For an indigenous child in north-eastern Cambodia, life can be challenging. Approximately nine tribes share a remote tropical forest, making a living by growing rice and relying on hunter-gatherer traditions to survive. People live in small villages of bamboo houses without modern amenities, such as clean drinking water, electricity, toilets or healthcare. As deforestation threatens these communities’ way of life, Educate A Child (EAC) is supporting United World Schools (UWS) to transform their future through education.
Phanda Laen is a nine-yearold girl who lives in Veal Ksach in the Stung Treng Province with her parents and siblings. From her village, the closest school is a three-hour walk through dense jungle. Even if she were to risk this trek, she would still face difficulty participating in class, as she does not speak Khmer.
Instead, her daily responsibilities include cooking for the familyand taking care of her younger sister, while her parents work in the rice fields. Sometimes she goes fishing for food in her father’s canoe. There is little time to play. In addition, it is fairly common for young girls in the village to get married and start families, instead of going to school. This was Phanda’s life. Until positive change arrived.
In 2016, EAC and UWS built a school in Phanda’s village to serve 200 children. The community supported the construction of the school and two local teachers were trained to work alongside governmentfunded Khmer teachers.
The school now has teacher lodgings, a clean water supply, solar power and Phanda’s favourite place: a library stocked with hundreds of storybooks. Every morning, she gets up, tends the animals and completes her chores on the farm. She then packs her schoolbag and walks to school. There, she follows the national curriculum, which includes music, art, storytelling and sports. Critically, she is also learning to speak, read and write in Khmer. No one school can eradicate poverty overnight, but education provides an opportunity for long-term, sustainable development. Phanda’s life remains aligned with her culture and tradition; however, she now has an opportunity to follow a dream. “I want to come to school every day and one day be a teacher,” she says. Thanks to the partnership between EAC and UWS, her dream is becoming a reality.
Phanda’s name has been changed to protect her identity.