The small community of Prey Thom is located in Siem Reap Province, Cambodia, and comprises around 150 families with an average of 6-9 children per family, spread across 7 villages.
The community has neither running water, nor a waste/sanitation system. We are happy to say that electricity was connected in late 2013. However, many families have limited supply because it is too costly. Mobile phone service is also available for those who can afford it.
Houses are constructed from a range of materials including palm-leaf, wood, tin or brick, with many not lockable or weatherproof. Generally one room in size, they are essentially used for sleeping and dressing. The kitchen is outdoors, with pots over fires fueled with charcoal and wood. Washing and ablutions are performed outside as well.
This now semi-rural area was once a farming community, so most of the families have a subsistence farming background. However, with continued expansion of Siem Reap, many in the community are being alienated from their land.
The majority of adults within the community have little or no education and are unable to read or write. This severely limits alternative prospects for higher-skilled employment. As a consequence, parents go away from the community daily, weekly and even months at a time to find unskilled labour positions - often in construction, in factories or on farms. Several families in this community have been separated from one or both parents, whose search for work has taken them into Thailand or other parts of Cambodia. These families can stay estranged for years at a time.
The local Primary School offers education from Grades 1 to 6, but access to that education is very much reliant on the economic circumstances of the families.
Many children do not attend school consistently because their families cannot afford to send them. In their struggle to survive, spare money to buy uniforms or educational materials is unavailable. Often the children are needed to help bring in income or look after younger siblings while the parents are at work. Government school programs are theoretically free, but families must buy all the uniforms and supplies and pay for additional lessons to enable their child to pass.
The United Nations has identified education as a vital part of reducing poverty, improving the long-term survival and viability of communities, and improving health and family planning.
For the Prey Thom Community, a major step in helping to build a stronger and sustainable social and economic structure and brighter future for generations to come is to support programs that provide access to a safe and secure learning environment with proper resources and teaching programs in which they can obtain an education.
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