Laura Fowler and her family visited Anlung Pi School in November 2015.
I visited Cambodia in November 2015 and Siem Reap specifically for only a few days. I was put into contact, through Schools For Children of Cambodia, with a Mr. Togh Main, founder of the VDCA School in Anlung Pi Village, beforehand and arranged a visit to make donation of supplies.
Togh met us from our hotel and we went into town together to a stationary shop to buy supplies for the school, as Togh explained, it is better to buy the items locally, to support local businesses and the economy. Togh had a list of things, requested by his staff, and we were also able to pick out a few items ourselves.
We loaded up our tuk-tuk and headed out to the school. The journey was 30-40 minutes of scenic countryside and rice paddies. As a former Buddhist Monk, Togh, a most gentle hearted and remarkable man, explained his aims for the school and village. Anlung Pi, his birthplace, is situated by a large rubbish dump, where many of the adults of the village rummage for recyclable item as a means to make a living; a situation Togh hopes to change in years to come by educating the next generation.
We arrived at the school in time to catch the last few minutes of a couple of classes, where the children and teachers welcomed us warmly, singing songs and demonstrating their English. We were able to chat to several students, teachers and volunteers and most significantly, for me, had the opportunity to distribute, personally, one of the books, pencils and sharpeners we had just bought, to each child for the upcoming term, which was an incredibly humbling and wonderful experience. The kids were great fun, so polite and happy to be in school, they barely stopped smiling and never turn down a high-five!
We were shown around the school, in order to see the other initiatives alongside the lesson learning such as sewing classes, where older students may learn a skill so as not to have to work on the tip. Togh has also initiated a Hygiene Program to instill simple but important practices such as brushing teeth and washing hands before eating; a thoughtful and vital program for the kids.
Once the school visit was over, and the kids had climbed aboard their dozens of bicycles to ride home, we travelled a short distance down the road to another of Togh’s projects, a daycare centre for the younger children of the village, where they can stay, learn, play and have a hot meal while their parents are at the dump, so they do not have to go with them.
The centre is really very impressive. We caught the kids just sitting down to lunch, where they sang songs whilst they waited for their meal, making a head start on their English skills, hardly even aware of how much they are already learning at such a young age.
The Principle and staff at both the VDCA School and the daycare centre are a true credit to the village and to Togh, and a testament to what can be achieved, with relatively little, in Cambodia.
I am as honoured as I am inspired to have met Togh and the team and hope to continue to support and remain in contact with them and the Schools 4 Cambodia team here in the UK, for as long as I am able.
It is clear that Cambodia is a country that has been brought to its knees, but it is one that is clambering back to its feet.
If you are looking for an opportunity to support or donate to a project that will affect real social change and make a difference, I would IMPLORE you to consider Schools 4 Cambodia or the VDCA school.
If you are visiting Cambodia, get in touch and go see it for yourself.
This struggle in Cambodia does not feel hopeless or permanent.
I have faith in what is being done there and in the individuals managing the projects, and I believe I will see actual change and improvements in my lifetime, year on year.
I am proud to be a part of that, to have seen it first hand and would encourage anyone to do the same.
I am also incredibly grateful to Schools for Children of Cambodia, the VDCA school and to Togh Main for the opportunity, experience and the time taken to let me visit.
Thank you all
Laura Lola Fowler & Family