Be the Change Network

aka "Kari's Blog"

Archive for July, 2010

The Jungle is alive with Music!

July 28, 2010 By: karig2 Category: General 1 Comment →

By Paul Chuk
Em Luot, the Cambodian classic music teacher, age 88,  signed an agreement with us to teach the music class as soon as he is done with repairing the instruments.  He is working hard to get them done. The plan is to have him teach an hour and thirty minutes a day, six days per week.  His salary is based on the amount of hours he works instead of a fixed monthly income.  We agreed on $2 an hour.  When he is ready, he will be working 9 hours a week, which means he will earn $72 a month assuming he works the full 36 hours.  He told us that he is willing and very happy to pass on his knowledge to next generation.  The money is secondary to him, he said.  Money is always helpful but that is not what he is looking for, he added.  He needs respect, good people to work with, and name recognition when his knowledge is transferred to others.

I am confident that he will do his best to make the music lessons effective.  Let’s hope that we will have something special to share with our guests in February next year.

So far, the music class is going very well.  There are 12 to 15 students attending each session. Among them 40% are female, and the class is made up of 2nd to 6th graders.  Em Nuth, the music teacher, is working extremely hard.  He always comes early and passionately teaches his new students.  Remember Ya Virak, the blind boy?  He is amazing!  Despite the fact that he is blind, everyone is blown away by his talent.  Only for a few weeks of training, he can play almost every instrument.

All the students who take music class want to continue their lesson after school is closed.  Their improvement is very satisfying. I approved their request thinking that it is a good idea to keep the class going so they can build up their skills instead of taking a long break and starting over when school reopens.

Special thanks to Carl and Natalia Barden for their support of our music program through Misha’s fund for Music Education. And to Emily Abraham, a music teacher from Chicago, Illinois whose students and their families support our music program in her honor.

The Thrill of Earning $300!

July 28, 2010 By: karig2 Category: General No Comments →

By Paul Chuk
The cross project was amazingly successful in the end.  Our 5th and 6th graders aimed to produce 150 crosses in order to earn $300 from our sponsor.  It was not as easy as it should be, mainly because every piece was made without modern tools.  All they had was one hacksaw and knives and axes.  They used the cement floor of the school for sand paper.  Yet they got it done through determination and working together as a team.

Considering they had no proper tools, I think they did a great job.  I hope our sponsor could understand and appreciate our student’s effort, even though the finishing product might not be as perfect.

On behalf of all the students who participated in the project, I would like to say thank you very much to our sponsor, Mae and JJ Keelan of Howell, New Jersey,  for giving our students the opportunity to have hands on experience to show their talent and the thrill of earning $300 for the first time in their lives.  You should have seen their smiling faces when I presented them the money!

The students are very proud of what they accomplished and also how they handled the money.  They decided to purchase useful items for their school.  I was most impressed by the way they discussed and voted on what to buy and how to spend their money.

Here are the items that they bought:

  • One cart (3x6ft) with two big wheels to carry a 50 gallons barrel of water.  They put a sign on the side of the cart: donated by students Of 2010.
  • Two large aluminum containers for washing their dishes after eating breakfast.  The breakfast is provided by World Food Program.
  • They still have $115 left. I’ve heard that they wanted to purchase good cloth to put on top of their teachers’ desk to make it look nice.  They also want to purchase paint to repaint the whole school building.

It is great to see how they grow and learn from this life skill lesson and decision making.  Most importantly they are empowered to improve their school on their own.

We are very proud of them as they continue to strive to see how they can participate and become active in their own school.  This is their first experience.  In many ways it makes them feel good and proud of what they have accomplished.  They have been using the cart everyday.  They used to carry water by hand, one bucket at a time, with a bamboo stick across the shoulders.  It takes two students to do that.  The cart makes carrying water from the well much easier.

Recently, the students decided to use the leftover money from the cross project to replace the old restroom’s doors, which cost them around $60.  Both doors are badly damaged.  I am very pleased and impressed with their decision.  As of to date, they still have $47 left.

I am very encouraged.


July 26, 2010 By: karig2 Category: General No Comments →

by Kari Grady Grossman.

I know that a fence might not seem important to us when we think about education, but to Cambodian villagers a fence is a source of practical pride. Cows wander around the school yard and into the classrooms and poop everywhere. How can one seriously advocate for education with classrooms covered in cow shit!

A fence is something that local people can do, they have the resources and they don’t have to be literate to be successful. Fence building is a community development activity; it’s the first step that a school community who wants to work with SSI must take all on their own.

The Bonteay Pranak Secondary School Supporting Committee got it done! Previously they had been trying for 5 years to take this first baby step to support their school. Now with SSI Leadership training from Paul Chuk,  hope for a better future, and help from our 6th graders who will attend seventh grade in the fall, the fence got built in 5 days. Now that’s Teamwork!

It was a huge undertaking. They collected hundreds of donated wooden posts that villagers had dragged from the forest, then dug a two foot hole in the ground for each one, all the way around a schoolyard the size of two football fields. The fence now encompasses both a primary and secondary school.

Our 6th grade students are showing themselves as leaders. The school supporting committee and the secondary school is learning the importance of the first SSI Core Value: PARTICIPATION!

A special Thank You to the Cambodian Heritage Camp middle school More Than Me project for donating $1,400 along with a matching donation from parent Jim Burnett, for the barb wire the students needed to complete this project. These young Cambodian adoptees are giving back to the country where they were born to help empower other kids their own age with hope for a GOOD SCHOOL of their own!!

Hope For A Good School of Their Own

July 08, 2010 By: karig2 Category: General No Comments →

by Paul Chuk

Here in Chrauk Tiek everyone strives to improve and grow toward strengthening our program so we can  be a role model to other schools in the district.  On May 27/28, 2010 and we hosted a meeting at our school with 12 representatives from other schools in the district participating, to exchange ideas and foster improvement.  The main focus of the meeting is to discuss and find better teaching techniques.

All the teachers who came to the meeting admired and enjoyed our school.  They wish their schools would be as nice and well functioning as ours.

They saw many different things that they wish to have at their schools:  The principal and teachers working closely together, a teacher residence, the entire school yard free of garbage, modern bathroom, kitchen, stockroom, breakfast for the children, water tank, play ground, incinerator, three huts, many shade trees, vegetable garden, flowers, every student has his or her own book for each subject, well decorated classrooms, and more.  Since everybody enjoyed being at our school so much, after the meeting, they suggested that the meeting should be held here every month.  Instead the District Chief of Education has asked two of our teachers to visit other schools once a month to share their experiences and techniques with other teachers.

Without SSI support, Chrauk Tiek Elementary School could never become the model school in Oral district.

On June 9th, 2010 I had a discussion with 10 teachers and both principals of the primary and secondary schools in Bonteay Pranak.  During this meeting I listened to them closely.  They wish to have the teacher residence, increase the teacher salary, books for the teachers and every student, school supplies, the list goes on..

The community and the teachers at Bonteay Pranak realize that the fence needs to be done first.  I am now working with both, primary and secondary at Bonteay Pranak to encourage the community, the teachers and the students to get involved.  The primary planned to work on the fence on Saturday June 12th, 2010.  The secondary will do their part on Sunday, June 13th 2010.  I expect to have a good turn out.  On top of that, our 6th graders from Charuk Tiek will join the secondary on Sunday.

Everyone is motivated and excited to have SSI behind them.  They are now having new hope.  The hope that they have been waiting for: a good school of their own.

We’re Number ONE !

July 08, 2010 By: karig2 Category: General No Comments →

By Paul Chuk

Our principal, So Bun, returned from the district meeting and reported that the Educational Department in Oral District, Kampong Speu province had chosen our Chrauk Tiek Elementary School as the number one school in the district.

As he told me the good news, his face had a great big smile.  The speaker at the district meeting announced that he is going to save the best school for last when he started the slide show.  Then he showed all the schools one by one and the last was our school!   They showed many pictures:  the kitchen for the breakfast, the stockroom, the fish pound, the chicken coup, the morning glory garden, the flowers all around the school yard, the bathroom, the library and books inside, and the well decorated classrooms.

We are please and proud to be recognized for our success by the Education Department.  Big thanks to Kari Grossman who has been passionately working for almost a decade to make a difference in poor Cambodian children’s lives.   Without SSI support, Chrauk Tiek will never be the number one school in Oral District.

We hope to assist and improve two more schools in the area: Bonteay Pranak Secondary School and Sre Chrap Elementary.  I feel confident that as long as we have the fund in place to bring our program to those schools, we can revive them.  It will take some time and a lot of hard work but we have found the solution.

Through our program, we can bring the community to work together side by side with the principal and with the teachers in order to build their schools in a sustainable way to become successful. This means we help them to learn how to help themselves.

We hope to guide them to recognize a few important keys to success: participation, communication, honesty, trust and solidarity. My wish is that eventually our program will lead the way to building the best schools throughout Cambodia.