The Phum Ou School and Vocational CentreProviding free education and job skill development to the community
On the 11th of February 2014, Sarath Proeun and Jamie Christopherson sat on the ground overlooking a rice field at the back of Sarath’s family property. It was there, Sarath shared his dream with Jamie to create a school in this space to empower his community through education. Sarath was one of the few well educated individuals within his community and therefore shared his ‘gift’ as he saw it, by teaching community members English every evening under his parents’ stilted house.
After some discussion and working on draft proposals, the dream of the School was realized and construction began.
Quickly the word spread of the opportunity to learn with Sarath and that a school was being built for the community. As a consequence, we moved the cows from their shed to create a new classroom and hired an additional teacher as a flood of students came to join classes. Students happily sat on the dirt floor and listened attentively, feeling privileged to be at ‘school’.
As local builders along with participants from EDventure International worked on the construction of the school, we continued developing curriculum and general school procedures until the official opening of the school less than a year later in January 2015.
The Phum Ou School and Vocational Centre was blessed by local monks and opened by the chief of police, local government members and members of the board of education. Student numbers have since grown significantly from a handful of students to approximately 250 students, ranging in age from 5 to 45 years old attending classes until 9pm in the evening. The School now delivers a dynamic curriculum that complements local school curriculum and employs three high quality teachers, Ms Sophanna, Mr Tip, Mr Tola and our head teacher Mr Sarath Proeun to educate the students.
The teachers earn a good wage and we have a structure in place to support them with a health fund and provide them with ongoing professional development.
As of November 2017, with the support of XL Catlin Singapore, we have opened our new Library and Vocational Training Centre. This is an ongoing project that will allow greater access for the community to improve levels of literacy and be afforded the chance to learn new vocational skills to empower themselves and their family as a whole. With further funding we hope to also incorporate a computer training space and access to the Internet to open the community to incredible learning opportunities. Concurrently, new kindergarten classes have begun as families within the community are seeing the true benefits of education.
Education is an incredible tool for self-empowerment and inspiring others. It is extremely encouraging to witness the high value that individuals within this community hold for education and the undeniable growth that we have already been able to witness within the Phum Ou Community.