The first sewing class of women at the Rotary School of Cambodia Graduated in March.  The five women
have started tailoring businesses in their respective villages.
 
Just over one year ago the Rotary Club of BEL completed the second phase of the Rotary School of Cambodia and Women’s Sewing Program.  Two classrooms provide English instruction to approximately 150 children a day.  The students range in age from 8 to 18 and learn the basics of oral and written English.  “The motivation and commitment of the students is inspiring.  Many ride their bicycles 4 or 5 kilometers each way for class, often arriving an hour early so they can spend time reading the library books and practicing their English” said Susan Davidson, BEL Rotarian who visited the school in March of this year.  
 
In addition to the English classes provided to the children, women from the surrounding villages learn the skill of tailoring.   They develop the skills necessary to design and manufacture garments with the goal of running their own tailoring shop in their villages and providing a sustainable income for their family.  The program included seminars focusing on starting and running a small business.  The first “class” of the women completed the program in March.  Susan Davidson was present and had the opportunity to share the excitement as the women were each recognized for their work in the program and received the sewing machine they learned on, to begin their own business.  “The joy and pride on the faces of the women is impossible to put into words.  They now have the opportunity to contribute to their family’s income and well-being”, said Davidson.  During the ceremony the women put on an impromptu fashion show, highlighting the Khmer traditional costume each had made.  Clothing made during the program will be sold for the ongoing support of the program.  A new cohort will begin in the spring.
 
Teacher education is also a key component of the program.  Later this month, 4 teacher graduates from the B.Ed. program at Trent University will travel to Cambodia to work with the teachers to develop instructional materials and resources, learn new teaching strategies and to improve their English.  “This is an amazing opportunity to bring teacher education to teachers in this very remote village as well as offer a valuable learning opportunity for the Trent graduates”, said Davidson.  For more information about the Cambodia School and Sewing Program or any other BEL project visit www.belrotary.com or visit BEL Rotary on Facebook.