Photos by Manuel Gussmann
Going into the field is always a wonderful reminder of why we do what we do. While we love and appreciate doing our day to day work, it is truly something special to be able to visit schools in person, meet the students and see the impact created on the ground. It’s a powerful, almost overwhelming feeling of gratitude we experience when we get the opportunity to visit our projects. When we get to share the experience with other people, like our donors, these wonderful emotions get all the more heightened.
On our recent trip to Cambodia, we attended the opening ceremony of two new schools. These ceremonies are an inauguration; an official handover of the school to the community. The first school opening ceremony took place in Oddar Meanchey Province in the village of Srei Krosang along the Thai / Cambodian border. Our team set out on a three-hour drive from Siem Reap to rural Srei Krosang with our local partner, Child’s Dream, and donors, Alisoun Mackenzie & Friends and Acts of Kindness Collective, to open Prasat Toek Khmao Primary School.
The team and donors were warmly welcomed by the community lining the gate and pathway to the new school. There to greet them were smiling children, proud teachers, school directors and parents and honoured government officials and community leaders.
The ceremony began with a sacred blessing from a monk, followed by the national anthem, dances, speeches, a handing out of medals and cutting of the ribbon to formally open the school. The school was then officially handed over from our local partner to the community.
The donors spent time with the students distributing locally-sourced stationery supplies and backpacks. They then enjoyed a local lunch and afterward, it was time to dance! Alisoun Mackenzie and her team from Scotland busted out their best moves with the community in a joyous celebration of the collaborative efforts which created this brand new school.
The next day the Classroom of Hope team parted ways with our local partner and donors to set off for Battambang, Cambodia where we would open the next school, Adoung Trach Primary School located in the Sanger District of Battambang. This school was implemented by our local partner Children’s Action for Development (CAD) and was supported by Navitas. Navitas has been supporting projects in Battambang, Cambodia alongside CAD and COH since 2014.
There was great excitement at Andoung Trach school as over 500 people arrived to attend the official school opening. The event was presided over by the Excellency Governor of Battambang Province and other key stakeholders from the Provincial Office of Education, District Office of Education, Commune Council, police, community, teachers and children. Navitas was represented by Tim Tabaka (Regional Sales Director, South East Asia), Nga Phuong Tran (Regional Manager – Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos) and two teachers, Sharla Stolhandske (Canada) and Tresna Maclean (Australia).
After speeches were given, 60 scholarship students (including 30 who came from Toul Lvieng school) were presented with school materials including uniforms, shoes, bags, pens and books. 15 bicycles were also distributed to children who live a long distance away from the school. All school supplies and bicycles were sponsored by Navitas as part of their support of scholarships in the Battambang area.
After the opening ceremony, the CAD team took us to see the next school in line to be rebuilt with funding from Navitas. Students of the school, Toul Lveang Primary, were learning under tarps held up by bamboo and wood. The school structure does not provide any protection from the rain during the wet season and gets uncomfortably hot on sunny days. The environment is not safe or conducive to learning. We had seen pictures of this school and knew it was in desperate need of rebuilding, but it was a different experience entirely to see it in person and to meet the children studying there. Everyone was relieved in knowing that this school will be rebuilt within the year.
At the end of every field trip, we come away with a deeper understanding of the need on the ground and the genuine impact our local partners create. In sharing these visits with the donors who fund our projects, we get to see it all through their eyes; it’s like seeing it for the first time. And every time, after these special days of celebration, we hear from those who have seen the impact firsthand, “it was an experience I will never forget”.