On the completion of a new school in Ratanakiri a small local ceremony is usually held. These often involve the welcoming of the good spirits and the expulsion of the bad. It’s informal and not attended by the provincial authorities. However on the completion of the Susy Q dormitory, named after Susy Quiros, we decided on a more conventional celebration day where all schools could be represented, the authorities invited and an official opening could be performed.
And so on 18 March the great day came. Each of the 24 Ratanakiri UWS schools had a large board on display showing information about themselves, a marquee was erected, a P.A. system installed, and the dorm was looking its best. Along with UWS directors and donors, the Deputy Provincial Governor, the Provincial Education Director, the District Governor and various District Education Officers and Village Chiefs were in attendance. Eclipsing all of these were hundreds of children and local people.
There were speeches giving thanks and praise (the UWS Team were referred to as ‘heroes’), songs from the UWS Roy school choir (a first for Ratanakiri!), the cutting of a red ribbon and the planting of trees (though not rubber trees!). The schools were celebrated and the Susy Q warmly opened.
The achievements of UWS are appreciated and the difficulties not trivialised. The reason that thousands of children can now go to school is the result of an international partnership: Evan Quiros and family in the USA, donors from around the world, partner schools from Bahrain to Bristol, the UWS teams in UK and in Cambodia, the provincial and district authorities and the village chiefs and people. All played their part to make this happen. Together we share the common purpose of giving children hope and an education.
A student from UWS Roy stood in front of the large gathering and sang a song learnt in UWS Roy School. The first words in Khmer are ‘wake up, wake up’ (sung to the tune of Frere Jacques). With each Cambodian student and our supporters around the world ‘awake’ to the importance of school, it was an excellent choice of song.
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