Global Playground's School in Cambodia Opens with Fanfare

Monday, March 16, 2009 | posted by Global Playground News |
It is common in Cambodia that Buddhist pagodas and schools share property. Both religion and education are central to Cambodian villages. Global Playground's five-room school in the Koh Kehl village is no exception, with Buddhist monks having graciously allowed classes to be held in their pagoda while the school was being built. It was therefore fitting that the monks began the school's opening ceremonies with incense and chanting before the hundreds in attendance and Global Playground's representatives, who were ushered before the monks to kneel in participation.

When Global Playground's representatives rose to their feet, the area before them was peppered with local government officials; hundreds of smiling school children, parents, and grandparents; and other proud members of the village, all sitting under elaborately colored tents. Global Playground Advisory Committee member Annie Yehl marveled, "The entire village was there to support the school! It really showcased how important education is to the people in the village and how they really saw this as an opportunity for their children to have better lives or just to enrich their lives." Global Playground "want[s] to have more schools like this" around the world so that even "more people can get excited about educating their children," Yehl added.

All these happy voices rang as several school children--members of the coveted government scout program--raised the Cambodian flag and led the singing of the Cambodian national anthem. The Minister of Education for Cambodia and the head of education for the local school district both gave lengthy speeches, which although presented in the native language of Khmer no doubt commemorated the school's opening, stressed the importance of education for the future of Cambodia, and thanked Global Playground for its assistance. Board member Doug Bunch remarked, "It is very moving to see that Global Playground is having such a broad impact."

This outpouring of local support was no accident. When Global Playground undertakes a project, it strives to find partnering organizations with strong local connections and a robust track record of building schools. "Global Playground utilizes a set of approximately ten criteria," said Bunch, "to identify ideal partners for [its] projects, with local government connections one of the chief criteria." For Cambodia, that partnering organization clearly was American Assistance for Cambodia (AAfC), which has successfully built more than four hundred viable schools. For the Koh Kehl school, AAfC provided the necessary in-country support and secured matching funds for Global Playground's $13,000 contribution in the form of a loan from the Asian Development Bank to the Cambodian government. Importantly, as board member Doug Smith acknowledged, "AAfC has executed an agreement with the Cambodian Ministry of Education that Cambodia will support the school and make it its own." This link between the government and the school "stresses a key part of Global Playground's mission to empower the local communities where our schools are located," Smith said.

-Jennifer Rinker