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A tour guide, a US couple and a school

A tour guide, a US couple and a school


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THERE are many projects that impact on the lives of the young children of Cambodia. Many of them involve international and local NGOs in their work throughout the Kingdom, but there are many others that the NGOs themselves recognise as important to their own objective of helping Cambodia.

These are non-profit and charit-able organisations and foundations putting money into many worthwhile, often long-term, projects undertaken, maintained and developed by Cambodians themselves who see a brighter and better future for their people, especially the young.

The Spitler School Foundation is a charitable foundation based in the US State of Arizona and its emergence was the result of a Siem Reap holiday by an American husband and wife and the enterprise, determination and dedication of a young Cambodian tour guide.

The result was the Spitler School, named after the couple Danny and Pam Spitler, and established in 2005, which now provides a primary education to almost 500 impoverished children in the village of Ang Chagn Chass, not far from the city of Siem Reap, supported by the Spitler School Foundation.

The school became a reality because of that tour guide Chea Sarin who, as a young boy, saw his family separated and his father killed during the genocide of the Khmer Rouge.

Sarin survived, learned English, vowed to make a difference in his community and longed to do something to help the children.

His dream became a reality when he was able to build a school in a village where no school existed.  With financial assistance from the Spitler family in the United States, what started as a small wood and thatch classroom with two teachers has grown into a substantial campus educating almost 500 students from kindergarten through to sixth grade.

The Spitler School is recognised by the Cambodian Ministry of Education for meeting and exceeding all standards for a primary education.

All administrative and teaching positions are filled with Cambodians earning good salaries, and in addition to providing an education for village children the school has become a source of pride for the surrounding area, as Sarin has helped to co-ordinate many initiat-ives to provide assistance to the families of the students.

Last month was the second graduation ceremony at Spitler School, with the presentation to 46 students with their graduation certificates from primary school.  Many of the graduates were members of the kindergarten class that arrived in September, 2005, on the day the Spitler School first opened its doors.    

Through their Class of 2011 Scholarship fund they  have raised enough to provide the graduates with the necessities they need to continue their education in middle school with each  receiving  a new bicycle, two school uniforms, and the necessary pens, pencils and notebooks that are required.

As more funds become available they expect to support the class with additional assistance for items such as dental care, tutoring assistance, bicycle repairs, and incentives for good attendance and academic achievement.

The drop out rate in Cambodia between grades seven and 12 exceeds 70 per cent, so the staff at the Spitler School monitor and support their graduates, aiming to break that trend and help them stay in school and also to break the cycle of poverty that their families have endured.

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