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Life jackets making it safer for children to get to school in Cambodia

While most children drive or walk to school, children in one rural community in Cambodia travel by boat. Most of the time this trip is a fun time for the children to chat to their friends. But when it’s stormy, the trip can be scary and unsafe.

Nine-year-old Dav (pictured left) started school last year. She said: “I am learning to swim, and I feel terrified when there is rain, large waves and storms.”

Children can either travel by rowboat or motorboat to school. The motorboat costs about $7.50USD per month for a child to travel to and from the mainland on school days – a cost that most families can’t afford.

When Dav was just three years old, her father passed away, leaving her mother to raise eight children. Together with Dav’s siblings, her mother makes about $7 USD a day working on a nearby farm. The whole family relies on this income for food, shelter and education.

Dav’s mother Sopheap said, “During the rainy season I am distracted, and my mind is with my children journeying home from the school by boat during a storm.

In 2021 Dav received a scholarship from a ChildFund Cambodia education program for her to go to school. ChildFund also provided lifejackets for Dav and her peers so that they can get to school safely.

“But now that they have the life jackets, I feel more comfortable and can focus more on my work. I’m glad to see that my kids will float in water and that they can swim – just in case there is a boat disaster,” said Sopheap.

Sopheap dreams of seeing all her children being able to read, write, and understand math so that they can have a better life than she had. “When I was a child, my siblings and I did not attend school. We had to help my parents generate an income to survive. It makes me sad that some people can’t read, myself included. Listening to my children read makes me happy, and I have started to learn from them,” said Sopheap.

“I prefer to go to school instead of staying at home because I have more friends there and because I want to be educated so that I can have a good job when I grow up,” said Dav.

ChildFund also built a new library with tablets that have reading and math apps, a child-friendly playground, toilet block, and upskilled teachers to better support vulnerable children so that all children can access a quality education.

Learn more about ChildFund Cambodia.

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