In one of our biggest expansion projects to date, we are completing the dormitory at Srayang to house 12 girls from Koh Ker Village as they pursue secondary school education.
The village at Koh Ker was organized in 1979 following the fall of the Khmer Rouge. Most of its inhabitants repatriated from the Thai refugee camps; they grew up in war time, most of them never attended school and all of them languish in post war poverty.
The parents of our students at Koh Ker are widely illiterate and as a result of never having attended school, don’t place much value on education. Their children do however, and in the three years that we’ve been coaxing them, they have found purchase in their schooling and our first graduates are starting to emerge, looking for avenues to continue past the 6th grade.
We never imagined this kind of success at Koh Ker and are humbled by these students’ perseverance and motivation. But how could we help them? What a wonderful thing, to be in the position of being pushed by the students!
Last year there were four brave pioneers who moved away from their village to the nearby town of Srayang where there is a secondary school. We paid local families to house and feed them. This proved to be too difficult for the students and two of the four did not complete the year. Two girls remain, going on to 8th grade this year and joining them are 5 graduates from grade 6 as well as 5 girls from grade 5 who were able to pass the 6th grade exam and be passed to 7th grade.
So, all together we’ve got 12 students, all girls, all about 15 years old, wanting desperately to continue school. We found a piece of land directly across from the school in Srayang that had one wooden house on it and bought it. We had no idea how we would support this house or the girls who would live in it, but we had every faith that somehow doors would open, opportunities would surface and that nothing would stand in the way of the determination of these girls. If they could be that hopeful, the least we could do was be hopeful with them. So, we gathered our gumption and moved forward.
We did some repairs on the house, organized the well, built a fence, got the parents to agree to help support with a little food, hired a housemother, built her a grass hut to live in. Started buying pots and pans, sleeping mats, things to make the house livable. Lori asked for donations on facebook for the funds to build the latrine for her birthday. Then a very generous donor, who wished to remain anonymous, gave us a windfall to finish the tasks at hand and remove entirely the burden of the possibility of financial failure. This benefactor had this to say:
We have been watching the PLF grow for three years now and are continued to be amazed by the wonderful work that you do. It’s truly amazing to see how much the PLF has grown in that time. With the economy remaining “down” for longer than any of us had hoped, we know that it’s hard for people to help as much as they would like. But when we think of how much most of us have here in the US in comparison to the children in Cambodia, we are reminded that things could be so much worse over here. At the same time, we also know that the children over there are blessed, too, and that they just need someone to invest in their future.
With only two weeks until school starts, we still have much to do. The girls don’t care; they are ready to get there and get going. School to attend, gardens to put in, desks to build, latrines to build, clean water to find, kitchens to finish.
Whatever the circumstances are at the house, they are far better than they are at the homes they are coming out of and their dreams of continuing school are becoming a real thing; a thing they never dared hope for, and yet here it is before them. We care a lot more about their “camping conditions” than they do! But now we all know these conditions are temporary and there is a festive atmosphere at the house as we prepare for the girls’ arrival.
There’s no way for us to extend to you their thanks sufficiently. There’s no way to adequately express what this house means to these 12 girls and to all the girls who will follow in their footsteps. Since 1979, they are the first from their village to not only graduate from grade 6, but to present for secondary school. They are ready, they are able, they are dedicated. Nothing will stop them from trying and nothing will stop us from getting up under them and giving them their wings.
We’ll keep you posted with their progress. We’ll keep them on track with your love and support.
Good job everybody!
To read more details about the Srayang Project, download the scope of work: