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The UWC movement makes education a force to unite people, nations and cultures for peace and a sustainable future. In Takhmau, south of Phnom Penh, the Kuma Cambodia School is educating the most vulnerable children in its community thanks to the commitment and support of the UWCSEA community.
Changing tomorrows today—celebrating the opening of the Kuma Cambodia School
In Takhmau, south of Phnom Penh, a small school is educating the most vulnerable children in its community. Kuma Cambodia, which welcomed its first students in June 2012, is one of the Global Concerns at East Campus. It is a free full-day school offered to children who would not otherwise have access to education due to extreme poverty or living in a home where domestic violence, drug abuse or lack of basic care is the norm.
On 27 September, the first group of UWCSEA East students, parents, staff and their families travelled to Cambodia for the official opening of the Kuma School. The weekend included a variety of activities—both educational and celebratory.
The group visited NAPIC NGO’s (the Kuma School’s parent organisation) first project, the Maternity Hospital and the villages that they support, created a mural with the children at the school, planted the school’s first vegetable garden (from which the children are now eating the vegetables), had time to play and get to know the children and, finally, celebrated the school’s official opening.
Language was no barrier between the UWCSEA and Kuma children as they were intent on having fun. The entire group also had the opportunity to experience a typical day for the Kuma students, which includes three healthy meals, personal hygiene, playtime and lessons in Khmer, arts and culture, PE, music and English.
After school on Friday afternoon, all of the children from UWCSEA East and Kuma piled into one mini-bus to take the Kuma students home to their village. There was much singing and game playing as the children enjoyed time together. Emma L (Grade 5) said, “My favourite part of Kuma Cambodia was bringing some of the kids home to the village on the first day in the mini buses … This brought home to us what a haven the school is for so many of the children.”
The weekend culminated with the school’s official opening ceremony. Just under four months after the school opened its doors, both staff and students were beaming with pride for their school. The ceremony included a speech made by one of the students on behalf of all the Kuma students, who then performed a traditional Cambodian dance and sang in both English and Khmer. The work that had gone into the performance and the difference that has already been made in the children’s lives was easy to see.
One UWCSEA East parent shared, “I could not believe my eyes. Having seen photos of the Kuma children before they started at the school, I was blown away by the improvement in the health of these wonderful kids … Their pride in themselves and newfound confidence would reduce the hardest of hearts to tears. The best part was watching them doing everything that our children take for granted: dressing up, playing football, singing and dancing.”
The Kuma students’ parents were overjoyed as they watched their children confidently performing in front of nearly 300 people. With the blessings, speeches, performances and ribbon-cutting complete, Kuma Cambodia School was officially opened.
Also in attendance were the next class of children and their parents who were to begin on 1 October 2012. There are now 40 students at the school and they are thriving. After being a dream for several years, the Kuma School is now providing both a holistic education and nurturing care to children who might otherwise have neither. Through the relationships with UWCSEA and other sponsors, they are also learning that there is a world outside of their village and that they are an important part of it.
The Kuma School is a tremendous example of the UWC mission in action through the generosity, encouragement and action of the UWCSEA community and fellow sponsors who made the school a reality—and a special place that is changing tomorrows today.
Primary School teacher