Cambodians view English as a way to end the cycle of poverty and create paths to opportunity and so TSF recognized long ago the import of making English classes available. The first English programs were established in Roteang, where village children have always eagerly attended the classes, even after a long day of learning. TSF continues to expand English language programming and develop the best methods for imparting those skills to a wider audience. The foundation currently touches the lives of nearly 1,000 students a day, in 36 English classes occurring each weekday in a number of villages. We collaborate with local staff to enhance the use of technology in classrooms, increase the use of innovative learning methods, encourage native speakers to work with students, and facilitate increased opportunities for faculty to improve their own skills as English teachers and speakers.
The Sharing Foundation’s commitment to education includes donating over 1,500 school uniforms to needy Cambodian children who cannot afford the required uniform. At our Sewing Center, located in Roteang Village, we have hired local women to make uniform sets, which include two white shirts with two pants or skirts.
The Sewing Center also makes hundreds of crafts, mostly women’s handbags, which are then brought to the United States and sold by volunteers, making the sewing center self-sustaining. The seamstresses are paid a fair wage per piece and are able to stay in their home village to meet the needs of their families. Like the farmers, they are required to send their children to school.
The Computer School
Opened in 2006, the computer school offers computer classes five days a week utilizing ten donated laptops and a few older desk tops. Students are picked by lottery and attend daily for six weeks to learn word processing and spreadsheets, and see a bit of the internet on our one slow connection. After all the lottery groups go through, the group rotation starts again.
After the graduation of our first college students in August 2009, we hired Kuch Seiha, our I.T. graduate, to start another class, doubling the size of our computer school. Seiha has also started a class with a group of young village children using donated computers from the “one laptop per child” program.
Roteang Village School
The Sharing Foundation provides general support for more than 800 children who attend the Roteang village public school by donating supplies and uniforms for needy students. Even the six dollar cost of two uniforms a year can prevent a child from attending school. The Foundation also built a new playground, as well as new classrooms and a library in 2004. The library, with over 400 colorful books, is among the first in Cambodia’s public schools. In 2014, we will completely replace a second dilapidated classroom building. The school, in return, allows TSF to use their space nightly for our English school.
Beng Krom School
Beng Krom is a very poor village on the far side of the Mekong River. Since 2006, we have provided school uniforms twice every year since, plus all the school copybooks, pens and pencils for this school of 750 children.
In 2004 we learned that the Beng Krom school had extremely high arsenic levels in the wells the government had installed to provide drinking water. Thanks to the generosity of our donors, TSF built a huge rainwater collection system using rain collected off the school roof, funneled into a giant tank, and then pumped into filtered vats with spigots. In 2008, we built new latrines for Beng Krom school, a three-unit system, updating their very primitive outhouses. Recently, at the principal’s request, we built a large playground, the first ever for these school children.
As an integral part of our farm project in Roteang village, farmers are required to send their children to school. Knowing that resources are extremely limited (for school uniforms and travel) for these rural farmers, TSF built a two-room thatched schoolhouse on our farmland and hired two local staff members to teach Khmer and math skills. Most of the farmers are illiterate and, in this way, their disadvantaged children receive a solid educational foundation. Over 125 children attend this school in three shifts every day.
High School Sponsorship Program
Through the generosity of our supporters, each year TSF can select ten to twelve 8th grade students for High School Sponsorship. The financial aid predominantly covers private after-school tutorials, offered by local teachers, and other incidental educational expenses. This help enables students to make good progress and to stay in school vs. working in the fields. Graduating high school students who pass their college entrance exam and show English proficiency are eligible to receive a four-year University Sponsorship.
University Sponsorship Program
With the help of committed sponsors from the United States, each year eight to ten dedicated students are awarded full scholarships to begin a four-year college program in Phnom Penh. These young people move from their rural homes into a TSF dorm in the capital city where they pursue their education, experience city life and learn to live independently. Their majors include economics, English language, information technology, architecture, engineering and medicine. TSF oversees the dorms, supports students in their studies, and provides guidance in life and career skills. To date, 70 TSF college students have graduated, each placed in skilled, satisfying jobs. Many of them participate in an active alumni group, staying connected to TSF and the youth that follow them.