Turning 34: My birthday celebration for a school cause

On weekend, a day after International Women Day (IWD) celebration, I met my 5 years old niece and I wanted her to practice her English learning at school. Then I asked her to start the conversation. Her first question to me was: How old are you?

With work, meetings, and celebrations around IWD, my brain was a bit slow to run with number and only after a while, then I realized I would turn thirty-four in coming days. Then I thought back in time and how ages and circumstances matter:

I got a dream when I turned ten: I wanted to be a doctor. It was just imagination but I wanted to be a famous doctor in Cambodia and if possible in the world to cure poor people. As I am a left-handed person, I wished that I could use this left hand to cure people effectively.

Then my dream changed. When I turned twenty I started an internship with a civil society organization instead of pursuing the nursing degree that could fulfill my dream. This was the pathway that totally changed my vision. Ten years later, I am obsessed with civil society work and social media platforms, and I have realized that this is who I want to be, not the doctor I had dreamt to become.

However, putting my life-path back to the intersection where I turned my back to a medical doctor career, probably other scenario could have happened. I might have been satisfied with myself or not, but I keep joking about that: probably those who know me now would have been my clients for medical service, or maybe we would have not met in this life-path.

Indeed, my dream changed due to circumstances. It was the family’s livelihood reason and the fact that I could not afford to learn French language since young age so that I could well prepare for medical school examination, instead I could only manage to get pass for nursing school.

I looked back to my niece and responded to her so that she would know my age by now. Looking at her, it fills with full conviction in me that I would do my best to support her to fulfill her dream.

Suddenly, when I turned to my mobile and surf through Facebook, a news came up on my wall: an educational center for poor students run by a renown Cambodian journalist would be soon facing a closure. The news hit my heart strongly as I have followed the news about the school sometimes and I was impressed at how generosity and commitment that the journalist and his friends help to support young kids in a rural village of Svay Rieng province. The school have helped to educate a number of poor kids with English and computer skills for free of charge and that allows those poor kids and their parents to support them to educational opportunities. I believe those kids has their dream and with opportunity support, I hope their dream could come true.

Therefore, I now have a wish to celebrate my 34th birthday: that you all join my cause to support this school. The center would need at least 900$ to operate monthly to help educating about 200 kids. Hence, to celebrate my birthday, I call for your gift so that the collected amount will go to the cause for supporting this school operation (see photos of the school and its activities below).

I will start collecting my birthday gift from now until 30th March when I will really turn 34. Gift me with three numbered—which could be $3 or $34 or more—for “My Thirty-Four Birthday Celebration”!

Your gift will be properly collected, recorded and managed with transparency and accountability. Click here to gift me. Thanks to the Cambodian Center for Human Rights who kindly support this cause and allow the cash flow to go through its donation page. Hence, please kindly help to specify your donation with subject/note: For Sopheap’s Birthday Cause if you choose to donate online via this platform.

Alternatively, please contact me via [email protected] for any inquiry about this cause or way of donation.

(Photo courtesy to the school founder May Titthara and Khmernas)

Turning 30: My Thirtieth Birthday Celebration  

I got a dream when I turned ten: I wanted to be a doctor. It was just imagination but I wanted to be a famous doctor in Cambodia and if possible in the world to cure poor people. As I am a left-handed person, I wished that I could use this left hand to cure people effectively.

Then my dream changed. When I turned twenty I started an internship with a civil society organization. This was the pathway that totally changed my vision. Ten years later, I am obsessed with civil society work and social media platforms, and I have realized that this is who I want to be, not the doctor I had dreamt to become.

However, putting my life-path back to the intersection where I turned my back to a medical doctor career, probably other scenario could have happened. I might have been satisfied with myself or not, but I keep joking about that: probably those who know me now would have been my clients for medical service, or maybe we would have not met in this life-path.

At the end of this month, I will turn 30—an age when you could feel that you are getting old, but I would say the age when “I grow up.” My dream has not really changed. As quoted by Banyan Blog:

As a child, she once dreamed of being a doctor, to serve the poor, but now her dream is to help create a freer, more open and just Cambodia.

I now have a wish to celebrate my 30th birthday: that you all join my cause to empower others to grow up. In 2014, I launched with the Cambodian Center for Human Rights (CCHR) the pilot “Empowering Cloghers Project”. Through the microgrant support from the Global Voice Online we strengthened the online presence and influence of female university students from rural Cambodia by enabling them to become Cloghers– and to become active online. Cloghers are Cambodian bloggers – locally known as “cloggers” – who are women, thus “cloghers”. My wish is to empower 30 more cloghers and I would like to see my friends to be active citizens and to join my cause by contributing to support this idea. We need to collect roughly US$3000.

I will start collecting my birthday gift from now until 30th March when I will really turn 30. Gift me with three numbered—which could be $3 or $30 or more—for “My Thirtieth Birthday Celebration”!

Your gift will be properly collected, recorded and managed with transparency and accountability. Click here to gift me.

Alternatively, please contact me via [email protected] for any inquiry about this cause or way of donation.

 

Things impress me in Sweden

One thing that many of us may aware about Sweden is the Nobel Prize—known as the legacy of Sweden’s Alfred Nobel (1833–1896). However, after my second trip, I have more to tell than the impression I made during my first trip and I hope this will reflect to Cambodian context where we could learn.

Educating children is a key

There are things similar to Japan where school children are taught to interact and expose to outside community aside their school boundary. During my visit to Royal Palace—when the changing of the guard pirate were to show off—a middle age man shouted to the crowd where I was standing behind: Could you please move a bit and let kids stay in front? I then saw a group of roughly 20 kids walked into the crowd. Some tourists were not happy to let so many kids occupied their space, while many were smiling to see so many kids in queue and of course they were willing to let kids in as this is morally right thing to do. Kids were actively observed and discussing among each other on the performance and I believe this would be later discussed in their class of their visit. I was impressed at how schoolteachers were spending time with their students and such field-trip mission would let these young kids exposed to real world besides their daily theoretical learning in classroom.

Kids were standing to see pirate of changing guard at Stockholm's Royal Palace (Photo by the Author)
Kids were standing to see pirate of changing guard at Stockholm’s Royal Palace (Photo by the Author)

While I was impressed with such act, I reflected this to my own experience. I could only visit the Cambodia’s royal palace for the first time only when I was in grade 12 (the final year in high school degree) with other few friends as a study reward, meaning not everyone was entitled to such visit led by a teacher. Having said so, it means that such field visit was very limited in school agenda or let’s not hopes to be initiated by schoolteachers who were struggling to earn extra aside their official teaching time to support their low salary.

Despite of this, similar approach to have such field trip for students are seen in some private schools in Cambodia which is good expose but this shall be initiated in public schools too so that every kids would has access and learn from such extra activities and this requires sufficient funding in education program as well as the teacher’s salary.

Another component that I learned from a study visit is the fact that Sweden is already advanced at openness and compulsory to include “sexual rights” as part of their educational curriculum for kids from age 13 to 19 years old. Such educational platform allows students to openly learn the issue around sexual rights but this was believed a step forward to raise kids awareness to different gender identity and sexual orientation so that this would tackle on the discrimination against sexuality. What I gathered from the communication I had with few Cambodians who were also impressed at this openness approach with kids on sexuality in Sweden was that they would be still hesitate, although they well understood the topic, to accept such thing adopted in Cambodia if to reflect from parents’ point of view. They suggested for those including I myself who were trying to get their opinion on matter to wait until these people have our own kids. I could understand their concern with tradition we had been used to and while Cambodia’s education system is not that advance compared to Sweden, but Sweden also experienced similar tradition’s clashes until they could have a smooth transformation. It thus requires us to learn and see what and where we could start from it.

Openness and Engagement with Civil Society

I should not surprised at how openness and closed engagement the government as well as parliamentarians with civil society in Sweden has, yet coming from a country where position does matter, I could not help to impressed with this and think out loud how it be better for Cambodia to learn such positive manner. The city hall did not fail to welcome delegates—mostly from civil society organizations—for the second time of my visit in Sweden where my former visit in the role as blogger. The representative of city hall of Stockholm proudly welcomed guest and introduced the spirit of engagement with civil society regardless political or social background.

Cambodian delegates were greeting by the Deputy Governor of Stockholm's City Hall (Photo by the Author)
Cambodian delegates were greeting by the Deputy Governor of Stockholm’s City Hall (Photo by the Author)

The representative also brought us to visit the important building of the hall and explained the rationales of specific architecture. One thing that impressed me is the city hall’s Council Chamber —a venue where meeting of Stockholm’s city council will be conducted. The design was full of openness idea behind as shown with a painting on the cell of the building with sky, star, sun and noon to represent that the meeting of the member will be conducted in an open space where public can see their conduct and any discussion shall be made public as they are now practicing with live streaming and opening access to media and public observation.

Chamber of city hall (Photo by the Author)
Chamber of city hall (Photo by the Author)

We were also welcomed by representative of parliamentary at the parliament in which I am sure such practice would be rare in Cambodia.

I acknowledge these are the positive side of Sweden that I had exposed during two visits (I spent roughly a week per visit), so this is not to conclude the whole picture of Sweden as any place shall has its shortcoming and to the extend when the local resident would have more to say about their own country.