success of the program. They are true professionals. They work incredibly hard, and the children's successes are due to their continued dedication and talent."

TEACHER’S REPORT

Our teachers continue to work very hard and long hours at the schools. It should also be noted that often their day does not end with their last class, but continues outside the classroom after the school day has ended. Virak S, the primary school English teacher, reports that there continues to be a problem with children dropping out. In October, we began the school year 119 students. By the end of March two dropped out from our program. Teacher Virak notes we always try to find out the, ”Why’s.”

Our priority is to encourage these children to stay in school, and to help provide them with the stability and incentives they often do not receive at home. Younger children–especially those in the second or third grades–are just too young and inexperienced to make decisions about whether or not they should stay in school. Virak notes that extra patience with children with poor attendance is very important.

One child, Sok Chab, is a good example. When his mother first enrolled him in the second grade, he had both terrible attendance and poor attention in class. But after the first year, things turned around for him. In fact, he had such a turnaround that he even beat the fourth and some of the fifth graders in a phonics contest. We have seen this pattern repeatedly and know that many of these children have wonderful potential if given the attention and nurturing needed to get them off to a good start.

We continue to reach out to all students in our commune to find the most needy. Since our teachers live in the communities they know who needs encouragement and help with such things as clothing, family encouragement and any other reasons that might be keeping a child from school.

Thank you Schlumberger Philanthropic Organization SEED

We were very fortunate to have another experimental program sponsored by SEED (Schlumberger’s philanthropic program) at the Chung Family Junior High School. In January, an enthusiastic employee of Schlumberger’s Alaskan branch, Nate LaCroix arrived at the school to help the junior high school students run experiments. Thanks to Schlumberger the students learned how to conduct electricity using copper and a lemon! Another very important experiment was learning about buoyancy. These government students had never conducted scientific experiments before and these tests, we believe will inspire them to learn more about the world around them.

Going Green and Learning Nutrition at Reaksmy Primary School
The school’s organic garden helps to feed our students. The garden is totally the work of the students and is run by the 6th graders. First, they must get the “horrid” soil ready, plant seeds, and weed and water at least twice a day.  Once the vegetables are ready they harvest and sell them in their community.  At the end of the school year the children will use the money they have made to give themselves a party which Elaine always helps with.

The notes from a recent teacher meeting reported: “Teacher Channa has requested that the 6th Grade students who run the garden at the Primary School need more seeds. He will send a list and I will try to pick up any seeds that cannot be bought in Rovieng. The garden looks beautiful and even the sweet corn has managed so far. Vanney and Elaine have made an organic pesticide which seems to be working, so far. Teacher Channa was given a SiPhar book on growing mushrooms to learn if this is also something our gardeners should try.”

The students are learning valuable real world skills from this important school activity. They learn about the importance of a varied diet, food hygiene, and when they sell the produce they have grown, they practice their sales, math and bargaining skills too.

Is there Baseball in Cambodia? YES!

Cambodia PRIDE has offered baseball to its students since 2005, because first and foremost our students enjoy playing the game. “We believe that not all students are at their best in a classroom setting and athletics can help build confidence. It can make the difference between dropping out or staying in school. Recently, we found three dropouts from our school programs working in surrounding rice fields. We encouraged them to try out for the newly formed Cambodia National team, and now they are members, playing for their country and receiving training, food, and lodging, with a starting salary of $160 a month. This far exceeds the average monthly salary of $30 or less per month that most earn in rural Cambodia.

The costs of baseball equipment, and related expenses have been made possible also, by the generosity of private donors to Cambodia PRIDE. How easy and rewarding it is to have a big impact on children’s lives!

Book Proceeds Donated to Cambodia~PRIDE
In 2002, Elizabeth Driscoll and Elaine Negroponte co-authored a beautiful and useful book. Tea with Miss Rose: Recipes & Reminiscences of Boston’s Teacup Society, is both an interesting coffee table book, and an invaluable recipe book to have in your kitchen collection. If you like tea or would like to have a tea for a special event, this is a book full of practical advice on how to have a perfect tea along with amusing asides and stories about America’s first lady landscape designer; Rose Standish Nichols.

Elaine is a fabulous cook and baker, (when she is in a country with a kitchen:)) and the historic recipes for cookies, cakes and tea sandwiches were carefully tested and chosen to be sure to work for the less accomplished cook. This book makes a lovely wedding, shower, or other gift and proceeds from all sales go to Cambodia~PRIDE. Read more about book here: www.mountvernonpress.com.
Please contact Elaine at elaine@cambodiapride.org if you are interested in purchasing the book. It retails for $28 on Amazon and in museum stores, but direct purchasers can buy it for $15.00 and Elaine says that she’ll split the shipping costs!

REASONS TO GIVE

Unlike many organizations that come and go, Cambodia~PRIDE has maintained a positive presence and become a trusted part of the Reaksmy community for over 13 years. All donations are used directly for paying teachers, purchasing supplies, for its schools and other programs. Elaine points out that “we have no overhead: no office, no car, and no board salaries or compensation. Our efforts are solely behalf of the children of Reaksmy as we believe that everyone needs a chance to learn.”

 The children and families in this poor rural area of Cambodia have better futures because of Cambodia~PRIDE’s diligent and competent presence there. Cambodia~PRIDE is listed by Guide Star, a respected charity and non-profit watchdog group.
 http://www.guidestar.org/organizations/20-4649908/cambodia-p-r-i-d-e.aspx

Donations fund Cambodia~PRIDE’s work and make its continued programming possible. Every donation, small or large is meaningful and deeply appreciated. Find out how to give here:
http://www.cambodiapride.org/give.html

Cambodia~PRIDE thanks all of its supporters for helping them to do its work improving the lives of very poor Cambodian children and families. With your help, children with no other opportunity for education learn basic computer and Internet skills necessary for success in the 21st century. Hopefully they will have the tools they need to become more successful adults; parents, farmers, teachers, scientists, medical workers, and business men and women.











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