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CAMBODIA: Rural Education and Community Development

A recent UNICEF survey of Cambodia reveals that fewer than half of the children enrolled in first grade are expected to complete their primary school education. Poverty is a crucial factor, as parents, especially in rural areas, cannot afford the direct and indirect costs related to education, and children are often required to help at home with chores and field work. Lack of early childhood education and low quality of primary education also contribute to high dropout rates, preventing children from reaching secondary school.

In the tiny village of Phum Tany--a community comprised of 200 families, project partner Family Care Cambodia (FCC) is working with the HFHL Learning Center to change these rates. The program’s mission is to empower poor and vulnerable children through a variety of education and training programs, childhood trauma counselling, community work, and development projects. With expected capacity for up to 200, over 100 children from ages 3 to 19 currently attend daily Preschool, or English lessons. Another important goal of the program is empowering the community through training, including parenting skills, care for the elderly and organic farming classes.

Situated on one hectare of land, FCC has helped the HFHL team build a staff building, lavatories, kitchen and dining room, and construction of a two-story school building is currently underway, along with a meeting hall and library. Vegetable gardens and over 100 shade and fruit trees have been planted, while raising chickens, ducks and fish supplement nutrition and program sustainability. This past year, volunteer groups from four different countries assisted with building, planting and renovating, and teaching the children.

For the past nine years FCC has successfully run another education program in the province of Siem Reap, benefitting two schools. IT labs were installed at the Phum Thnal and Sandan Primary schools. Salaries for eight teachers and the electric bills for the lab are sponsored monthly so that 400 students can receive free English and computer classes daily right in their primary school compound.