A group of students assiduously writing Chinese characters into their workbooks and following instructions by their Chinese teacher, set the scene at the Global Charity Association.
Lida, is one such dedicated Cambodian student who attends the class twice a week and greets us with a friendly, “Ni Hao!”
Founded in 2015, by Jen Tran, the free second language teaching centre provides an opportunity for ambitious students to learn a vital second language.
Whilst most parents do value education, many do not have the financial resource to provide their children with life-changing possibilities that a good education can provide.
There have been tremendous efforts made over recent years to improve the education system in Cambodia. According, to a recent UNICEF report 55 percent of 17 year-olds drop of school due to poor quality teaching and irregular attendance.
Opening the door to free education
Vic Shen, director of the Golden Charity Association, has actively contributed to other charities in the past but this time wanted to work on quality education for the middle to lower class families of Cambodia.
“Encouraging kids to learn Chinese is not an easy task. We have to continuously fight barriers that keep children away from school, and ensure parents are impressed to see their children speaking Chinese,” Shen admits. “Some children are too shy or scared at first, but after visiting the centre and meeting teachers they want to come back.”
Shen believes, with a large number of Chinese companies and a booming tourism industry in Cambodia, learning Chinese is a beneficial tool.
Teaching while having fun!
Despite only having two teachers, one Chinese and the other Khmer, the lessons have been academically successful. There is regular assessment to ensure that students are maintaining progress.
This has been achieved through basic Mandarin lessons in the classroom and outside activities, such as organising blood donations and rubbish collection events.
Icelyn Tan, general manager of Golden Charity Association explains: “Outdoor activities are always a good way to interact using Chinese skills and we want the students to fall in love with the language’s poetry, literature and songs. Encouraging our students on the importance of good hygiene and respecting the environment is part of our work too.”
Building a family
The association currently has 21 volunteers and has received very positive feedback from families who feel the centre has become like a “second home” for many of the students. According to Tan, inviting parents to join parties and events at the centre has been surprisingly successful.
“We were surprised to see parents bringing other members of their families for events, such as the Chinese New Year celebration,” she says.
Tan adds that allowing the student’s parents to experience the centre has meant they are now confident their kids are spending their time in the centre and not on the streets.
“We want the students to feel comfortable here, they can bring their friends and share any problems or feelings they are having,” she says.
Looking to the future
Growing day-by-day the centre has opened another section that provides facilities for vocational training. These include both a model bedroom and kitchen equipment for students to practise a free maintenance course.
“Charity is part of our lives, we would not be here today without Cambodia and we want to help the community,” says Shen.
Located in the Olympic area, the centre has been shaping into a multi-purpose hub and is currently building a library and IT room.
Tan says that any form of donations are always welcome as staff members are always looking to improve the infrastructure for the kids.
“We are also always looking for more volunteers and hope to recruit the next batch of teachers over the next few months,” she adds.