Thursday, March 24, 2011

Students raise money for Cambodian town

24 Mar, 2011
By Emily Wilkins

A few weeks ago, Eda Uong stood before a room of about 30 MSU students and repeated words first spoken to him by a U.S. solider in his home country of Cambodia.

“No matter what happens to your family,” the solider told Uong, “Go to school and do not quit.”

On the other side of the world, in Uong’s village of Rong DomRey, many children leave school at a young age to help support their families, Uong said. Other problems in the village affect the entire county — a lack of doctors, safe drinking water and sanitation.

So when Uong came to the U.S. to study several years ago, he began working to raise money to improve his hometown. After successfully improving the town’s school, MSU students are stepping up to raise money for a $3,000 medical center in the village.

Currently, Uong said, the town’s school is doubling for a center for visiting doctors and dentists to work while they are in the village.

While Uong gave his talk, physiology junior Ryan Abboud found himself inspired by Uong’s dedication and hard work.

“When you see other people spending all their time and energy just
trying to help other people, it’s really inspiring,” Abboud said. “You want to help.”

This week Abboud will get his chance. Along with his class in the Bailey Scholar Program, Abboud will sell T-shirts — a gray shirt with the Spartan logo behind the words “Spreading Spartan Love to Cambodia” — from noon to 3 p.m. throughout next week in the International Center. The shirts will sell for $10, and proceeds
will go to build the medical center.

The Bailey Scholars is an MSU program in the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources that allows students to develop personalized learning plans regarding topics in which they are interested.

Uong became involved with the group through forestry junior Greg Jones. Although Jones had no ties to Uong or his town, after connecting through a mutual friend, Jones was able to raise $10,000 for the school.

“I’ve always been involved in volunteer stuff like this,” Jones said. “It just sounded like something I wanted to help with.”

The nonprofit school, called Songkahakomar School, or School for Rescued Children, began as a freestanding thatched hut in 2002, when it first opened. Through the raised funds, the school grew last summer to four individual rooms made of concrete.

Uong said the school is a powerful force in his community. The school serves 180 students, many who go on to participate more fully in the community and are given an education they may not
have had otherwise, Uong said.

“The school — it’s changed people’s lives,” Uong said.

When he visited campus, Uong presented Jones with a certificate thanking him for his work thus far and expressed hope that relations between the U.S. and Cambodia could continue.

“I love your country and you love mine,” Uong said. “Please keep this love alive and make it last forever.”

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