Be the Change Network

aka "Kari's Blog"

Archive for the ‘2014 January Trip’

What Leaders Are Made Of…

January 28, 2014 By: karig2 Category: 2014 January Trip, General No Comments →

The mothers of scholarship students who came to greet me.

When I arrived in Phnom Penh and the Leadership Academy, I knew that the students would be excited to see me. They always are. But I was surprised to see that some of their parents had also made the long trip from the village to Phnom Penh to greet me. Three mothers, one father and one sister, of our students traveled the long distance to see their children, offer rice and food to the program and greet me. I am pleased to see so much parent interest and involvement. Not only that, the SSI staff tell me that the parents are getting more involved in helping do volunteer work at the schools, cleaning up the yard, helping to build benches and huts for the children to eat breakfast in the morning. It used to be very difficult to get any community members involved, like pulling teeth really, but then we found out that the problem was communication and leadership.  And who solved this problem – our scholarship students! The solution: a phone tree.

The scholarship parents held a group meeting to decide on a one group leader for the men and one for the women. When the principal of one of our schools or the SSI staff need the community’s help to get something done, they call Phearith, the SSI staff member in charge of the scholarship program. He in turn discusses the issue with the students, they call their parents, tell them what needs to be done and ask them to get in touch with the group leader. The group leader organizes a work party. And that’s how we get community participation in our schools and in our work done.

You see, parent volunteering is a requirement of our scholarship program. No student wants to loose their scholarship because their parent refused to help. We don’t ask a lot, just a few small projects here and there to help and show their support. Plus it ensures they are talking positively about the program around the village. It’s a part of the mentality of community engagement we are trying to encourage, just like the community service commitment requirement of our scholarship students. Our scholarship students serve as role models of service leadership back in the village and bring professional skills necessary to help sustain our programs and inspire more parents with the value of education.

Sarim, is a second year college students, tutoring high school students in math.

Our students work hard to prove themselves worthy of the opportunity. At the Leadership Academy in Phnom Penh, they are always studying. All day at school and in the evenings they take extra English classes. Plus the college math student, tutors the others in Math and the English major tutors other students in English. On the weekends that have self development classes, Khmer essay and poetry classes to help with creative thinking, self expression and writing skills, all in an attempt to overcome the short-comings of rote learning. And when time permits, they organize themselves into garbage pick-up brigades, cleaning the neighborhood street. In short, they take every single opportunity they can get to better themselves and be role models of good leadership. The other parents on the neighborhood streets give their own kids rubber gloves as they go running after the big kids to help them pick up garbage!  Stunning, simply stunning what a young role model can do.

Two of our female scholarship lead the way for pollution patrol on the neighborhood streets.Â

How could a mom not be proud when you see that true transformation is happening right before your very eyes. Thank you to everyone who has supported us this far.




She Has a Dream….

January 25, 2014 By: karig2 Category: 2014 January Trip, General No Comments →

I used to be so sad living with my own family. It was hard staying with my mother and step-father, who would sometimes hit me and had a drinking problem. Every day we had to carry water from an old well back to our hut to cook over a wood-fire stove. We had one kerosene lantern at night, making it hard for me to do homework. There was no way for me to find a better life until I was given a chance to focus on my education by Sustainable Schools International, which believed in me.

My name is Ratt Mom, and I’m 19 years old. I come from Peam Lvea village, Tra Paong Chor District, Kompong Speu province. My house was a 30-minute bicycle away from my middle school, on a bumpy road that was all mud when it rained. I am currently studying at Phnom Penh Thmey high school in grade 11. Without receiving a scholarship from SSI, I probably would have had to stop studying after 9th grade and instead been working in a garment factory earning $80 per month to help my parents, who are struggling to support our family. But now since SSI is helping me I have a new hope to complete my degree in nursing.
I would never have had the opportunity to study at high school in the city and have self-development training, including fun team-building games. SSI supports me with housing, food, and school supplies, and I get many new experiences, such as how to live together with other students and communicating better with them. In nearly two years, SSI has changed my life. I do miss my mom, but now I have more confidence speaking, am more friendly and have a new way of thinking compared to before. Even though it can be convenient living in the city, it makes me appreciate a lot of things about village life, like less congestion and pollution.
For my dream next year, I want to study hard, learn new things and get good scores in class. I hope to become a medical professional in my village, improving the conditions there as well as my own life and my familiy’s. One day I would like to have my own clinic so that I can make a better living and help my village, which doesn’t have any reliable health facilities.


She Wants To Be The First Female Policewoman in Her Village!

January 20, 2014 By: karig2 Category: 2014 January Trip, General No Comments →

The drunken younger brother attacked his older brother with the blunt side of an axe one morning, causing a serious shoulder injury, but fortunately not a fatal one. None of their friends nor the neighbors wanted to risk getting involved in the fight while the unstable youngster was still armed with the axe. The wounded man decided not to call the police because he didn’t want to put a family member in jail, even though it wasn’t the first time something like that happened. I witnessed this violent lawlessness in my own hometown while visiting the family. They said the younger brother had always been jealous of his older brother’s better finances, though they were both in their early twenties.

It wasn’t until the next day that the police did show up to give the young man a warning. Everyone agreed that there should have been a more serious punishment for his actions, and that one day, he might go too far and actually kill someone. I think it’s very important to enforce laws so that people are safe and criminals face justice. Even though I’m just a high school student in 11th grade, I know I want to be a police officer one day. It won’t be easy joining the police force as a female and convincing all the others to really do their jobs well.

Actually, I’ve thought a lot about how it will be as a rookie, and as a woman. There are some females in law enforcement in the city, but none in the countryside. It will be hard to get people to listen to me and respect me. Even my mother didn’t approve of my intended career choice, since it’s such a dangerous job. I think most women would agree and avoid doing something so demanding and unconventional. But this is my dream, to finish with my high school diploma and then go on to the police academy for an internship.

I know I can do a good job, because I see how careless and ineffective the cops are around here. A lot of them stand around in groups just chatting or drinking, not actually providing security on the street or at events. I would make sure we split up to cover more ground and stay alert for trouble. The hardest thing about law enforcement in Cambodia is that it’s corrupt. The police take bribes, just like many other officials.

I want to change that, and SSI is giving me the chance. I don’t know what will happen, but maybe I can make a difference a little at a time. I’m going to keep trying and staying positive. I’m so happy I’ve gotten this far to study in Phnom Penh with SSI’s support, since at first I didn’t qualify. I probably wouldn’t have had any other choice except to become a field laborer, earning maybe $3 a day to cut sugarcane for a Chinese company that owns that land. But I’m studying harder, and I’m strong enough to do the job I want. I even hope to start taking Taekwondo lessons soon so I can be ready!