How do you teach children who have never eaten at a restaurant, never chosen from a menu, let alone a seen a boarding pass, or an eticket, the English language they need to build a career in tourism?
It’s a challenge that four members of the McLaren Technologies team’s Sydney and Singapore offices took on recently, during a week’s volunteering at Sopheak’s Friendship School, which offers free English classes to rural students in the Siem Reap region of Northern Cambodia.
20% of Cambodians live below the poverty line. English language skills are key to getting work, especially in the tourism hub of Siem Reap. While English is compulsory in the Cambodian high school system, The Friendship School’s founder and director, Sopheak, believes that the earlier children learn English, the greater the benefit to their long term job prospects.
“I founded The Friendship School to give rural kids a chance to improve their choices and their quality of life, to ultimately become self supporting,” he explained. “Wisdom, through education is the best weapon to fight poverty in our country.”
The relationship between McLaren Technologies and Sopheak’s Friendship School began in 2013, when Cathy How, Office Manager in Singapore, participated in a week long visit, donating her finance and admin skills to overhaul the management systems. Cathy was so impressed with the school and all it offered the local community, she was determined to return. She approached McLaren Technologies’ Managing Director, Matthew White, with the idea.
“We were looking at opportunities to give back in Asia, where most of our clients operate,” he said. “The Friendship School was the perfect fit. Tourism is the very industry in which most of their students aspire to work, and of course it’s what we live and breathe at McLaren Technologies.”
During their week on the ground in Siem Reap, the four volunteers taught over 180 students and installed three donated laptops. They handed over 40 kg of clothing to be passed on to the students, and distributed a range of stationery supplies generously provided by Sydney’s Complete Office Supplies. Finally, they bought and delivered two-weeks’ worth of locally sourced food and hygiene essentials for six local families identified as especially vulnerable.
It was in front of the class that the McLaren team members really came into their own, as role-play after tourist-role-play set the classroom alight with laughter and learning. Grumpy passenger, hungry customer, impatient visitor challenged a series of long-suffering service staff struggling to anticipate and meet every whim of these demanding tourists!
“The students especially loved the role plays: watching and taking part. They grasped the language and learned a lot about the industry that so many of them hope to work in,” said Cathy How.
McLaren Technologies intends to return to The Friendship School regularly.
They highlight the need for sponsorship to keep some of the older students in school. While education is free in Cambodia, associated expenses including exam preparation and registration mount to USD250 per student, per year. To find out more about ways to contribute to Sopheak’s Friendship School contact Michelle Forrest at firstname.lastname@example.org. To see more of McLaren at Sopheak’s Friendship School click here.
PR prepared by: Kirsten Lees +61 410 173 115