In the Siem Reap region of Cambodia everyone knows of the worldwide attraction and wonder of the famous Angkor Wat temples.
That has meant that tourism is the major employer beyond subsistence farming and the many family retail businesses and tourism means people visit from throughout the world from other parts of Asia and western countries.
That created an opportunity and one that was grasped by young Cambodian Svay Savong – to build a school to provide free language education to rural children and create employment opportunities with their new skills, especially in the tourist hubs of Siem Reap and beyond.
In 2005 Savong established the Savong School, a non-government organisation, some 25 minutes east of Siem Reap with the help of many supporters worldwide.
The school has continued to progress, grow and expand to meet the needs of poor and orphaned children and teach the languages useful in the local tourist sector – Korean, Japanese and English.
In 2009, four years after it began, the Savong School Organisation created an orphanage called SOC (Savong Orphan Centre), with 28 orphans now receiving an education.
Savong School has 12 staff members and 700 students, all of whom are poor or orphaned children and studying languages from 1-7pm each day free of charge.
Every year voluntary foreign language teachers come from various countries around the world and about 700 interns and 60 students are sent to public school, ranging from primary school to university, with the sponsorship of the Savong School Organisation which attentively monitors the studies of each student.
In fact, there are five poor students studying at high school and preparing themselves for university enrolment, and four students the first to already pursue their studies at university with their daily expenses, food and study materials covered and supplied by the Savong School Organisation.
Now directed by Svay Savong, the project always welcomes volunteers to give the children the gift of free education, especially help the needy, and provide them with quality education and future employment opportunities.
Savong School has also helped grant 100 wells to poor people in the Siem Reap region, inspecting the water quality every two months, and has built five homes, each of which can house five people, for poor families.
Director Savong also plans to provide food such as rice and other essential foodstuffs on a monthly basis to poor families to help ease their daily lives in the Siem Reap area.
Savong started the school because of his own experiences growing up in the years of poverty after the fall of the Pol Pot regime.
“I don’t want children to ever face what we had to face,” said Savong, who hopes that as well as the volunteers, funds and donations will continue to help the school and that the language skills the students receive free will provide a passport to future employment.