It only takes a few moments in Cambodia to notice that you are no longer in the developed world. Garbage littered side walks and crumbling roads are a constant reality. The majority of Cambodians do not have bank accounts, which means the government has a hard time collecting taxes, and this means that anything that is not immediately profitable is expendable.
I realized the other day that Sihanoukville, Cambodia's only port town and home to a plethora of the world's finest beaches, does not have any free government run public spaces or parks. Funding for schools and healthcare is also kept to a bare minimum.
This is what is known as the poverty trap. For people to succeed they need strong communities, good education, and reliable healthcare, but since the government does not have the funds to provide these essential services it is hard to succeed.
This is where non-profits like Help The Cambodian Children (HTCC) are able to make a tremendous impact. Since its inception in 2003 HTCC has worked to provide Cambodian children with the tools for success. In 2004 the Goodwill Community Center was built, and since then has grown in both scope and size!
The Cambodian Education System
Up until grade 7 Cambodian children go to school either from 7am - 11am or from 1pm - 5pm, with their schedule switching monthly. This obviously creates a headache for hardworking parents, gives children only four hours of education per day, and provides an unbelievably unstable learning environment for the children.
The Goodwill Center's initial objective was to fill that gap. After hiring three teachers (who have been with us ever since) we began providing a supplementary three hours of schooling for the children. This has been a tremendous success (check out a few of our success stories).
You may wonder how we convince children to go to school for an extra 3 hours every day. The answer is that the Cambodian appetite for education is tremendous. We even had to hire a fourth full time teacher two years ago, and have added four more classes in the evening for more advanced students.
We also do our best to develop as many innovative learning activities as possible. From science projects to build your own invention, you name it and we have (or will) try it. Follow our blog at Bomnonglor.org to stay up to date on what we are doing and definitely join us on FaceBook if you have any innovative learning ideas you want to share!
A Safe Place to Be a Kid
You may have noticed from the pictures on this website that it looks like we may be having a little too much fun, and if this was possible, I would say that you are probably right. The atmosphere at the Center is contagious. This is not only about the kids, it is the teachers and volunteers as well: being in this place is truly good for your soul!
And, we make a special effort to keep it that way. From the outset HTCC was not created to save the world, but just to make a difference, and if you count making smiles as making a difference we have been outrageously successful.
We hold school olympics on Fridays, yoga and dance sessions, endless football and dodgeball games, craft days, and more. We even manage to get out on school field trips when finances allow (check out our donate page if you are interested in making more smiles!)
Being a Part of the Community
As we have grown into a functional part of the community that we are situated in, we have had more and more opportunities to get involved. Due to our close connection with the families surrounding us we are able to efficiently distribute donations, whether they be clothes or toys that people have brought to us or bags of rice and other basics that we distribute monthly.
We also act as a very basic medical center and do our best to help out when serious medical attention is required. Basically, we are a resource center. A small library, internet connected computers, and a tooth brushing station are all among the things that are available to this community because we exist.
We have even recently taken to creating a few jobs (above and beyond the Cambodian staff that we have) with a program where we collect old soap from hotels and remold it to make new soap.
If you want more information about our innovative education projects, our side projects, and the lovely people who have built and maintain the Goodwill Center you can check out Bomnonglor.com. This is the official website and blog of the Goodwill Center and will keep you up to date with all of our need and services.
Clicking on the donate button either on this website or on Bomnonglor.com will help us continue to be a loving part of an amazing Cambodian community. Thanks!