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12 March 2018

Children helping children to build a better future

WA public schools are joining forces to raise vital funds and make a big difference in the lives of students in Cambodia as part of the Angkor Project.

Sue Gilchrist

Morley Senior High School principal Sue Gilchrist during recent Angkor study tour.

The project aims to rebuild schools in Cambodia and improve the quality of education to ensure a better future for the country.

More than 25 WA schools are involved in the project, which is all about children helping children according to Angkor Project chair John Garnaut.

“In the 1970s the Cambodian education system was destroyed. Schools in our State are getting involved and doing what they can to help rebuild it,” John says.

“Every single dollar our schools raise goes directly to ensuring their sister schools in Cambodia have enough classrooms, drinking water and toilets, electricity, teaching materials and trained teachers.”

Joondalup Primary School was one of the first schools to support the project and principal Russell Hahn – who is also the project’s executive officer – says it’s a great initiative for students to be a part of.

“We’ve been involved in the Angkor Project since it launched in 2006 and there have been so many stories that show us we’re making a difference,” he says.

“I met a boy who used to attend our sister school and he told me that, if it wasn’t for the money we raised to fund his English teacher, he wouldn’t have been able to come out of poverty.”

Schools are creative with their fundraising effort. Each year at Karratha Primary School, staff and students spend a day replicating the conditions of Cambodian schools.

Principal Kate Lyon says the school shuts off electricity, teachers only use one piece of paper per child for the day, students go barefoot and, instead of opening the school canteen, they sell bowls of rice to raise money.

“Our aim is to help our students understand what school is like in Cambodia and to have empathy for other children, as well as to raise money for our sister school,” she says.

Morley Senior High School’s principal Sue Gilchrist says supporting their sister school is deeply engrained in the school’s culture.

 “Whenever we do something we always ask ourselves: can we raise money for the Angkor Project through this?” she says.

In January, Sue attended the annual Angkor study tour where a group of WA teachers and principals visit Cambodian schools and cultural sites in the area.

“It really helped me understand the need to support these schools and their students,” she says.

“It has certainly motivated me to continue showing our support.”

The Angkor Project is a collaboration between the WA Department of Education and the Cambodian Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport.

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