Our current school opened in August 2008 and offers free English classes, computer classes and other courses to children and young adults. Regular teacher trainings and our International Volunteer Program constantly improve the quality of the education provided. A core team of regional agents supported by a number of partners and numerous donors worldwide ensure the continuous development of the school. Our website not only provides detailed information about the school, our volunteer program as well as news from the school but also wants to establish a direct connection between the school community and its current/potential supporters and volunteers. Through free education, create a brighter future in which the new generation of society’s poorest have the opportunity to realize their dreams and escape the cycle of poverty in which they find themselves. Siem Reap is the most popular tourist destination in Cambodia and learning English is essential if our students want to get a job in the tourist industry in the future. Although Siem Reap benefits from increased tourism, this has unfortunately also attracted those who exploit children. VDCA provides a safe, supervised and positive environment for children in the afternoon. Once students finish studying or working in the morning, they spend their afternoon at the school learning and playing and are not on their own in town. If Cambodian children are left on their own, there is the possibility that they may become a victim of exploitation. Further, Cambodia has the highest HIV/AIDS rate out of all of the Southeast Asian countries, so the information the children receive from our teachers during health and moral classes is vital to keeping them safe from infection. Foreign NGOs often invite our teachers to attend health information sessions and the information they get is then passed onto the students. Since Cambodia has very strong Buddhist traditions, children are also taught Buddhist values to help them develop into responsible adults.
VDCA also helps to support and develop the skills and understanding of Cambodians for a more sustainable future. For example, during the construction of our new school, we employed Cambodian construction workers and used materials made in Siem Reap. Whenever we develop a new project, we look for opportunities to utilise the skills and abilities of our older students. We use the skills of local craftsmen with all furnishings and fixtures. This way, we are contributing to economic development of the area.
We work to enhance and develop general educational levels of underprivileged children with a focus on:
- Improving students’ language skills via focused language tuition in predominantly but not exclusively English.
- Addressing the environmental and health issues effecting children and young people (HIV/AIDS awareness, general hygiene, drug abuse, child trafficking, pollution, climate change, global warming, environmental sustainability).
- Giving children life skills and philosophy to help them deal with daily life (moral, spiritual and Buddhist education).
- Supporting and sponsoring children interested in higher education.
The History of the school In February 2005, the Volunteer Development Children’s Association (VDCA) was established by two Buddhist monks, Rathana Nn and Togh Main, who wanted to give some of Siem Reap’s poorest children a future that would not depend on begging. With occasional donations and the help of some local and foreign volunteers, they struggled but managed to teach over a hundred children and teenagers in 2 simple, thatch classrooms for about a year. In spring 2006, enough funds had been raised to build a very basic school with 3 classrooms and student numbers jumped, reflecting the urgent desire for education in Cambodia .
Rathana and Togh worked tirelessly with the help of local and foreign volunteers to provide free classes to their students and to cover the increasing monthly expenses. Tragically, 24-year-old director Rathana was killed in a car crash in April 2007 and the school’s future seemed as uncertain as ever. But out of this sad incident emerged a new alliance of volunteers and supporters worldwide who joined forces to ensure the school’s continued existence and development. With the help of many generous people around the globe, the school made tremendous progress.
Togh took over as director thanks to his unwavering commitment, the school was maintained and developed further. By midyear, the land owner started building an apartment block right next to the school, encroaching upon it and making teaching very difficult for the noise and dust. At the same time, student numbers increased rapidly, so that the school’s four classrooms were constantly over-crowded. There was hardly any space left to park bicycles and the general condition of the school deteriorated further during the rainy season. All this led to the conclusion that the school needed to expand and relocate as soon as possible. With the help of numerous volunteers and supporters worldwide, enough money was raised to make this dream a reality.
Land was located and cleared by November and construction plans made by December. The construction of the new school began in February and was completed in June. The official opening of the new school was celebrated with a Buddhist ceremony and a big party in August 2008. The costs of the new school came to 20,000 USD, which were completely covered by donations. Thanks to the tireless efforts and generous donations of many caring and committed people around the world, more than 600 children now have a wonderful new place to learn and play.
The school consists of two concrete buildings with five bright and airy classrooms that can accommodate up to 40 students each, a staff room/office, a library, a computer lab as well as toilets and showers. A water reservoir supplies the school with water. The compound is surrounded by a yellow wall which the students have decorated with their artworks. In front of the buildings there is a wide courtyard for the children to play in. Hanging flowers and potted plants have been put everywhere. A little pavilion offers shelter on rainy and scorching afternoons for kids to play, talk and relax between classes. A ‘Bicycle Hotel’ made of gravel, wooden posts and tarp provides parking for students and volunteers. Later that year, a small basketball court was added and six new desktop computers were purchased.
Sadly, 2008 witnessed the passing of our friend and Assistant Director Mr Meng in March. A bright, gentle and talented young man, Mr Meng’s compassion for the children and the school were matched by his dedication to assist Mr Togh. His warm smile lit up the lives of all of us who had the pleasure to know him.
A one-month training program for teaching speaking classes for our teachers was conducted in August and September. The training involved learning basic EFL (English as a Foreign Language) methodology, resource management, lesson planning, teaching practice and evaluation.
Spring also saw the addition of more paintings and murals on the school’s walls which make it even more colorful. A vegetable garden was created and a grass roof was added to reduce the deafening noise of heavy rains on the tin roof. For the most recent news and pictures see our Facebook page.