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Photographer's Note

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Photo taken inside the classroom connected to Chong Kneas Catholic Church operated by the donations of travelers who cannot close their eyes while witnessing the illiteracy. A Cambodian teacher is hired to teach Vietnamese children English using Khmer language, as you see in the tiny board used as notebook.

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Tonle Sap Lake adjoins the Mekong River and is located in central Cambodia near Angkor Wat. Tonle Sap swells from 3,000 sq km to over 7,500 sq km in size and can go from 2.2 meters to over 10 meters deep. Families in the local area live on and around the lake. When the lake floods, people cannot stay in their houses nor can they grow enough food for subsistence. A farmer with a typical small plot of land can grow only enough food to feed a family for about 3 months of the year; the family must purchase the rest of their food. Currently, only 35% of the population can read and write and 50% is under age 17.

To break the cycle of poverty, education is critical but expensive and often is not readily accessible; therefore education is unattainable for many. The only school on the lake floats around based on the water level. Many children do not have the means to get to school because they do not have access to a boat. Since the school is similar in style to railroad cars that are linked together, when they do get to school, they must jump up onto the classroom platform from their small boats. To move between classrooms, they must leap over open water to span the gap between the platforms. The nature of the school means that it is less than safe, and in need of constant repair and expansion. An additional classroom and a floating school bus will mean that more children will be able to attend school safely.

In addition, there is no access to educational materials such as books, videos and maps. Fulfilling the request for a free-floating, climate-controlled library that is outfitted with electricity and can travel to the various classrooms and community centers around the lake will enhance the quality of life for both students and their families.

Further, the parents have stressed the need for a safe place for their children to play. A floating playground will serve this purpose.

School is not free to the students in Cambodia. They pay registration and monthly fees. They must provide their own books, uniforms and meal. To sponsor a child for a year costs about $120, an amount which is far above the means of most parents who live on the lake.

Teachers usually need to travel about 20 miles from Siem Reap to Tonle Sap Lake, and their salaries are extremely low. Incentives are critical to ensure that the school retains committed teachers. (Source)



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