From service to social justice
Prior to entering university, the CFF student cohort created and designed projects that would benefit their community. They learned about project design; budgeting; public speaking; problem solving; and critical thinking. They learned that, sometimes, changing the hearts and minds of others can be challenging. For example:
In Cambodia, people tend to throw their trash on the ground, in the rivers, and along the highways. Some of our students noticed that their high school campus was covered with trash. Through research they decided that, maybe this was the custom or the culture, but it was not healthy or pleasing to the eye. So, they gathered their friends and fellow students and convinced them to do a trash pick-up. To their surprise, two days later, the trash was back. So they picked up the garbage again and again it returned. The concluded that the answer was not collecting the trash but changing the mindset of their classmates, teachers, and administrators. This was a major step in their thinking.
The students spent weeks talking, debating, teaching, and convincing. It began to work. They bought trash bins. The first week, the bins were stolen! So they convinced their teachers to lock the bins in the classrooms at night. This worked. Slowly but surely the campus was cleaner and stayed cleaner longer. This was a major win for the CFF cohort and a game changer for the community.
The students went from the school campus to the village. They met with village leaders and spoke to community members. These empowered young people became change agents. They went beyond charity – beyond community service – to social justice.
CFF’s student cohort divided into four project groups, which are undertaking the following ventures:
- Sanitation and Community Health Project
- Trash Management Project
- Tree Planting Project
- Football Club Project
Each of these projects were created and planned, and are being implemented, by the ingenuity, hard work, and innovation CFF scholars. CFF provides these students with project oversight, funding, and relevant workshops. But the day-to-day execution and long-term planning for the projects is the sole responsibility of the CFF scholars within each group. Successful creation, design, and implementation of a sustainable community service project is the cornerstone of CFF’s vision and mission. Through these projects, CFF scholars learn about community, leadership, project and time management, teamwork, organization, service, and communication. All of these are critical skills that CFF students will carry and spread into university and beyond as they become the next generation of leaders in their villages, provinces, and Cambodia.
SANITATION AND COMMUNITY HEALTH PROJECT
Project Objective — CFF scholars will build toilets for families in Kchas Village and develop a public health education program concentrating on hygiene and environmental preservation through sanitation.
Project Overview — Kchas Village is in the Oudong District of Kampong Speu Province, Cambodia, which is 55 kilometers, but hours of travel, from Phnom Penh. Most residents are famers, factory workers, or construction workers, m
any of whom migrate to distant cities and other countries to ply their trades. Their ongoing lack of access to basic necessities (clean water, food, electricity, etc.) is compounded by limited public and private sanitation and health resources. Among the approximately 60 households in Kchas Village, fewer than ten have a toilet. Endeavoring to improve the health and living standards of Kchas residents, CFF’s Sanitation and Community Health Project endeavors to improve the health and living standards of Kchas residents by building toilets and developing a sanitation and hygiene education program for the villagers.
The history of this project, however, demonstrates greater acumen, depth, and learning by the CFF scholars than their already impressive service project. CFF’s students did not simply arrive in Kchas and begin working on their own terms. Instead, they ensured community collaboration and long-term viability through dialogue and understanding. The students first met with the village chief to learn more about Kchas and obtain his support for the Sanitation and Community Health Project. They also interacted with villagers to better understand their socio-economic status, their health needs, and the consequences of not having access to a toilet. By forming community-level relationships and asking meaningful questions, the CFF students determined that without toilets, the villagers faced numerous and dangerous health problems (which were especially detrimental to child safety), contaminated drinking water sources, and deterioration of local environments and ecosystems. Thus the Sanitation and Community Health Project was born through trust, collaboration, critical thinking, and inclusive leadership learned not only in the classroom, but through real-world and consequential interactions by the students with those most affected by their decisions.
Through this service project, the relevant CFF scholars will deliver positive, meaningful, and lasting changes to Kchas’s health, safety, prosperity, and natural resources. In addition, the CFF scholars are creating a sustainable and affordable model for neighboring villages to emulate.
Project Activity — The CFF students have now met with Kchas residents to determine which families will receive the first toilets. To date, two toilets have been built and construction on four more is underway. The students have worked with Kchas residents to determine an acceptible contribution amount from each family receiving a toilet. This practice continues CFF’s focus on collaboration and inclusion, and also establishes each family’s responsibility, ownership, and support for the improvements on their property. Like CFF, its scholars are empowering Cambodians to realize their own potential and change their own lives. In addition, the Sanitation and Community Health Project has disseminated detailed and important information about their project to residents; printed and distributed posters providing daily health and hygiene education; and met with Kchas village children to educate them on caring for themselves and the village environment. In the coming months, the CFF scholars will work with these children to collect trash throughout the village, thereby inviting every generation to improve Kchas’s health and environment. The Sanitation and Community Health project will continue working with Kchas village on matters of public health and sanitation, and to determine the next families to receive toilets.
Here is CFF student Sokvy talking about her project
Participating CFF Scholars (given names only) — Sokvy, Sreyneath, and Sreylin .
Bringing organized sports to Kampong Speu
Unlike many places in the world, children in the provinces of Cambodia do not have school sports, community teams, or after school activities. But Cambodian boys and girls love the game of soccer or football. They play whenever or wherever they can. However, one CFF cohort decided to take this to the next level. Their project was to introduce organized soccer to the school and the community. With a CFF grant they purchased uniforms, balls, goals, and other equipment. They found coaches or coached themselves. For the first time in their community both boys and girls were able to play games against other teams. What a great accomplishment. Another example of social justice – make room on the field so everyone can play.
School Beautification Project
Besides collecting trash, a CFF cohort decided to help beautify their school campus. With a CFF grant they purchased trees and other plants. With the help of their classmates they planted and created a more pleasing learning environment.