For students in rural Cambodia, pandemic lockdowns have closed schools and have made learning a disjointed and difficult process. Schools have been mostly closed since the onset of the pandemic, jarred by reopening and closing again. The substandard education experience for children in the community weighed on the Prasat Krohom Meanchey village chief, Mr. Chhoeun Ngoun. “While COVID-19 was spreading through the community, 19 schools were temporarily closed and left children out of in-person school,” he explains. But Chhoeun had a plan to help kids continue learning together outside of school.
The big solution came in the form of children’s clubs. These clubs were initially intended to be a place where young children in early elementary years could play together with toys and read books. In 2019, the Prasat Krohom Meanchey children’s club was built as a way to increase the quality of education. But during the pandemic, it became a crucial part of how children in the community could learn and receive any education at all. That’s why in this past year, major upgrades were made to the club to make it a better place for children in the community to meet, play, and learn. Several children’s clubs were built to fill the need. “Our people joined with Food for the Hungry to establish and decorate 17 children’s clubs in the community so that the children could pursue their studies there,” says Chhoeun.
Fresh concrete was poured, tire swings set up, and the walls were painted in bright primary colours. The children’s clubs are decked with shelves where kids can access books, toys, and games. Children who were missing out on school now had a place to go and connect with their old classmates and other kids their age.
Chhoeun explains, “Before my community joined FH Cambodia, people in my community did not understand the importance of children’s education. We did not have good collaboration with each other, either. And there were no children's clubs in the community because we did not understand the benefits or that they could help our children's education.”
But now, the difference the children’s clubs are making on a community level is clear. They not only helped the kids thrive, but the whole community found hope in seeing the connection and community that was taking place again. Chhoeun says, “Even amid the COVID-19 outbreak, people are still involved in contributing their physical and mental strengths. Our people are aware of the benefits of the children's club. And so far, our children's club has become a community-based kindergarten, because of the people in the community being more united and more understanding about it.”
Twelve-year-old Chhinh Chorvy weighs in on the new children’s clubs, saying, “I feel happy that there are children’s clubs established in my community! We are united, especially to design such beautiful children's clubs. And thanks to FH Cambodia for distributing so many toys and allowing us to find a commonplace to read the books, play, and learn for fun.”
As Cambodia continues to navigate the complications of the pandemic, Chhoen hopes that the community will remain unified in what’s important, the well-being of his community. “I want to see people in my community united, have a good relationship with each other, have a greater understanding of their children's education, and pay attention to their children's education. More significantly, I want to see my community become a model community where people know how to cope with one another well.”