The Cambodian School on Koh Chang
Koh Chang has a problem in that it’s hard for hotels and businesses to attract Thai staff to come and work here. Most unskilled or semi-skilled workers prefer to be in towns or cities where there’s plenty of cheap accommodation; cheap food; markets; shopping malls and entertainment. There’s none of that here. So increasingly Cambodian workers are used not only to work in resorts but also to build them. There are now around 8,000 Cambodians living and working on Koh Chang.
You probably won’t realise it but, although the front desk staff at your hotel will be Thai, the chances are that the majority of the other staff will be Cambodian. Employers like to hire Cambodian staff – they have a reputation for working hard, plus are easier to hire and fire than Thai staff. Cambodians come to Koh Chang as it’s close to the border – under 100Km and although many are paid less than their Thai counterparts it’s still an opportunity to work and save money that they can send home to their families.
The majority are employed legally, but there are many, especially those doing construction work, who aren’t. If they don’t have a work permit then they cannot get benefits such as cheap healthcare or having their kids go to a local Thai school.
The Beginning of Cambodia Kids Care ( CKC )
In mid 2008 a Dutch couple, who had set up schools for disadvantaged children in other countries around the world, learned of the plight of Cambodian kids living in a slum village near Klong Prao village, Koh Chang. They visited, saw the conditions and learned how the kids were often left alone for 8 – 10 hours a day, unsupervised, whilst their parents went to work. They acted and set up a school which they funded. The aim was to provide a basic free education, nutritious lunch and a safe environment for as many children as possible children.
Back in February 2009, I mentioned it in an update and since then the facility has improved and gone from strength to strength.
Nowadays, CKC is run through a Thai charity based here in Koh Chang; Studybuddies Foundation. It receives no financial support from the authorities on Koh Chang or Thai government. It is financed entirely by donations.
Every weekday from 8am – 3pm, up to 50 Children, aged from 4 – 14 attend the simple, thatched roof school. They are taught various subjects in both English and Thai.
The aim isn’t to help them pass exams but to give them a good basic education; widen their view of the world and provide life lessons in order for them to have the opportunity to gain employment and get our of the cycle of poverty. They are taught to work together and to look after each other. They help with preparing food at lunchtime and cleaning the school at the end of the day. The older kids are also encouraged to mentor and tutor the younger ones.
BUT . . .
CKC needs your help.
As I mentioned, funding is entirely through donations. The school has very modest running costs but it does have to cover costs each and every month from donations.
CKC faced closure mid-2015 as donations were not covering expenses. The school’s sole permanent teacher Uan, who has been with the school since it’s inception, did not draw a salary for most of the year. He has kept CKC running by living off of dwindling savings because he believes in the work he is doing.
In the past, Helios Life, a Swiss based organisation, also contributed an invaluable 45% of the monthly running costs. But CKC still had a shortfall of 55% of their running costs that had to be begged or borrowed each month. So throughout the school’s life there has always been constant pressure to find funds to continue running the school.
( The school was closed for a couple of days as the teacher had to attend a funeral off the island. A couple of Italian visitors to the island carried two large bags of rice down the muddy track to the school and found it was closed. They left a note. )
Volunteer teachers at the school have also used their social media skills to raise funds. For example, during covid there were very few tourists visiting the island and funds were extremely tight. Dani, a Canadian volunteer, raised CA$1,200 to pay for the land rent for the school in 2021 so that it could stay operating.
Currently, as of late 2022, a Danish tour agent, Bambus Rejser, which prides itself on socially responsible travel, is also helping fund the school by donating some of the profits from its tours to Koh Chang to the school.
How much does it cost to keep a school for 50 kids running for a year?
Have a guess.
You’ll need to take into account rent for the land; the teacher’s salary; materials for the school; ingredients and utensils for lunch; clothes for the poorest kids; running the old pick up truck that’s used to buy supplies and also transport etc
. . .
. . .
If you guessed $1 per child per school day then you’d be correct.
Just $50 per day or $250 / week is all the school requires to continue educating 50 children.
If you aren’t familiar with USD, then another way to look at is is that £20 provides all the fuel need for a week and EUR50 covers the water and electricity for an entire month.
How Can You Help?
The first, and obvious way, is to help sponsor the school. Make a donation.
100% of what you give goes to the Cambodian Kids Care project to cover expenses such as; teaching supplies, fuel, gas, rent, water, electricity, food and the teacher’s modest salary.
Donate your Time & Skills / Knowledge
If you’re coming to Koh Chang on holiday and want to see the reality of life for your hotels staff and workers here, you’re welcome to call into the school. Spend a day helping the kids with their English, teaching them a practical skill, teaching songs, reading stories. Perhaps you aren’t a teacher, but do have practical skills – plumber, electrician, mechanic, carpenter, gardener etc – share and teach some of your skills to the older kids or help do some repairs on the school.
If you’d like to volunteer to help teach at the school for a day, a week or a month you’d be more than welcome.
Donate Useful Items
If you’d like to donate some school supplies or items for the children;’s lunches, then get in touch with CKC before you visit. They’ll give you a list of inexpensive items that are required and most useful to them.
Or Just Give The Kids a Treat
You could of course just do something to bring a smile to the kids faces. As the sun came out at the end of the rainy season, Francis from Switzerland arranged for the children to have lunch and swim in the pool at Boonya Resort, Klong Prao.
Help Make a Difference. Contact Cambodia Kids Care
Email: [email protected]
Phone: To arrange to visit CKC, call Uan, the teacher, on +66 85 994 5101 – he speaks good English