Making a difference in Cambodia

NOVEMBER 09, 2016 / Articles

The fantastic learning opportunities we enjoy at Westmount School are very obvious when we contrast it to education in Cambodia.

Manawatu Campus Principal Jim Seumanu and Learning Centre Manager Selwyn Bennett have helped us to make the comparison.

During the September holidays, they were part of a New Zealand teacher mission to share their pedagogical skills, and their construction expertise. They also found the time to create some stunning and sobering visual stories of the experience. (Watch below)

The visual stories were a way to give back to Westmount’s Manawatu Campus and community. They showed how much of a difference was made with more than $6000 raised in an intensive fundraising campaign.

“Our student council set itself an ambitious target to raise $6000 in just two weeks,” Selwyn says. “They had a range of fundraising activities – a stall at our market day, a sponsored T Shirt, an art auction, wrist bands, special lunches, and a givealittle page. They loved supporting this mission.”

Jim and Selwyn were among five teachers from around New Zealand on the 15-day mission. The first task was to run a Teachers’ Training Programme for more than 50 teachers from eight local and village schools. The training focused on Numeracy strategies, Creating a Positive School Culture and Physical Education.

Jim spoke about the need to build a positive culture where teachers and students connect. “He helped the teachers understand the need to empower students, rather than being dictators at the front of the classroom. He promoted the value of praise and encouragement.”

In the Numeracy session, teachers were formed into groups, to experience the power of games for numeracy learning. 

The visitors then moved on to a construction project, to rebuild the run-down home, housing a large family of eight, including grandparents. “It was in such a state of disrepair it only took us about five minutes to knock it down.” 

Selwyn was on his second visit to Duol Chompey, and noticed that students were a lot healthier now that a well had been built at the school. 

The campus funds raised will help to build another well for the village. They have also enabled the purchase of school uniforms. Education is a low priority in this region, and access is made difficult by a government requirement any child who goes to school must have a uniform. Many families cannot afford the uniform, or to have a child in school and not earning to support the family. 

Selwyn says the hope is that the support of education can continue, with another mission next year. “There is no shortage of building projects, and we could fundraise for a lot of wells and it would never be enough. It is hard work, but an amazing and life-changing experience.”

Mission accomplished

Through the fundraising efforts of Westmount Manawatu Campus, more than 590 people’s lives have been improved: 

  • 140 uniforms (140 kids can go to school).
  • 50 teachers trained in the latest numeracy strategies.
  • 300 children attended a children’s programme.
  • 100 people now have a local well for a source of clean water.
  • One home renovation for a large family of eight.


The Building Project


Children's Programme


Teachers' Programme