THIS Life Cambodia began its own life in 2007 and the NGO believes that Cambodians can change their own community by getting parents and children involved in education.
Its main goal is to help local people and groups become fully self-sustainable. The starting point is their belief that every child has the right to a free, high-quality education.
It achieves the former through the latter by providing educational and training opportunities, securing project funding, building infrastructure, and creating networks of support.
It believes education enables children to develop the essential skills needed to make positive changes in their lives, and break free from poverty and the aims of This Life are to assist grassroots organisations in developing projects in an ecologically sensitive and socially just manner; to implement and coordinate community development and educational programs in various rural areas of Cambodia; and to facilitate people-centred learning.
“We believe that white people come to change the system in Cambodia. Khmer students should be taught by Khmer,” says Se Sen, assistant director to This Life Cambodia, an NGO based on producing sustainability through direct community direction.
This Life began when Billy Gorter, now This Life’s director, visited Cambodia as a volunteer. He met a guide who took him to the commune of Krabei Riel and told him he wanted two English classes for the children. Gorter then made a proposal to the community to raise funds and reached out to his friends and connections.
With their help, the first learning centre was built and is now 100 per cent run by the community.
“Most organisations cater to what volunteers want, not what communities want,” says program development officer Sophie Potter, and that is what separates This Life from the average Cambodian NGO.
This Life has created entry and exit level strategies via a three-point plan. The goal is for the community to become completely sustainable, minus the “hand-holding” of an outside resource.
It now has a lower-secondary school, which caters to 12 villages in Krabei Riel. The community comes up with the problems and has a yearly plan to address the issues at hand.
This Life created a tool called Participatory Rural Appraisal that finds out the problems and creates solutions with the guidance of This Life. Participatory Rural Appraisal plays the role as the facilitator.
This Life has also developed a School Support Committee, which functions like a Cambodian parent-teachers association and has a list of people that involve the community in every step of the program through yearly planning.
“At the end of the year we have a year work plan to see how successful the plan was. If not, we redesign and put it into the following year’s plan, “said Borany Chea, program director.
The funding is not from Western donors but rather This Life provides 40 percent while Krabei Reil accounts for the other 60 percent.
“Potentially, this program can work in any school and provide education for all of the children in Cambodia. As the community learns and is able to do more, This Life pulls back. The success is if we can leave. You don’t want to trade short term success for long term inequality “said Will Brehm, the research, monitoring, and evaluation officer.
Everything is kept internal, including providing Khmer teacher training at the teacher training college. This Life has also taken on another lower-secondary school in Chub’ Ta Trav, which has just finished its first year.
Aside from working with civilian youth, This Life created a program called This Life Beyond Bars, which works with Siem Reap’s incarcerated minors.
Beginning in November, 2010, the program was researched for 18 months before getting implemented.
It provides classes three times a week in vocational training such as motor mechanics and TV/radio repair and has built separate classrooms, all of which are solar powered, in the prison.
The NGO concentrates on personal development, morality, and healthy life choices and provides scholarships for families and has a set plan in place to support their child after release.
It is a progressive, forward-looking well-managed local NGO that believes education enables children to develop the essential skills needed to make positive changes in their lives and break free from poverty.