Helping Hands staff: Introducing.
You quickly realise in any staff team that it’s the people you work with who can really make the project what it is. This is true of our wonderful Khmer teacher Sao Vanna.
Sao Vanna is no ordinary teacher. This 47 year old mother was born and raised in Prasat Chas village where her workplace, Helping Hands’ [Iqbal] school, is based.
As an active member of the community, Sao Vanna has been by our side from Step 1 in initiating Helping Hands, organising land and helping with signing of those all-important documents on the NGO’s behalf ten years ago. Even being heavily-pregnant with one of her sons at the time didn’t stop her!
Now Sao Vanna’s energy is shared with our youngest learners on a daily basis. As a teacher she leads full classes through the basics of the Khmer language, a notoriously challenging language and script to master! Many of these students may face a disrupted education and be unable to attend or complete government school. Sao Vanna’s classes ensure that they are fluent in their native Khmer from a young age, ensuring brighter opportunities for them in the future.
As an elder in the village, Sao Vanna’s ability to read and write is somewhat unique. The village where Helping Hands is based has very high rates of adult illiteracy and innumeracy due to limited government schooling during and after Cambodia’s tragic civil war. Sao Vanna’s passion for education from an early age meant that she volunteered in various community groups and continually gained as much education from as wide a source as possible. Her enthusiasm and determination now marks her out as a respected community member, representing both Prasat Chas village and Helping Hands during various meetings.
Discussing life in the village, Sao Vanna lists the challenges and changes that she has lived through. From drought to disease, poverty to unemployment, Prasat Chas residents have faced tough times, even by Cambodian standards. The resilience and strength of the community, with active engagement in any way possible to improve the situation, is in no small part thanks to Sao Vanna and her strong, maternal leadership.
Come and find Sao Vanna teaching our daily kindergarten classes to read, write (and sing!) in their native Khmer at Helping Hands.