Female students playing a game at the CESHEO Svay Thom campus near Siem Reap, Cambodia

CESHEO provides free supplemental education to over 750 students in the beautiful, but impoverished, Cambodian countryside.

CESHEO Svay Thom Campus near Siem Reap, Cambodia

Last year I had the privilege of partnering with CESHEO. CESHEO provides a free education in English and computer skills to children in in rural Cambodia.

Founded in 2010 by Rady Rure, it serves more than 750 students.

Many children in Cambodia, especially children in rural villages cannot afford to go to school.

An estimated 50% of people in Cambodia live on less than $2 a day, many of these people are living in rural areas. Public school in Cambodia is not free, and often the children are forced to pay informal daily fees to the teacher to attend class or take quizes and tests.

Also teacher salaries are low, often around $50 a month. With salaries this low teachers are often forced to take 2nd or 3rd jobs to feed their families. These extra jobs often take them out of the classroom limiting students time to learn.

A boy in the doorway of the computer lab on the CESHEO Svay Thom Campus near Siem Reap, Cambodia

CESHEO works in two rural villages near Siem Reap and one village in the neighboring province of Oddar Meanchey.

For many of these children, the education they receive at CESHEO is the only education they will receive.

It is their only chance at breaking the poverty cycle. For others it supplements what classes they are able to afford to take at the public school.

The English and Computer classes that CESHEO offers are often the most expensive at the public schools if they are offered at all.

A student studies flags from various countries at CESHEO Svay Thom campus near Siem Reap, Cambodia
A student works with a volunteer teacher at the CESHEO Svay Thom campus near Siem Reap, Cambodia

The classrooms are simple open air structures that provide a respite from the persistent heat of the sun and allow a breeze to flow through.

The curriculum is basic and taught mostly by backpackers who volunteer for a few weeks up to a few months. Class progress is charted and passed on from one teacher to the next, with each teacher adding their own personal touch to the material.

Female students pose with their teacher at the CESHEO Svay Thom campus near SIem Reap, Cambodia
Class in session at the CESHEO Svay Thom
a volunteer teacher interacts with a student at the CESHEO Svay Thom campus near Siem Reap, Cambodia

I was able to visit the two schools closest to Siem Reap, Svay Thom and Bakong.

Siem Reap is a city of about 200,000 people and a lot of the employment is serving the tourists touring Angor Wat.

After spending a week in Siem Reap, I quickly realized the value that CESHEO is offering.

Since life in Siem Reap revolves around serving tourists, often a knowledge of English is the difference between getting a job in the city and working in the rice fields around the villages.

Basic computer literacy is also being taught to small batches of students on a rotating basis.

 

As funding for the program is very limited, a handful of students are able to learn basic Windows and Microsoft word skills for a few weeks at a time as well as familiarizing themselves with the basic movements of typing.

A male student works at a computer in the computer lab at the CESHEO Svay Thom campus near Siem Reap, Cambodia

The computer classes are a highly coveted privilege.

This girl (below) is looking in the window of the computer lab watching the current computer class work through their practice materials.

I watched her stand there for a while before I took this photo. Her emotions seemed to move from fascination to longing over the period of a few minutes.

It was almost as if she knew what an impact access to that room could have on her future.

 

This campus serves over 250 students and there are 8 computers.

Every few weeks a new set of student takes their turn. These computers, for the most part, have been resurrected from the dead. They were donated instead of being thrown away when their previous owners upgraded.

The reality is this, these worn out computers, with missing screens and outdated software are her best and probably only opportunity to learn about technology.

A female student looks in the window of the computer lab at CESHEO Svay Thom campus near Siem Reap, Cambodia
two female students share a computer in the computer lab at the CESHEO Svay Thom campus near Siem Reap, Cambodia

While school is a serious and important part of CESHEO’s program, there is also time for recess and play.

 

Recess times are scheduled in and teachers spend time with the children playing soccer, marbles, and other group activities that get the kids moving and interacting.

Simple games and simple toys are all that is necessary to bring smiles to the faces of these kids.

A male student plays marbles during a break in classes at CESHEO Svay Thom campus near Siem Reap, Cambodia
A male student blowing up a balloon for a class party at CESHEO Svay Thom campus near Siem Reap, Cambodia
Students and teachers participate in a water fight at the CESHEO Svay Thom campus near Siem Reap, Cambodia
Students play a game on the playground on the CESHEO Svay Thom campus near Siem Reap, Cambodia

After classes are finished the children can return to their villages or head back to public school to finish their remaining classes.

students ride home from class at the CESHEO Bakong Campus, near Siem Reap, Cambodia
CESHEO Svay Thom Campus near Siem Reap, Cambodia