Dear friends, family, and fellow travelers,
Thank you for your curiosity. It's been a while since we returned from our first visit to Roluos in Cambodia. A lot happened while we were over there. So we will try to recap it all as briefly as possible.
First and foremost, we met a lot of people. Very crucial people. We met Greg and Ines, our incredible architects, for the first time. With them, we visited the building site, took photos, measurements, analyzed the vegetation, and brainstormed some initial ideas regarding what we wanted the school and open community space to look like and how it might function. The building site is right next to Sarou's family home in the village - this is also where we stayed.
We met the people of Roluos. Sarou organized a community gathering, where he introduced us as a team, alongside our vision for the school and community space. The villagers had the chance to ask questions and vice versa. Sarou was kind enough to translate the entire evening for us. It was empowering to receive the support of the Chief of Village and the people of Roluos. We quickly understood that they all share Sarou's vision. We also met local craftsmen and craftswomen, who taught us their skills, such as basket making.
We met with different NGOs to speak to them about their experiences of working in the non-profit sector in Cambodia. We would especially like to thank Sigrid from EGBOK and Yem from Child's Dream for taking the time to speak to us and share their personal experiences and insights with us.
We met with teachers and visited existing schools in neighboring villages to get an idea of what works and what doesn't - especially from an architecture point of view. The way classrooms are designed have a huge impact on the way students learn. This is something so small and simple, but something we definitely took for granted, growing up in a forward-thinking school system.
After five days in the Siem Reap Province, we returned home and began to research the bureaucratic process of not only building, but also setting up and running a school in Cambodia. After some back and fourth, we came to the conclusion that we needed to register a charity in the form of what Germany calls a "Verein".
Once that structure is in place, we can open a bank account, fundraise the money we need to start building, offer donors a donation receipt for tax purposes, and all that good stuff. Yet in order for us to officially found the charity, we need a Cambodian NGO in our contract papers to prove where the money will be going. And in order for Sarou to open a Cambodian NGO, he needs to show authorities that there is a need for the school in his village.
Sarou - with the help of his family and friends - has therefore offered free English classes to the children in his village, after regular school hours. Over 100 students have registered and classes begin on November 1st. We are thrilled!
Now once the classes are up and running, Sarou will invite the authorities to visit his village to show them that there really is a need for a school building and additional education. If the authorities agree, Sarou can found the Cambodian NGO and we can start fundraising. Alongside our fundraising efforts, Sarou will head to the building permit committee to get our building plans signed off. That's phase one for now.
You could say, there's a lot going on. We've quickly learned to take it step by step, and are already excited about your support anywhere along the way.
Natascha & Hannah