Aukas is the Khmer word for ‘opportunities’, and the name chosen by a small group of Belgians for their non-profit organization that supports educational projects in Cambodia. Aukas philosophy is similar to that of HIHF. Both organizations are small, both have a strong belief in the value of education as a way out of the viscous cycle of poverty. Neither believe in a hand out, but both believe in the value of a hand up.
Aukas has done a marvelous job taking over where HIHF left off with Angkor Tree School. The school is moving in a wonderful direction thanks largely to Aukas support. Now, in working with HIHF, Aukas will center their attention on a poorer part of Cambodia where opportunities are clearly more limited. Their idea is to initially build a community center at the TBeng Elementary School to house future volunteer teachers, while HIHF works with the neighboring villages to help improve the standard of living.
When we first started to help Sokhom at Angkor Tree School the school was more of an idea than a reality. The school had no walls, no desks, just twenty or so enthusiastic students. Now, it has expanded into a school with 4 classrooms, and 3 Cambodian teachers. 4 different levels of English and also Japanese classes are offered twice a day. The school is situated a few kilometers from the World Heritage site of Angkor Wat – the biggest tourist attraction in Cambodia. Because of this, the knowledge of English is a major asset for finding a job, yet second languages are not taught in any Cambodian schools. Whenever HIHF is in Siem Reap our volunteers and board members generally do a short stint of English or Japanese teaching for the students.
The founder of the school is Sokhom Khit. As a young boy he was separated from his family. Several family members were killed during the Pol Pot regime by the Khmer Rouge. A quarter of the Cambodian people were killed, including 90% of all teachers. His parents survived, but due to the harsh circumstances of hunger and poverty in those years, his parents have suffered health problems ever since. Sokhom’s father died in 2014 at the age of 52. His younger brother died of a landmine explosion.
Not having had the privileged of much education himself, Sokhom understands the importance of an education, and its ability to be used as a weapon against poverty. He wants to help the next generation to a better future.
Sokhom is a self-taught man. After learning both English and Japanese, he felt the urge to pass on his knowledge and started teaching the kids in his neighborhood. Because Trang village is a stone’s throw away from Angkor Wat, Cambodia’s main tourist attraction, Sokhom is convinced that by learning English, the children will have a greater chance for a better future. Sokhom saw an opportunity to help develop a better life for the next generation, and it all began with teaching English on the front of his doorstep.