100 DAYS OF SCHOOL CELEBRATION

Monday, 19th February 2018
Arriving and leaving school through the 100 Days Banner
Zero the Hero arriving at school. Classroom decorations
Packs of 100 items. 100 Days math lessons. Celebrating the day

EVIDENCE-BASED VOLUNTEERING: ALUMNA, SOCHEATA ’14 SHARES HER STORY

Monday, 12th February 2018
Photo: Joachim Alexander

Alumna, Socheata ’14, and her team from Stamford University, Thailand have won second place in the annual, Rangsit University PDCA (Plan-Do-Check-Act/Adjust) competition in which teams create and present projects and assess their efficacy within the parameters of the competition. Their entry centered around the work they undertook as volunteer teachers in a rural area of Thailand.

PDCA is an iterative four-step management method used for continual improvement of processes or products within in any business or institution. The Rangsit University PDCA competition has run for many years, with the aim of providing students with an opportunity to showcase their understanding and application of PDCA. Students team up with advisors, to present a practical project to a panel of judges. Projects must fall into one of the following categories: academics, environment, preservation of arts and culture, sports, or research.

Socheata’s team monitored the success and ongoing development of a volunteer project which saw them travel to Ratchaburi in western Thailand to teach in two local primary schools. Having given their time to this project, applying the PDCA framework gave them a chance to evaluate its success and, where necessary, make improvements.

Competitors and Judges. Photos: stic.ac.th

Socheata said, “I originally signed up as I thought it would be an excellent opportunity to give back to the community and explore Thailand at the same time and it turned out to be a great experience. However, I did not know it would lead to me taking part in this competition.

“I was unaware of the PDCA competition until the beginning of the year when the organizer of our volunteer project invited us to enter a team, representing Stamford International University. As there was only a short time before the competition, we were under enormous pressure to be ready. Our group consisted of two lecturers, a project advisor, and four contestants, one of which was me.

“Being the last group to present can be difficult, but we were very confident. Our entry incorporated the PDCA model into the structure of our volunteer project, showing areas where it could be improved and streamlined. It outlined ways to improve many areas, from preparing lesson plans and budgets to measuring the satisfaction and results of the students, teachers, and project advisors, as well as working on ways to improve future project planning processes. As we presented, the judges looked over our reports and prepared our scores. The judges told us that we had given the best presentation, but overall we had placed second. On reflection, we could have improved by having longer to prepare and including more data to support our position, but there is always next year.

“Later this month, we will be returning to Ratchaburi to teach the students and our team will be bigger and will stay longer on-site. The whole competition was an enjoyable experience, but, for me, the volunteering project was by far the most important part.

“Volunteering is one of the few activities that I can participate in while at college. While I feel the need to make my university life more interesting, I also want to make sure that I contribute in a meaningful way, giving back to society. In this project, I got the chance to be away from the bustling city of Bangkok and surround myself in an environment similar to Cambodia, as the air and atmosphere felt like home. The competition also allowed me to practice my public speaking which is a skill essential to my major of Broadcast and Journalism. As I am on the verge of finishing my university degree, I want to acknowledge everyone who has supported and guided me along the way, thank you JPA.”

Thank you Socheata.

YALE-NUS FRESHMAN SHARES HER STORY

Monday, 5th February 2018
Sign Photo: mmoorejones.com; Photo of So: Yale-NUS College news, taken by Jessica Sam

JPA alumna, So ’17, is currently attending college at Yale-NUS in Singapore. She stopped by JPA over the winter break and shared some of her experiences of applying to and attending college, and her recent study tour to India.

So has worked hard and has earned incredible opportunities to further her education. Following on from her stellar school career at JPA, So earned a place at Leysin American School in Switzerland. Then, with help from the JPA college and careers office, she became the first Cambodian to enroll at Yale-NUS in Singapore, receiving a scholarship. She is also a proud recipient of the prestigious Alan Chan Study Award which provides funding, additional to her academic scholarship, to cover her expenses while at university. She recalled her excitement and disbelief on the night she opened her acceptance letter and study award financial package, “I was crying so hard! If not for my scholarship, I would not be able to study at Yale-NUS. Now, with a great education from JPA, Leysin, and Yale-NUS, I will be well placed to contribute to my country more effectively. I am incredibly grateful for the opportunities that JPA has provided for me.”

This desire has spurred So on in her freshman year at Yale-NUS, where she intends to major in Mathematical, Computational and Statistical Sciences (MCS). She is also studying Environmental Science and Economics. So hopes to gain significant engineering skills and experience in sustainable development while at college in Singapore.

CIPE trip to India

Recently, So had the opportunity take part in a trip to India organized by Yale-NUS’s Centre for International & Professional Experience (CIPE), which provides students opportunities to earn credits through practical work. So’s visit to India provided her with the opportunity to witness the vital role that local non-government organizations and schools play in both environmental conservation and community development. So said, “Recently, I spent a week in Mussoorie and Rishikesh, two areas nestled in the foothills of the Himalayas, in northern India. Nineteen of my peers joined me on a trip named One Health: The Interdependence of Humans, Animals, and Ecosystems. It was designed to show us the interaction between different components of the ecosystem, stressing care for the environment.


Map data © 2018 Google

“We stayed at the Hanifl Environmental Center for Outdoor Education and Environmental Study. We began every day with yoga classes at 6:00 a.m. Then, after breakfast, we took bus rides to explore local communities and then we trekked into the mountains. I was able to interact with Indian villagers and learn a little about their day-to-day lives and how they try to live in harmony with nature. I was, in a way, reminded of Cambodia, noticing the similar challenges that the people in India face, particularly regarding access to health care and education. What I enjoyed most was the one night of camping with the entire group.”

Studying at Yale-NUS, traveling with CIPE, and the opportunities she has in Singapore have all helped to broaden So’s horizons. These experiences resonate with So’s life goal of becoming an engineer and have strengthened her resolve to seek out more international opportunities, especially those relevant to her academic interests. So said, “I am looking forward to more international opportunities with CIPE and being able to learn from them so that I can bring my experiences home to help my community. Exploring different parts of the world helps me to achieve a helpful perspective on the situation in Cambodia and its potential for the future. I love the opportunity to share experiences with others, who are just as motivated as me, to seek change in the world.”

Congratulations So on your continued outstanding performance and we look forward to your next trip home to hear more about your adventures.

SHANGHAI MUN

Tuesday, 30th January 2018

Model United Nations (MUN) coordinator

It is Thursday afternoon and the events of the past week are yet to sink in. Last Wednesday night, just after 11 p.m., I departed for Shanghai, China, alongside Sokhvisal, Grade 9, and Makara, Grade 11.

Our destination was Concordia International School, Shanghai (CISS), one of the leading schools, not only in Shanghai, but in Asia. Concordia was hosting its 9th annual Model United Nations (CISSMUN) conference, but this time there was a twist. Concordia was simultaneously hosting Global Issues Network Asia (GIN Asia), and it was the first time this had ever been done. Sokhvisal and Makara would be joining over 1,000 students from countries stretching from Ecuador to Fiji.

Tired and cold, we landed at 4.00 a.m. and made our way to our hotel in Jinqiao, where we caught a couple of hours sleep before heading out into the city to explore. The conference would not start until the following day, so the three of us made the most of the opportunity to experience life in one of the world’s biggest cities. Our first stop was the City of God Temple and Yu Garden where we were able to witness the old architecture of China, built in the Ming Dynasty. After this, we had a taste of local Chinese food as we sampled traditional dumplings and sweet duck pancakes. By midafternoon it was time to return to our hotel to make final preparations for the conference and to get that all-important early night.

The opening ceremony of CISSMUN IX was a dynamic affair as we were treated to a traditional dragon dance, most often seen at wedding ceremonies, and believed to bring good luck to all those who see it, which in this case was over 600 MUN delegates. At the end of the opening ceremony, all the delegates made their way to their respective committees where they would spend the afternoon writing resolutions to address major problems facing the world. Makara, representing the Republic of the Sudan, was a part of General Assembly 4 which discussed: the issue of holding credible and transparent elections in post-conflict societies; the democracy deficit in Central Asia and the Middle East; and, political instability in Egypt. Sokhvisal, also representing the Republic of the Sudan, was a part of The Special Conference on Human Migration which discussed: measures to address internal migration; the challenge of assimilating refugees and asylum seekers into Western Europe; and, combating the spread of infectious diseases within refugee camps.

In the run-up to the conference, I had been fortunate to get my hands on a copy of Paul Collier and Alexander Betts’ new book, ‘Refuge: Transforming a Broken Refugee System.’ Collier, Professor of Economics and Public Policy at the University of Oxford, is arguably the world’s leading authority on African development and Betts, also at Oxford, is Professor of Forced Migration and International Affairs and Director of the Refugee Studies Centre. The book was described by TED curator Chris Anderson as something, “every political leader, and every citizen should read.” I had been anticipating sharing key sections with Sokhvisal but the tenacious, just turned thirteen year old, convinced me that he would be absolutely fine reading the whole thing on his own. We would meet to discuss some of the key ideas, and it very quickly became apparent, much to my amazement, that he was taking it all in. The book prepared him well for his committee, and he went on to receive incredibly high praise from one of the most distinguished members of his committee.

The final keynote was given on Sunday evening by Peter Dalglish, senior advisor for UN-Habitat Afghanistan, founder of Street Kids International and co-founder of Schools Without Borders. He spoke passionately about the need for students to use their education to make the world a better place, rather than just to make money. He shared his concern that students from privileged schools are on conveyor belts to careers in law, banking, and consultancy and that they should instead pursue more laudable careers helping the world’s poor or working to protect the environment. He lambasted students for being driven to school in gas-guzzling SUVs and sports cars rather than walking, cycling or using public transport, while the future of our planet is in jeopardy. This was a bit lost on Makara who cycles to school and Sokhvisal who takes a school bus. While Peter’s talk may have been jarring for some of the privileged students at the conference, for Makara and Sokhvisal it complimented their daily pledge to ‘build a better Cambodia.’ One of the NGOs that Peter spoke about resonated strongly with the two JPA students because one of its focus areas is Phnom Penh. Skateistan works to ‘empower children and youth.’ At the end of Peter’s speech, Makara and Sokhvisal battled their way to the front of the room because they wanted to introduce themselves. Peter was surrounded by students trying to take selfies, but it was Makara and Sokhvisal that managed to get his attention. They introduced themselves as Cambodian students from a school outside Siem Reap and said that they were interested in the work of Skateistan. Peter said it was a pleasure to meet them and that he wanted to invite them to a big launch event that Skateistan would be holding at the end of February. We may have left Peter without a selfie, but we left with invitations to an event that was aiming to, ‘build a better Cambodia.’ Last night I received formal confirmation from the founder of Skateistan that it would be his “pleasure” to invite Makara and Sokhvisal to their upcoming launch event.

This would have been the finale of an incredible weekend if it had not been for what happened next. I had been concerned about sending a thirteen-year-old to an MUN conference at a top-tier international school where most of the other delegates would be juniors and seniors. I wanted to ask one of the most distinguished delegates in his committee how they thought Sokhvisal had done. I didn’t have to look very hard because one of them found me first. The delegate of Italy, an ivy league bound senior and veteran of 15 MUN conferences bounded up to me and said he had, “never seen a kid like Sokhvisal before.” He told me that this was his last MUN as a high school student and he was so glad to have been in a room with Sokhvisal. He said, “I just had to get his details because this kid is going to end up at the UN.” He offered plenty of encouragement to our school and said that we could email him at any time if we ever wanted any tips or advice on anything related to MUN.

A couple of hours and over 2000 words later, it still hasn’t sunk in. Three days of vigorous, high-level debate, four incredible keynote speeches, two outstanding JPA delegates, and an invitation to an event where we can contribute towards building a better Cambodia. I am going to start looking for our next top-tier MUN conference.

KINDERGARTEN VISITS THE SILK FARM

Monday, 15th January 2018

This year’s kindergarten classes headed off for our annual visit to the nearby Angkor Silk Farm which coincides with their science unit about life-cycles.

The Silk Farm is a fascinating place for inquiring young minds as the children see everything from the moths laying eggs to the larvae feasting on mulberry leaves and spinning their prized cocoons of silk then emerging as adult moths. Kindergarten teacher, Ms. Ragone, appreciated the opportunity for the students to see and touch the silkworms and cocoons. She said, “It was great to see the student’s excitement as they learned about this interesting animal and watched the process of creating garments.”

As the silk farm staff explained all about the life cycle of the silkworms, the students watched as the artisans pulled apart the cocoons and showed how they weave the silk to make beautiful garments. Kindergarten student, Sina, loved her trip. She said, “At the silk farm, there is a big machine, and they use the machine to make clothes, and they use the silk from the cocoons of the silkworms.”

We love having the silk farm so close to school, and we appreciate the staff taking their time to explain a great example of life-cycles.