The Lakeside School is a dynamic learning center in a slum community in Phnom Penh serving 160 students each day. Started in 2008, the successes of students coming from this project show that with a hand up young people can be empowered to obtain quality employment and valuable life skills.
Lakeside’s programs include 7 hours of English per day for various levels, computer classes throughout the day and evening, a weekly medical clinic, biweekly trips to the dentist, reading (in their new library), community organizing, as well as weekend activities including leadership development, an under-14 soccer team, yoga, cycling, and field trips. Currently 8 students are given financial support for their high school or university education and EYC’s job placement service is open to all. The kids really enjoy going to class and teachers incorporate life skills training and fun activities into teaching lessons. Outside of the school are tough conditions for living with run-down shanty houses, garbage, people drinking, gambling, and in some cases neglecting children, while inside the mood is cheerful and the staff and volunteers are positive.
Lakeside School is primarily an after-school program since government schools teach only 4 hours each day. During the morning and afternoon students are primary school-age, while in the evening they are in high school and university, as well as youth who have dropped out of school and are working, unemployed, or underemployed. Lakeside has an excellent network of supporting partners, committed Cambodian staff, international and local volunteers, and a student team leader group that volunteers and runs much of the operations of the school. Lakeside is more than a school since it is also a favorite gathering place for like-minded young people who are on their way to somewhere better. The school is open most of the day and serves multiple purposes including a gathering/play area for young kids, it has 2 sinks with soap for anyone to use, books for people to read on-site or borrow, and computers with Internet.
At the heart of the school is some excellent staff including Ky Hao, the English teacher from 6:30 to 8:30pm (2 different levels). He is a graduate of a government university “Institute of Foreign Languages” (IFL) and has a bachelor’s degree in English Teaching. He has a grasp of the English language far beyond most non-native speakers. Ky Hao likes to use current events as part of his lessons which also serve to engage students in social issues happening in their country.
Veng Chenghuor is a 20 year old student who has studied at Lakeside School since 2009. She is now a 2nd year university students and has 2 jobs. Chenghuor says “the best part of Lakeside School is her teacher Ky Hao because he is hard working, has good ethics, makes good lesson plans and asks students lots of questions. He also makes class fun and explains things well.” Another thing she likes is that “the school is close to my house and is free for students in the community to study. It is also a place where the community can have a meeting and children can gather to take action, such as a garbage clean-up.”
EYC has plenty of challenges to be able to work in the chaotic slum environment, but the involvement from the people in the community help to make things go smooth. In 2013-2014 additional students will be awarded scholarships to continue their studies at university and EYC is seeking donors to make this possible.