“Sing a song!” The hesitant but gleeful shout shout came from a young Cambodian girl, smiling timidly at her desk near the back of a naturally-lit classroom. “I had been standing at the blackboard, facing about twenty pairs of wide eyes on expectant faces,” recalls Victoria Radke, a CFF Board Member and Singapore American School senior. The eyes and faces belonged to students at Chibodia School, an afternoon English tutoring center in Kampong Speu Province, Cambodia. “I spoke deliberate English,” Victoria continues, “without going so slow that breaks between words caused the words to lose their meaning.” When one word lingered just a breath too long, at least one student saw an opportunity, not a misunderstanding.
“I can’t sing!” Victoria laughed, her face flushing slightly. But Victoria’s chest sank as the student slouched and put her head down. Knowing that a teacher must encourage, nurture, and empower her students’ confidence, Victoria quickly cycled through the catalogue of songs she knew by heart. “Visibly shaking, I cleared my throat and opened my mouth: ‘Oh say can you see, by the dawn’s early light.’” Though Victoria had sung the Star Spangled Banner countless times, this was her first solo. “My frog’s voice mattered little — the class beamed and, through these precious moments, we had captured each other’s hearts and minds. It’s amazing what confidence allows you to accomplish, whether as a teacher or student.”
Victoria’s experience was part of a two-week trip to Kampong Speu Province, Cambodia, in the summer of 2015. During her extensive residency in Kampong Speu, Victoria taught four English classes at a local public high school in the morning, and three more at the Chibodia School every afternoon. Victoria’s on-site visit supported CFF in three critical ways. First, as the founder of CFF’s Skype English Education Program, she was able to analyze, review, and align lesson plans with English teachers at the two schools. These exercises will improve the efficiency and effectiveness of CFF’s already well-honed English language teaching program. Second, Victora further solidified her own teaching credentials with experience in real-world rural Cambodian classrooms. Finally, Victoria’s presence demonstrated CFF’s ongoing commitment to its scholars and the Kampong Speu Province.
While in Kampong Speu, Victoria stayed with the family of a CFF scholar and forged lifelong friendships in, and connections to, this beautiful community. “As the days passed, I slowly became accustomed to the lifestyle there. The fans kept me sufficiently cool, I acquired a taste for the home cooked meals, and the family adopted me as one of their own.” At its essence, Victoria’s experience with the people, culture, and land of Kampong Speu reflects the journey taken by CFF scholars. Through education, service, confidence, community, and an open-mind, she not only realized, to a greater degree, the extent of her own potential, but lived it with purpose, passion, and perseverance.