In October 2016, World Vision, in partnership with other NGOs, developed a curriculum known as Peace Road. The process was challenging. As the curriculum focused on children’s rights, which was a radical departure from the local culture, permission at the district level was required. “Back then the children did not have a chance to form a group like that,” she says. “They lived separately, even though they were studying in the same school. They did not care about anything other than themselves. They did not think about the future. They had no goals. Even the parents did not think about their children’s future.”
Ming Chan came up with a simple strategy. “I had a meeting with the parents in order to ask their parents if they would agree to let their children join the club. When they asked me what benefit the children would get from joining the club, I did not answer the question. Instead, I asked them a question back. ‘What do you expect them to get from the club?’ They answered that they wanted their children to be good students and good children and have good futures,” she says. Through asking questions, Ming Chan helped parents understand how the club would benefit their children and obtained their approval to launch it.
In the first five years after the children’s clubs began in 2007, 600 children were already trained and knew about their rights and how to create lasting change. They also understood that issues such as domestic violence should not be tolerated, and helped bring peace to their families. This is how change began with the children. “I first [worked with] the children to [create] their own vision and the plan of action,” Ming Chan says.
The children have thrived. “When people left the club they were able to find a job,” Ming Chan says. “Some of them have become teachers, some of them run businesses and some are policemen.” But for Ming Chan, the most important thing is how the children feel, what they believe, and how they behave. “There is unity and a love for society. More importantly they know what is wrong and what is right.”
Commune chief Chrin adds, “The children in the club educate their friends in school and out of school.” Sarom, chief of a nearby commune, also believes that the impact of children’s clubs has been impressive. “The community has completely changed. Domestic violence is down by a lot.”
Ming Chan says her relationships go beyond the children. “I have a relationship with their parents as well,” she says. “We need to meet once a month with the parents to discuss the change in their children. We have a meeting like that because parents are the first people to see the change in their children.”
Ming Chan became a Christian in 2000. She adds, “I am not married, but God has given me a lot of children.” And Ming Chan is a very good mother, keeping her children safe from harm while giving them wings to fly.
The Post-war Generation: No Place at School
Dineth is the first in her family to have adequate education. The older generations simply did not have the opportunity to go to school. Her father had to drop out of school when the Khmer Rouge rose to power in 1975, having only finished first grade.
In this remote community, the population is made up of former Cambodian asylum seekers who hid in the refugee camps at the Thai border during the Khmer Rouge years. The Khmer Rouge genocide killed numerous people, with houses, schools, streets, health care centres and temples destroyed. After the war, the people were relocated to this former battlefield, where live land mines still are being found today, decades after the war.
“Before 2000, our community did not have enough schools. The children needed to travel around 20 kilometres from home to school. It was a hard time for us,” says Thy Sey, Dineth’s father. Yet, despite the environment, World Vision came to the community and started work here. “World Vision built schools, roads, wells, latrines and strengthened health service in my community,” Thy Sey recalls.