How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world. ~Anne Frank
“What is your name? How many brothers and sisters do you have?’’ the kids asked in unison as we stepped into the premises of Jimmy’s Village School. Their eyes were full of eagerness.
The makeshift learning area ahead of us was filled with a couple of tables and chairs in front of what was to be the Sarath home. It was not too far from Artisans Angkor but looked nowhere near its manicured gardens. The person leading the school is named Jimmy. He would later say that his name is actually Chan Sarath but people call him Jimmy – because “he looks like a Jimmy”.
Jimmy is 24 years old and looked just like any other Cambodian we’ve met – small-built, welcoming, his eyes smiled along with his lips. He also wore long sleeves even in the dead of the heat.
But there was something else about Jimmy that made him a bit different – his dream.
Jimmy’s day job is to teach Cambodian kids English in one of the temples-turned-school in Siem Reap. After work, he goes home and does the same thing: teach Cambodian kids English, but this time, in front of the Sarath household. For free.
He does this because he believes that part of Cambodia’s future lies in English proficiency. “It means better communication with tourists, investors and just more foreign friends. More foreign friends means learning more about the world and being able to share more of Cambodia to the world,” he said during our little chat.
He started with his Village School on the 1st day of August in 2011 with only four students from the village. The school celebrated its first anniversary with more than a hundred students. Jimmy does not have a staple sponsor. The school gets its funding from mostly tourists who literally stumble upon the learning center, the way we did. Below are some photos we took during our visit.
Along with the English language, he also teaches the children History and Geography. “I want to share what I learned. I want these kids to be able to communicate to the world. My dream is to buy land and put up a real school so that the children can comfortably learn,” he further explained. To encourage multicultural learning, he gladly invites tourists who pass by to teach the children about their culture and to make them aware of different English accents.
Jimmy’s Village School may easily be ignored while traipsing that street in Siem Reap that leads to more well-known destinations such as Artisans Angkor and the Night Market. If you ever find yourself here though, you might want to spend some time watching or even teaching the children. It was one of the most amazing activities we did in Siem Reap. Something that one does not stumble upon in every travel. It is an anecdote of kindness, hope and perseverance. Jimmy shows to the world that poverty is not an issue. In the process of fulfilling his dream of sharing knowledge to young minds, he fights for his rightful place under the sun, as if to demand Cambodia’s legitimate spot in a just and global world.
Interested to learn more about Jimmy’s Cambodian Dream? In case you’re not off to Siem Reap yet, you may also find him on the internet.#