Australian Adrian Paschkow started his tuk tuk movie project to put a smile on the faces of children living in remote areas of Pursat province, while also wanting to motivate them to pursue education, using his tuk-tuk cum mobile movie theatre.
“The project does not do any formal education, but the goal of the project is to bring new ideas and thoughts into small communities. We go to five villages every two weeks for informal education, games and a movie shown on a screen on the back of our tuk tuk."
“We want to show kids new possibilities and motivate them to study and learn more by encouraging them to continue with state education,” says Paschkow, a former mechanical engineering technician of 11 years.
Paschkow lived in Indonesia for three years before moving to Cambodia to be with his wife Mayu in 2014, who was then a Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) teaching volunteer in Pursat’s education department.
He began volunteering with a local organisation repairing homes in rural parts of the province, with this experience providing him with the inspiration to start his tuk tuk project.
One afternoon when volunteering, a group of village children gathered around him to see the visiting barang (Khmer for foreigner).
Later that day, he led the children on a bicycle ride 5km to a village armed with a projector and a laptop. Word soon spread throughout the village and before they knew it they had over 50 children arrive to see the movie that night.
Seeing the joy it brought to the children, Paschkow and Mayu knew they wanted to make the screenings a regular occurrence.
The couple initially faced many challenges with the lack of electricity in rural areas, as well as their projector not being visible in the bright daylight, meaning they would have to wait until after dark for screenings, riding home in the pitch black.
This led to an unusual but innovative solution; a tuk tuk equipped with a 40 inch television that people can see during daylight and that also served as their ride home at night.
“My wife was here for two years and I wanted to do something meaningful while I was here. We had no intention to expand or continue the tuk tuk project after her two year JICA contract ended, but we both fell in love with the country and thought that we have so much more that we can help with,” Paschkow says.
In 2017, the couple officially registered their organisation Tuk Tuk for Children with the Ministry of Interior.
The Australian now also works for ASC Ltd – a company dedicated to supporting charities in Cambodia, in which 20 per cent of the company’s profits are donated to run the project.
They also added a mobile library project in 2017.
“The schools often did not have a librarian so we decided to do a mobile library which means that every two months we go to the schools and change the books and toys for new ones."
“This way, the teachers always have new content and we can act as the librarians, making sure that the books and toys are repaired and complete. We also run teacher workshops to train the teachers on how to use all of the extra materials that we provide so that they know how to use them to teach the government curriculum."
“We offer them informal education on geography, sanitation, yoga, well basically anything that we can think of to kick start their little minds and bodies into action. We hope through encouraging this inquisitive nature that we can provide the motivation for the children to ask more questions, be interested to study and to challenge themselves to look for a better future,” Paschkow says.
Tuk Tuk for Children employs local Khmer staff who act as interpreters as well as being part of the team.
Often a volunteer will do a presentation about who they are and where they come from aiming at building an interest and knowledge of the world beyond Pursat.
Part of a children’s movie is shown on the TV screen mounted on the tuk tuk and often some minimal translation is provided to explain the dialogue. Informal educational clips about sanitation and the benefits of putting rubbish in bins are shown.
“The state teachers are very good, they just don’t have access to the books and toys we can get donated from overseas. Nekru Somaly the manager of early childhood education in Pursat province has been very supportive. Without her help, we would not be as successful as we are today,” says Paschkow.
Since books and toys are very expensive, he started to get donations from overseas and translate the books into Khmer.
“We noticed that there is very limited books in Khmer and none that are aligned with the government curriculum so we have now hired an illustrator and we will make a series of books that are aligned to the state curriculum. We also will create Youtube lessons for teachers to show them what we teach in our workshops so that all teachers in Cambodia have access."
“We will also make sure that our books are free for teachers to download and print for classes anywhere in Cambodia. We are doing a local Wi-Fi hotspot in the eight kindergartens which will have all of the videos and books that we create so that anyone in the village can have access. We plan to build on this digital library and try to offer it to more schools around Cambodia,” says Paschkow.
For more information and to donate to Tuk Tuk for Children visit their website (www.tuktuk4children.org) or phone (069 679 373).