A guest blog by one of our Partners, Anna Hildebrand Mrozek from Poland
“Happy who taught their children to enjoy the little things.”
Our friends from the Siem Reap school in Cambodia were very eager to join the School Happiness Week, that was in the same week as the International Week of Happiness at Work. The school is run by The Global Child organization (https://theglobalchild.org/).
We visited it for the first time in 2018 and then in 2019. The level of deficits they are struggling with, ranging from infrastructure to human resources, touched us deeply. We are in constant contact with them and we want to support them in a systemic way.
According to data from Save the Children, 96% of children begin their education in Cambodia, but less than 50% of them complete it. For still work that provides life is more important than gaining knowledge. In Cambodia, state schools, although free, teach very poorly and there are too few of them. The alternative are private prestigious primary schools in large cities, which, however, are more expensive even than schools in the West. Therefore, education far from big cities is based on small private nurseries, maintained by local communities and with the support of volunteers. The Siem Reap school belongs to such schools.
On the occasion of the Happy Week at School, the children recorded short interviews in which they talked about happiness. They also prepared drawings. They sent all of this to us. Thanks to their kindness, we can show these drawings.
The students talked about how happiness is associated with a happy family, health, happiness at school and at work.
In one of the drawings, a happy family is sitting at the table and having a meal together. This is an important moment for Cambodians – sharing a meal and eating it together. The second element of a happy family is the ability to learn – a child learning to have a better chance for the future. Another element is watching movies together. The last element is the father teaching his children his story and passing on the knowledge he has. It is also this difficult history and war that many parents remember.
The second picture is about happiness in school. School is a very important place where knowledge and experience are gained in order to work to improve the living conditions in Cambodia. Young people greatly appreciate the fact that they have a chance to learn and can use it for the benefit of a country that is in constant, post-war reconstruction.
Another statement relates to happiness at work. The student understands it as mutual help, not evaluation, mutual respect, inspiration and teamwork that gives full energy. Work alone brings happiness. The slogan: “Me + work = happiness” is very meaningful.
Another dimension of happiness is health. By children from school in Cambodia, it is understood as physical exercise, regular meals, hygiene, frequent washing of hands, healthy sleep. As a consequence, we are healthy at work and at school.
Simple drawings, simple reflections, because it’s not about the level of complexity. More about experience and reflection. Their vision of the world and school is not very different from ours. With one exception – we “have” more and have a better chance. For going to school at all. For going to work at all. The GDP per capita in Cambodia is USD 1,390 (2017), and in Poland USD 15,629 (2019). Can you change your perspective …?
The change of perspective widens my field of view and understanding of the world, the situations in which I find myself every day. School in Cambodia, run by The Global Child, allows me to constantly enrich this perspective. And be grateful. For what I have and for them that I can be of use to them.
As I watched the drawings and videos recorded by Cambodian children and their personal, very moving thanks to us, I thought to myself: what if my children cannot go to school tomorrow? What if we can’t go to work? After all, this school (whatever it is) and work might not exist. I might not have a chance to educate my children in kindergarten, school, and college. I might not be able to get a job. And it’s not about the pandemic …
How often do we wonder about it? After all, tomorrow we may not have a chance to enjoy these privileges that we have every day. Trams, buses, TV sets, shops, fresh and frozen products, air-conditioned or heated rooms. Remote, hybrid, stationary, temporary work and education … we have a choice all the time.
What if I didn’t have that choice …?
Anna Hildebrand Mrozek