There is a wide variation in the scholastic abilities of the kids, and it doesn't always correlate with age. Along with the normal distribution of IQ's, this depends somewhat on what educational opportunities were available to children in the particular rural communities where they resided before coming to KSEDO. And what education they could afford.
Near the end of our second week, we asked Ms. Sophorn if she could share some more information on the children. The kids range in age from 3 - 16. Of the ~ 30 kids at the orphanage, 7 are true orphans with no parents. The others have 1 parent, with the exception of Sophea (age 3), who is Ms. Sophorn's son. About 70% of the kids have at least one sibling at KSEDO, so they have that support system. And many of them have bonded tightly with non-siblings, without being clique-ish.
|Sophea is one strong 3-year old, but is not in school yet|
The kids with one parent often had other family problems. One child grew up begging on the streets because her father, her only living parent, was in prison. She is loveable but still a little bit ragged, with some of her street habits. The mother of three of the other children is very ill. Another boy's mother remarried, and the stepfather was abusive.
|Ragamuffin Saruon gets a hug from Mesa as Reaksa salutes|
|Saruon and Somnang (bottom left) "gator" for the Unicorn Song|
Some of the other single parents simply cannot afford to pay for children with their limited incomes. Living at the orphanage helps some of the kids avoid a possible alternative of being sold into the child sexual trade or another unpleasant scenario. We don't know all of the details of the children's stories, just the ones that Ms. Sophorn told us one day.
None of the children, even the 16-year olds who seem pretty smart, are beyond Grade 8. They've had a lot of catching up to do. There is a 15-year old in Grade 4, and two 14-year olds in Grade 7. The children still seem to hang out primarily with kids their own age, even if they are at different levels in school. Hopefully those academic levels will even out over time.
There are a total of 6 older children in the 14 - 16 age range who are in Grade 7 or 8. Because KSEDO recently moved its location, starting after Khmer New Year they would have needed to commute 17 km (10 miles) to school each day via bicycle or one moto.
|Kimsour (2nd from left) and Phally (right) are in Grades 7 and 8|
|Savy (front, Grade 8) and Kimpo (right, Grade 7)|
|Mesa (Grade 7) comes in out of the rain to hear the jazz go down|
|Shy but sweet Savoaen (Grade 7) is in bright yellow|
There is another, better high school (Grades 7 - 12) located within 1 mile of the current KSEDO location. Ms. Sophorn asked us (Sarah and John) if we could pay the related transfer fee (~ $150) for the six kids. We agreed to do so. It's nice to be able to see exactly what one's charitable contribution will be used for, and it couldn't be any more personal than this. The kids started at their new school this week.
Late last Friday afternoon, John asked Savy (16) to ride over together on bicycles to Angkor High School, their new school. We had driven past its front walls many times while in a tuk tuk, but didn't know it was a school.
The grounds of the school seem quite nice, with tree-lined walkways and buildings that are in decent shape.
|Savy on the sidewalk in front of one of the nicer buildings|
|The library is on the right; a classroom is on the left|
|Savy and his bicycle near the center of campus|
|Savy expresses his gratitude with leaves (read backwards)|
Earlier during our stay in Siem Reap, Ms. Sophorn asked us for advice on choosing a possible monthly Internet service. This would augment the kids' education, and also help Ms. Sophorn stay in contact with former volunteers (and potential donors) through Skype.
One option was a cheaper, slower Internet service for $25/month. Another option was a faster, Skype-capable service for $50/month. We did a cost/benefit analysis, and the answer was.....neither!
You can buy a Dongle (external Internet connection device) in Siem Reap for $25, and get 4 months of Internet service for another $25 and no long-term commitment. We made this another small gift to KSEDO. Rey from Projects Abroad brought the 2002 vintage KSEDO computer to the Dongle vendor to make sure it was compatible, and made the purchase on our behalf. KSEDO can assess the next step after 4 months.
|Savy executes a stock trade for Ms. Sophorn and the consultant|
Sarah installed the device on the KSEDO computer on Friday afternoon, so now KSEDO is Internet capable. Savy is pretty savvy on the computer. And Ms. Sophorn was also able to find a cheap local Internet consultant to help them with any issues.
There is no limit to these kids' potential. We are glad that we could help out in some small way.