This post is part of a series by Marisa Vickers, Krama Wheel's summer intern in Cambodia. Marisa is spending the summer in Siem Reap with our partner organization, Build Your Future Today Center, to learn more about the school uniform program that Krama Wheel supports. She will be sharing her experiences throughout the summer here on the blog.
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Within two weeks of residing in Siem Reap, I have had the privilege to observe, learn, and partake in much of the daily Cambodian life through my internship with Krama Wheel and Build Your Future Today Center. I have found that after surviving such a horrid past under the Khmer Rouge, these gentle-speaking Cambodians continue to humbly persevere as strong-willed human beings. However, while the country has progressed since the dissolution of the Khmer Rouge, there are still many socio-economic hardships that individuals and families still face.
Basic needs such as food, money, adequate shelter, clean water, and other public goods, including good roads, education, and healthcare, are not substantially met for those living in the villages. After interviewing a multitude of women and children, the new generation has expressed dreams of breaking the poverty cycle. They want to obtain stable careers as teachers, doctors, business-owners, or government workers. After witnessing the effects of what the Khmer Rouge created, these young women and children understand the value of an education because they not only want to make a difference in their own lives, but in the lives of their families, and country, as well.
Unfortunately, due to existing barriers, they have had countless obstacles to face. Young children, whose greatest worry should be about which game to play with friends, are instead burdened by dilemmas that have forced them to grow up much faster than the average child in the West. Daily concerns of whether there is enough food and money for their families, enough light to do homework at night, and having to wake up early to help in the farm before traveling by foot for at least an hour to and from school in the severe heat and rain are all subjects that tend to predominate their minds.
Thankfully, non-government organizations such as Build Your Future Today Center are working relentlessly every day to overcome these challenges. Social programs have been instilled to provide education, health care, nutrition, shelter, public goods, and training for women to join the work force. Through partnerships with organizations like Krama Wheel, which have donated to the cause, there has been a noticeable amount of development in the livelihood of the community.
On a recent visit to Sre Robong Primary School, the children responded by expressing their appreciation in a very memorable way. As we embarked upon the entrance of the school, we were surprised to find that all of the students were lined up outside greeting us with banners and thanking Krama Wheel for their help and donations. When we walked further down the street, the children began following behind us clapping. Never in my life have I had such a warm welcome and my heart completely melted.
It is definitely inspirational moments like these that push me to want to make an impact in someone’s life. Moreover, I believe that while the transition has been difficult, there is hope for Cambodia because these are some of the most resilient people I have ever come across.