Kingdom of Cambodia
Cambodia is the youngest of our Presentation missions. On October 4th 2016 in Church Park, Chennai, India, three pioneering women, Sr. Lizzy Mathew, Preethi Chacko and Anne Lyons were missioned and sent forth on behalf of the Congregation, to serve in collaboration with the Jesuit Mission Cambodia.
This collaboration, involves engaging in partnership in a new Education Project – Dare to Dream a Brighter Future. On October 7th, 2016 we arrived in Sisophon, a town in the North-West Province of Banteay Meanchey, Cambodia. It is considered one of Cambodia’s poorest Provinces. The villages of Phnom Bak and Dey Lo are two rural villages about 7 kms from the town of Sisophon.
We had a short period of immersion into the culture of Cambodia. Subsequent to this we travelled the long journey from Sisophon via Battambang, to Phnom Penh. Our main focus while there was to the study of Khmer Language. Subsequent to this relatively short period, we returned to Sisophon and Xavier Jesuit School, July 2017. Xavier Jesuit School community is an ever-changing intercultural, intergenerational and international gathering of people: Jesuits, and Presentation Sisters and also Lay Volunteers from other countries – Korea, France and Australia and Ireland. All are committed to the vision of Xavier Jesuit School: Dare to dream a brighter future.
Cambodia- Lizzy, Preethi and Myself in Chennai October 4th 2016
2nd Grade at Phnom Bak School in May 2018 - English Class
Bishop Kike Figerado, Julie, Preethi, Lizzy and Anne. October 2017
Anne -Cutting the Ribbon, Deputy Minister of Educ - Bishop Kike and civic leaders
CLC - The First Building for teaching. Bedrooms upstairs
Another image of a section of the new Primary school 2017
Our Ministry as Educators
Ours is a daily journey of faith as we place the well of our shared life experience at the service of the people of the villages of Phnom Bak and Dey Lo. Good quality Education is one of the greatest areas of need in Cambodia. The entire school is co-educational. The students come from the nearby villages of Phnom Bak and Dey Lo. More recently, Hostels for Boys and Girls from the more rural areas of Banteay Meanchey Province have been built. This ensures that young teenage boys and girls with capacity can avail of a Scholarship and High School Education.
As Presentation Sisters, we are primarily engaged in helping to develop a model of education that in integrative, innovative and offers diverse opportunities to our students. This is an evolving educational project, which began in 2013 with the building of a Community Learning Centre. At present the project includes a Community Learning Centre, Kindergarten, two Primary Schools, and the High School.
All three of us are members of the School Leadership Team. Together with Fr. Quyen sj, Director of Xavier Jesuit School, and the Administration Office; we meet bi-monthly to reflect, discern and make decisions concerning the life of the Schools. Sr. Anne works as Assistant to Fr. Quyen where she helps to draft the necessary school policies required for the professional functioning of this educational project.
Sr. Preethi serves as the High School Principal, which presently comprises Grade 7 to Grade 9. Srs. Lizzy and Anne serve as Vice-Principals in the Primary School in Dey Lo (nearby village) and in Phnom Bak respectively. Together they assist the Principal, Katherine – a married woman from Hong Kong, as the Primary School Leadership Team. In this role, we are responsible for ongoing appraisal and professional development of the teaching staff. All three of us also teach a number of classes of English weekly.
Home visitation is important to all of us. It offers insights into the reality of our students’ homes and lives and how we can help them in relation to their studies or with tuition concession. Many of our students are being raised by grandparents, while their parents travel to work in Thailand in the hope of better wages and better quality of life for their children.
A country in recovery:
Cambodia faces numerous challenges. The traumatic events of the Khmer Rouge war and subsequent wars saw the destruction and extinction of some of the finest minds in Cambodia. The country is still in recovery from the dark chapters of its recent history. There are a number of areas requiring much needed development: the areas of socio-political, socio-economic, alongside the widespread poverty, pervasive corruption, lack of political freedoms, and a low human development.
Choir on Inaugural Day Dec 2nd 2017
Anne with Grade 2 Children Phnom Bak
Balance with Balloons
We began in 2016 and are presently into our third year in Cambodia. Not having a really good grasp of the Khmer language is a limiting and sometimes quite frustrating factor for us. One is especially aware of this when you observe the need for extra help, support learning and remedial Education. To address this need we set in place Remedial Education for our Students. We work away quietly with our limitations!
We see ourselves as sowers of tiny seeds in this country, which is still in recovery from its traumatic past. Our hope is that the hidden seeds of our daily, and our humble efforts to serve in this collaborative mission of Education of the poor; will, in time, grow, flourish and bear much fruit. By enabling, encouraging, educating our young people to grow to their full potential; we hope that the efforts of all here at Xavier Jesuit School, will be a catalyst for the influencing and shaping the Education of Youth throughout Cambodia.