International education consultant Sandy Furth featured VISIONS in a recent article for Insights, the newsletter for the Independent Educational Consultant Association (IECA). Sandy visited our Cambodia program site last spring, and talks about her time seeing the projects sites and getting to know Yuth, one of our summer leaders who is based there. Here’s a copy of the article:
Service Adventures in Cambodia
By: Sandy Furth, Director of World Student Support
Like many of my IECA colleagues, I travel far and wide to visit schools and programs. This past spring, I had the fortunate opportunity to go to Cambodia to scout programs that middle and high school students would be interested in attending. Before departing, I researched educational opportunities worth visiting. Because I had lived in Southeast Asia for a significant amount of time, I knew about Visions Service Adventures program and thought it might prove interesting.
Having spoken with Katherine Dayton, the executive director, at IECA conferences, I asked her to assist me in setting up a site visit in Battambang, Cambodia. Although no programs were in session, I was able to conduct site visits with the help and coordination of Visions Headquarters and Visions Cambodia partners.
Battambang, where visiting students live and volunteer, is a charming northern Cambodian city well known for food, friendly people, French architecture, and a relaxed pace of life surrounded by beautiful landscape.
Because it is an equatorial locale, it is hot and humid! Katherine arranged a two-day tour with Visions work and community partners so that I could get a feeling for the experience and the hard work that the participants do within the community. I set out with Visions guide Sav Yuth (known as Yuth), a young Cambodian woman who works with students each summer.
Yuth showed me two elementary schools that were in session and a couple of the projects that participants might be expected to accomplish during the summer. One school’s project is to pave a path to the standing statue so that students may pay respects.
At the other school, a rather simplistic water system typical of developing countries needs work, as does a toilet. Yuth also showed me a completed Visions project from last summer at an airfield turned sports field. Last year, students built a solid storage unit to keep sporting equipment safe and secure for the Battambang students. Needless to say, projects are not for the faint of heart!
With tremendous pride in her job, Yuth does more than scout jobs for the students; she is also the house mother. While the students are on-site, she takes care of them—she makes sure they are picked up at the airport upon arrival to Cambodia; helps them settle in; lives with them; arranges site-seeing excursions so the students learn about the city, its history, and the culture as they acclimate to their environment; assists with meals (students are responsible for cooking some of their meals); and takes them to the doctor when necessary. Her hospitality toward me was tremendous—if her kindness towards the students is half what I experienced, then the students can be assured they are in great hands.
Yuth understands that the students will walk away with a meaningful experience that provided a glimpse into another culture—a way of life completely different from their own—as well as a tremendous sense of accomplishment knowing that perhaps they made some change in the lives of others and left a better place to live for those who have just the bare minimum.
Sandy Furth can be reached at email@example.com.