Over the past two weeks PEPY has seen its first two groups of trip participants from the United Arab Emirates arrive in Siem Reap and spend a week working in rural Preah Lean village assisting in the construction of a new elementary school.
PEPY, in partnership with a local Emirati NGO, is working to construct three primary schools in Chanleas Dai providing safe, permanent learning environments for 777 rural Cambodian students. Over the past month, we have had three groups of volunteers from the UAE arrive in Siem Reap and assist with the construction of new government primary schools in Preah Lean, and Run villages.
With active participation and cultural exchange between the participants and community, lively discussion about issues in development, as well as film screenings and Khmer cooking lessons, both trips have been overwhelming successes.
The first group, dubbed “The Pioneers,” brought together young professionals from diverse backgrounds living in the UAE. The Pioneers spent one week painting the school’s bathrooms, sanding some of its desks, and working tireless hours relocating enough dirt to ensure a suitable road from the village to the school, easing the children’s daily commute during the rainy season.
Our second Emirati trip was comprised of 14 young women from the Abu Dhabi and Dubai campuses of Zayed University and two American chaperones. Their week consisted of painting classrooms, sanding and varnishing desks, and leveling the ground behind the school which will eventually be turned into a volleyball court for the students.
Our third trip, made up largely of Emirates airline employees, are still shoveling and filtering sand in Run village, finishing their trip on the 29th. All groups successfully overcame heat, humidity, bumpy roads, geckos, power outages, thunderstorms, and even evenings without water, all while maintaining positive attitudes and their senses of humor. It has been an absolute pleasure for those of us leading the trips to have the opportunity to share with and learn from all the participants.
We hope that this is only the beginning of a partnership that will help ensure that all students in Chanleas Dai have access to high-quality, child-friendly learning environments. We expect construction at Preah Lean to be finished in late April, and Tram Kong and Run primary schools to be complete by June 1st.
By the end of May, we expect that over 60 volunteers will have participated in the construction of these schools, providing not only labor and energy, but also sharing their values and their personal investment in the value of education. We hope that participants, as well as their families and friends, will continue to stay in touch with PEPY as we begin relationships with these schools, seeking to improve the quality within the walls we have built.
As the 39 trip participants on the first three trips have seen, the beautiful buildings we created together are only the beginning. We are excited to continue working with these students, teachers, and communities to build environments where education is valued, accessible, and useful.
We hope that participants will stay in touch with our team here, sharing their experiences, memories of the trip, and questions. Thank you for joining us, and for supporting our team.