Hope For A Better Future Begins With An Education

Helping children reach their full potential in remote Cambodia.

It’s estimated that 15 to 20% of Cambodian children have never attended school. The numbers are much higher amongst the indigenous people living in the remote northeast province of Ratanakiri. Here, most families live in extreme poverty and children are often expected to work in the fields or take care of younger siblings.

But in order to break the cycle of poverty, access to an education is key, and that is what brought Cuso International volunteer Anna Wills to Cambodia.

A teacher from Canada, Anna came to Ratanakiri to work with the Cambodian government’s Provincial Office of Education as their Community Development Advisor. In her role, Anna worked with parents, community leaders, teachers and students to help them improve the province’s education system.

One of Anna’s many tasks was to set up student councils. Because schools are so short-staffed in Cambodia, the government requires the creation of student councils to help with duties such as taking care of the school and the grounds.

In the beginning Anna did most of the hands-on work, organizing the councils and training students on basic tasks like picking up trash, cleaning washrooms and maintaining discipline. As the students began to see the positive results of their actions, they started assuming more responsibilities, such as overseeing the planting and watering of vegetable gardens on the school grounds. “Their confidence and self-worth blossomed as they realized they could really make a difference at their school and in their community,” says Anna.

As well, Anna worked closely with the teachers and school directors to help them build the skills and tools to set up and train student councils on their own.

Today, thanks to the combined efforts of Cuso International, the Cambodian government, and the students, teachers and parents of Ratanakiri, school enrollment has improved significantly — literally thousands more indigenous children are now learning to read and write. As Anna likes to say, “Hope for a better future begins with an education.”

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