One to one with Who Will children as they move to Young adulthood…
In Sept 2014, while on a career break, I decided to make a personal trip to visit the Who Will village. The purpose of this solo trip was to have a 1 to 1 talk with the children above 16 yrs ie young adults I like to call them.
Just 4 years ago when I started to volunteer for Sakka while living in Hong Kong, these same children were 13 years old. So they were technically still children and I recall very fondly having Sakka Olympics and simple games like running with a baton across a field was a fun and fulfilling day as a volunteer. But today, these 13 year olds have now all grown up to become young adults and playing in the field are no longer relevant support for these older children.
Some background of my experience in Sakka, between 2011- 2013, I have managed to get my company Pepsi to sponsor these children to compete in the Annual Angkor Wat Bike Rally every December. In each race, some of the children would win top 3 in their categories and this was a very proud moment for them. For past 3 years, this annual event has turned into an annual holiday not just for the children competing, but for the whole school as their year end outing and reward trip for the staff too. However, while sports was a main motivator for me to volunteer, I have noticed that the older children’s needs would start to change and it was interesting for me to see what else I can do to support their adulthood. Hence in 2014, instead of the biking race, I decided to do a solo 1 to 1 chat to find out more about what these young adults are thinking abt regarding their future…
I had quick 5-7 mins chats with 9 of them – most of whom I have known for 4 years now. And these are my observations and personal views :
- Most of the boys want to be engineers for some reason. And they spoke a lot on building houses and roads. I believe this is a sign of them being aware of the state of their country and what is needed to build their own home. But it is quite a norm for them to say that. It was better than hearing they wanted to be farmers. The only exception was Sophea who seem very lost in his thoughts and was about to leave the school to be a mechanic. Personally I think there is nothing wrong with that and we should support that as a vocation. Some of them will do better in vocational work than a university degree in an office…
- Most girls want to be accountants – no idea why or where they got that influence. However, there are only 3-4 girls at that age so I suppose they influence each other. Maybe they have the thought that accountants can be in charge of the money in the household. Good for them!
- The boys are slightly behind in their grade in school compared to the girls. The new Guardian said that the girls are far more obedient and studious than the boys.
- I also learnt that most of them have their siblings and parents still in Cambodia and they live in their province. They see their parents about 2 times a year during national holidays. I wonder how hard it is to have to give your children away to a school like Who Will but none of them dont seem to be angry at all with their parents. Also most of them in Who Will are the last child in the family – which I assume the parents had no more funds to support them.
Personally I feel some of them are really at a cross roads like Sophea. If you see where they live, its literally in the middle of a field and away from interacting with others when they are in their dormitory – besides going to school. Being young adults I also feel that they will start to want to be with the opposite sex and they only have the same girls or boys in Who Will. They need a different type of environment.
Secondly, most of them are in Grade 11-12 and I believe its till Grade 13 or 14 to finish high school - so they have 2 more years before they are thinking about working or getting married. Moving forward, the volunteers needed are not so much for English lessons etc but more skills based or some technical learning. Perhaps now there are some others e.g SIA’s day with them on cooking. But these older ones will need higher learning environment so they can progress and not be confined to just Who Will or volunteers visiting to do day events.
We should think in the direction of how to give them further education or vocational training support or even internship with companies would be great exposure for them. This is the case of Sophea but I think some others will follow too in his footsteps to think vocational and for the girls who want to be accountants. How to give them that commercial and industrial experience will be the challenge. This probably needs us to connect with companies that will provide them that internship who have factories in Cambodia or offices in Cambodia. Not sure how we will do that and if Gerald himself have connections already.
Overall this small trip has got me thinking of the next phase of volunteership with Sakka. Personally I will continue to pursue the sporting opportunities in Cambodia be it biking in Angkor wat, and maybe new sports like rock climbing in Sihanoukville or 10 km run evens in Cambodia to ensure they have that balance and chance to get out to see other parts of their country. But definitely the next phase will be different and it will such great gratification to see them through the next 3 -4 years as they grow in to adulthood and to be able to open that opportunity for them to be part of the workforce and to do what they want to do in life.