The Covid situation in Cambodia has been gradually improving. We are pleased to report that Kuma has finally re-opened its doors this month. With country-wide vaccination rates now above 85%, the prime minister lifted all Covid restrictions in Cambodia effective November 1. That means Kuma is back in business!
Gradually the students are making their way back, step by step. Nine students returned on November 4 and the numbers have been steadily increasing each day. As of this week, there are now 30 students who have returned. Those numbers are expected to continue to rise.
To be sure, there are still Covid controls in place: class sizes are smaller and movement around the school is limited. But the energy levels are sky-high. The excitement is also bolstered by the arrival of 19 new students who have joined Kuma's fast-track program this year.
It’s back to school time for Kuma. In January the school welcomed 121 students after a tough year dealing with local flooding and the COVID-19 pandemic. Of course, all kids are masked up and all precautions are being taken regarding social distancing during the day and during meals.
Here’s some great news: at the end of the last term, Kuma “graduated” 26 fast-track students who are now enrolled as 3rd graders at local schools. (These kids are still getting a half-day of support from the Kuma Cambodia Education Center despite moving on.) These fast-track students come from the very toughest situations and the program gives them the accelerated support they need to get up to speed.
There are now 108 students who pass through the KCEC, which is now offering eight classes of both computer skills and English language. An incredibly important, life-changing resource!
The staff is now on the lookout to identify the next fast-track group. They will be secretly visiting villages to identify the most at-risk kids. Often this means families affected by alcohol, drugs, HIV, or other such circumstances. The aim is to add another 19 students in the coming weeks.
In a year of challenges, the Kuma School is now facing another. In recent weeks, heavy rains have caused massive flooding and mudslides around Phnom Penh. Two different protective dams gave way, leading to dangerous conditions and dark brown water infiltrating all available spaces. Kuma unfortunately was not spared as knee-deep water saturated the ground floor of the school building. This led to ruined furniture and appliances, a loss of some food, damage to documents, and heavy hearts.
The water receded quickly and staff members were able to start cleanup efforts. But the surges also affected surrounding villages, many of which were literally underwater. Many homes were rendered completely useless and many are still affected today. About 50% of current students and two staff members were initially moved to temporary shelters at the height of the flooding.
Kuma staff have been tirelessly and personally following up on all students and providing support wherever possible. Kuma has used its own funds to supplement local government actions and provide support to Kuma families. Care packages with 50kg of rice, soy sauce, cooking oil and canned fish were distributed to 96 Kuma families twice, and a third round will happen this week. All eyes remain on the skies and weather reports as more rain is expected in coming days.
The spread of COVID-19 has affected Cambodia and Kuma, just like the rest of the world. The government ordered all schools in Cambodia to close on 16 March and Kuma immediately followed suit. But we remain proactive.
We have given lessons in hygiene to students and their families. We also have arranged online group chats for parents so that homeroom teachers can share new lessons every day.
While not all parents have smart phones, this has so far been an effective way to keep the learning going. We're seeing that these lessons are spreading even to families without smart phones, which is great.
We are so proud of our students, and you can see for yourself with these videos. They continue to take their lessons seriously.
Nothing will stop them!
If you like to support them, you can donate through Give Asia.
Each day Kuma students are picked up from their villages using an assortment of tuk-tuks and other vehicles. Without this transportation, most kids would not be able to make the trip to the school.
The school tuk-tuk has become old and often breaks down. They also have to rely on calling other tuk-tuks for support.
We are looking for donations to help the school replace with a school bus with a much bigger capacity. The cost of the bus is around USD 18,000. Any amount of donation would be helpful. If this draws your interest as an opportunity to support Kuma, please contact us directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
One of the best times of the year is when we host families from United World College Southeast Asia. In late January, Kuma welcomed 21 students and parents, plus four UWCSEA faculty members.
What usually starts out as nervousness and apprehension (for both the Kuma and UWCSEA kids) very quickly turns to smiles and laughter. Kids are kids, after all, but the learning and understanding that takes place here is critical to our mission. Each UWCSEA student was partnered with a Kuma buddy and after quick introductions, the activities begin. For kids and adults alike, this is the seeing and doing and sharing that transcends language, background, and life experiences.
While the trip passes by quickly, these great moments remain in the minds of all of us. We are thankful for the generosity of our guests and are pleased to welcome them into the Kuma community.
A team of 10 volunteers from Credit Suisse Singapore visited the school over 2 days in early November. They raised money within their organisation and bought new computers, school bags, water bottles and school supplies.
The team engaged the kids with lots of fun and educational activities such as digital presentation, personal hygiene, bracelet beading, board games and a friendly football match!
Thank you Credit Suisse for your generosity and invaluable time with the kids. Here’s a video clip of the fun they had.
If you are part of an organization who would like to send a team of volunteers to Kuma, Friends of Kuma would be most happy to arrange for you.
The giggles and smiles are back for a new school year. In late October, Kuma welcomed its new class of 130 students which span seven grade levels. Each day the kids are learning the local Khmer curriculum which is enriched by English lessons, dance, drama, and P.E. Included in that number are 43 students enrolled in Kuma's rigorous "fast-track" program intended for kids who have never before attended school. Another 13 kids have graduated from the fast-track program and now attend Grade 3 at their local school. Without Kuma, these kids would again be left behind for another school year.
What country has the highest IQ? What does IKEA stand for? The attendees of 2019 Kuma Trivia Night at UWCSEA East in early October were sometimes stumped, but the event itself left no question: the school has many amazing friends and supporters in Singapore.
Between admission tickets, silent-auction items, teacher-expert auctions, and a live auction, the event raised over $65,000 SGD for the school. Thanks to those who attended and supported the school that night. We look forward to continuing the annual Kuma Trivia Night tradition next year.
The parents of the Kuma kids recently completed a series of upgrades to the school grounds. First up was a renovation to the driveway space which was raised to mitigate the flooding problem. Parents also built a new sheltered meeting space. This not only created employment for the parents but also resulted in huge savings compared with having it done by a contractor. Both of those projects were supported by UWCSEA's global concern team.