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Weekly Speaker Program

July 29, 2019: Manon Mitchell, "From Cambodia: a Child's Future".

Our guest speaker was introduced by Judy Cochran. Manon Mitchell is a member of the Downtown Rotary Club, president of the Calgary Civic Symphony, assistant governor for District 5360, and has held an impressive number of other leadership positions, both inside and outside of Rotary.

In 2017, RCCW contributed $5K to Cambodia, A Child’s Future, which, through the magic of Rotary leverage, generated $28K USD for this initiative. Today, approximately halfway through the three-year project, Manon wished to provide us with an interim report.

The initiative has two principal objectives: to make learning fun, and to gain more community investment.

Cambodia suffered horrendously with the “secret war” — the US carpet bombing of Cambodia during the Vietnam war, and the subsequent Khmer Rouge regime under Pol Pot, which killed millions of citizens (virtually a third of the population) who had any educational background in virtually every field of study. When the Khmer Rouge were ousted in 1980, the country was left with no schools, no one with any education and huge PTSD issues. This left a immense illiteracy problem and a desperate need for rebuilding educational systems. But communities did not have the funds to prioritize educational needs.

Manon has worked with Rotarians and other members of the Cambodian community to train administrators and teachers, and to provide resources, all under the umbrella of making learning fun so that children/students would be enticed to attend classes and to learn.

The project's geographical focus is centred on the town of Pursat, NW of Phnom Penh, and involves 19 schools. With initiatives including “games in a box” and other resources, the children have developed a love of going to school. To date, the project team has seen a huge improvement in students’ literacy (originally as low as 60% illiteracy in grade 6 students) and math skills — and visits to the schools’ libraries have increased by 400%. The communities have become far more invested in these initiatives and the students themselves participate on commune committees to identify key problem areas and suggest solutions.

Since this is a Rotary initiative, Manon has, of course, been busy ensuring all investments and expenditures are diligently tracked and recorded to meet the exacting requirements of the global grant committee. All is in order, and Manon will be approaching our club in the future for financial support for Phase 2 of this tremendous success story.

Gail Williams thanked Manon for her very enlightening presentation and, since Manon has previously received a Boltman, a donation to Polio Plus is being made in her name.

  • Manon Manon Mitchell and Gail Williams

reported by Les Morgan

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