I have been home from Cambodia for two months now, however the lessons I learned remain in the forefront of my mind. My path crossed with people doing such brave and truly incredible work for the benefit of their country, and I felt lucky just to be in their presence. The Khmers I got to know welcomed my classmates and I in such a hospitable way, and I hope that I can carry their positive and loving energy with me.
As the excitement of summer ends and begins to make way for the anticipation of school beginning again in the coming month, I can’t help but compare my own educational experience to that of the kids I taught in Siem Reap. I have realized that I come from a place that at least basic education is accessible, as well as is valued by society. Volunteering in one of the many schools run by NGO’s in Siem Reap, my eyes have been opened to not only the true value of education, but also how difficult it is for many children to attend school. I was placed in a school called Anjali House, which was a wonderful NGO and was run by both Khmers and foreigners. In Cambodia, many families are unable to send their kids to school because they need them to be out working on the streets, making money for food. Anjali House, like other organizations, removes the need for the children to work for food by providing families with rice in exchange for student attendance. This has been extremely effective.

The children I taught at Anjali House were smart, beautiful, and wonderfully creative. The enthusiasm for crayons and paper by students of all ages was so infectious that I found myself looking forward to the time spent drawing, even though unlike them, I was able to indulge in endless arts and crafts as a kid. They created masterpieces daily, and all it took was giving them the opportunity. That is the biggest lesson I learned from the students I taught. If I provided a means for them to learn, be creative, or have fun, they jumped in with both feet. Unlike me at their age, they understand how important learning is, and have placed value on it from a young age. Despite tiny hot classrooms with limited materials, nothing got in the way of the dedicated teachers from doing their jobs to the fullest, or the students from learning in a space created for them to be children.
For the first time in 16 years, I will not be going back to school in the fall. My formal education, for the time being, has ended. I feel accomplished yet terrified of the thought that now I have to actually use my education. My month in Cambodia taught me more than I could have hoped to learn, and has left me with the knowledge that education is not something to be taken for granted. I am inspired by the work so many are doing to ensure that education is made available for all kids. How can we all contribute to helping every child get the opportunity he or she deserves to discover their unique potential? Who knows what amazing things are in store for the world when more young minds are spurred into action. I am excited to find out.

Brand Category: 

About The Author

Kelsey Lettko's picture

Kelsey Lettko finds happiness in dancing, traveling, music, and good conversation.  She is a San Francisco Bay Area native, who loves to explore both her own community and the world. She has traveled to Swaziland to aid in malaria net distributions, Argentina to study and teach dance, and Cambodia to teach English and volunteer on an elephant reserve.  As a recent graduate from the University of Redlands, she has a BA in Sociology and Anthropology and is very excited to embark on her post-grad journey and see where life takes her.

Add new comment

To prevent automated spam submissions leave this field empty.
This question is for testing whether or not you are a human visitor and to prevent automated spam submissions.
2 + 10 =
Solve this simple math problem and enter the result. E.g. for 1+3, enter 4.
By submitting this form, you accept the Mollom privacy policy.