The official opening of the Volunteer Building Cambodia Community Centre was a great success.

We were joined by officials from the education department and the local commune along with some of our major sponsors and biggest supporters – Salesforce, Brendon Yardley and Karl and Annie Maughan from Karl’s Cambodian Cow Club. And we were thrilled to welcome a number of new and returning volunteers.

As is traditional in most homes and buildings in Cambodia, we invited the monks to bless our centre.

The Community Centre has been a dream of founder, Sinn Meang’s for more than two years and he has watched it grow from the seed of an idea to the impressive centre it is today, with a library and four classrooms.

“I wanted to create the community centre because I want to help all the poor people that they can’t afford an education,” Sinn says.

“Because most of the people in the countryside don’t have enough money to afford education.

“Most of them think it is not possible. I want to make them think it is possible.”

Sinn comes from a similar background and empathises with the circumstances of people living in rural areas.

“I grew up in a poor family. I could not afford for my own education. I went to grade 8 then I went and worked in construction. I want to share my own story with them.”

He wants to inspire them to see there is more they can do and they need to depend on themselves.

“They need to have their own plan, their own dream – not follow their parents to work on the farm.”

Head teacher Phirom Mean only took over the reins of the community centre in March and is well on the way to making it a leading example in Siem Reap District.

The community centre has 228 students, aged from 5 to 19 years.

In a nation where girls from rural areas often don’t finish primary school, it is great to see that 131 of our students are girls. We have 97 boys enrolled.

“It has been both a challenging and rewarding time for me,” Teacher Phirom says.

“Challenging, because I had no experience in setting up a new school, which involves many organisational things, which need to be done.

“But with help from my friends, both in and out of the education system we managed to get the school properly set up, systems in place and classes put together.”

“The rewards have come as I see 228 happy students attending the community centre and watching them progress as they learn English as a second language.”

Phirom is thrilled the community centre can boast an 85 per cent attendance rate – higher than many established NGO schools are achieving.

She attributes the high attendance to the teachers’ personal interest in the students. If a student misses more than 10 classes in a month then the teachers visit the family to find out why.

The centre teaches 10 classes a day and next term Phirom is hoping to introduce broader subjects like social studies, science and geography to expand general knowledge while teaching English.

“We are all keen to see Volunteer Building Cambodia Community Centre develop into one of the leading centres of education in Siem Reap District,” she says.

Sinn is thrilled with the success of the Community Centre.

“I’m very proud of myself and I’m very proud of my team,” he says.

“I’m very lucky to get this done and all my team worked very hard and did a great job.”

Later in the year Phirom is hoping to introduce long-term volunteers to help with pronunciation and lesson planning. If you are interested in helping out at the Volunteer Building Cambodia Community Centre, please get in touch.

We’d like to extend a huge thank you to everyone who has helped in anyway, big or small in making Mr Sinn’s dream a reality. You are all making a difference in the lives of Cambodian people.