Four other Better World Books employees and I visited Cambodia to see first hand the incredible impact that Room to Read is making in Cambodian schools through their library, computer classroom, and Room to Grow Girls’ Scholarship programs.
The most soul stirring part of the trip was our visit to the family of a Room to Grow scholar named Yum Sophally. To reach her home we traveled almost 2 1/2 hours each way using three modes of transportation. The first hour we traveled by car and to our surprise transferred to a hummer truck in order to traverse the rocky and practically road less terrain. Lastly, a thirty-minute boat ride brought us to a small fishing community by the name of Thnot Leam Bot which translates into “broken palms”. This small village is the home of seventeen Room to Read scholars.
Prior to Room to Read’s assistance these girls would have had to make the very expensive 2 1/2 hour trek each day to and from school. However, thanks to the scholarship program, room and board is provided for the scholars close to the school where they are cared for by their teachers.
We were graciously welcomed into the home of Yum’s mother, In Lavy. In Lavy is a fifty-eight-year-old widower and sixteen-year-old Yum is her only child. As a testament to this woman’s generosity and warmth, she has taken in her orphaned niece and nephew who did their homework in the next room as we spoke. In Lavy described Yum as a quiet, gentle, and studious girl who is incredibly cautious and thoughtful. In Lavy, knows that her investment in her education is crucial to Yum fulfilling her dreams of becoming a teacher or doctor.
Although, mother and daughter only see each three times a year they have fully embraced this opportunity as only 19 percent of Cambodian girls are enrolled in school at the secondary level. As we closed our interview In Lavy promised that “As long as I’m on the earth I’m committed to helping my daughter continue her education.”
By Damara Catlett, Northern Mid-Atlantic Regional Director, Better World Books
Photo Courtesy of Better World Books