Our first Project: - English classes in Steng Hau

Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world. Without decent education, there will be no way for Cambodians to build stable lives or a functionoing social system. But 3/4 of the Cambodian population has to survive with less than US$2 per day, and 1/3 of the people doesn't even have US$1 per day. We want to change that, and help break this vicious cycle.

Steng Hau is a rural fishing community, about 30 km north from the coastal town of Sihanoukville. To learn English, crucial to their future employment prospects, the children of Steng Hau would need to leave their families and their villages. Still-fragile family structures, only now recovering from destruction by war and terror, would be torn apart once again.

Thus, Future for Steng Hau's first objective is the establishment of regular and high-quality English classes, open to all the children of Steng Hau. The first class started on September 1, 2006, before our organization was even officially established. In January 2007, we started a second and third English class and a fourth in August. Since April 2008, five classes and currently, since November 2008 seven English classes of altogether more than 200 boys and girls between twelve and sixteen years old are supported by Future for Steng Hau.

On the ground in Cambodia, we are fortunate to have Thet, our Project Leader. He is a full-time employee of Sihanoukville's center for street kids, 'M'lop Tapang'. Thet has strong connections to the region, is familiar with the work of international charities, and has the boundless enthusiasm necessary to make our project a success.

As soon as a level of support necessary to sustain Future for Steng Hau's work in the long term has been established, more English classes will begin. We also plan to promote rural development among the people of Steng Hau with other activities that impact their world in a positive way.

The Importance of Speaking English, or Why Study English as a Second Language?

To be proficient at reading and speaking English is to have access to an almost unlimited array of information, culture and entertainment.

Similarly, those residing in non-English-speaking Western countries have at their disposal a wealth of excellent books, newspapers, magazines, Websites, classes and seminars, available in their native language. If a German student needs to learn more about the mathematical physics of quantum mechanics, a French mother wants to know whether to keep her sick child home from school, or a Spanish gardener desires redder, juicier tomatoes, the information they require is available, quite literally, at the touch of a button. Italian couples and others, meanwhile, can choose from among the latest and greatest films from around the world, each dubbed or subtitled for the local market.

Most importantly, each of these individuals has the ability to seek out, apply for and hold a variety of good jobs in their home countries, all without speaking a word of English.

Yet in Cambodia, only our first paragraph holds true: to acquire decent knowledge and training, and for jobs above the subsistence level, English is an absolute necessity. Cambodia's economy, completely destroyed during the time of the Khmer Rouge, is now gradually recovering...thanks in part to an international aid community which communicates predominantly in English. The country's intellectuals were systematically murdered during the dictator Pol Pot's reign of terror. As a new generation of well-educated Cambodians comes of age, their primary link with the world will be the lingua franca of international communication, the English language. Very few printed materials are available in Khmer, Cambodia's national language, and those who need reliable information on a variety of topics must depend on their knowledge of English.

Finally, many Cambodians wish to advance beyond the traditional rural occupations of rice farmer or fisherman, at which it may no longer be possible to feed and support a family. They usually find work within the tourism industry, or as a motor taxi driver...both of which naturally require the ability to speak some English.

Thus, learning to speak English may be the most important thing many Cambodians can do right now, a vital first step in improving their lives and securing a positive future for their children.

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