How we began
HVC was founded in 2010 by Sue Wiggans, a retired English primary school teacher from the Isle of Wight. Sue had travelled and volunteered in Siem Reap before and seen the real need for a locally-run, well-managed and financially-transparent project to help local children and other vulnerable community members.
Sue's determination, skill and enthusiasm resulted in a meeting with His Excellency Seang Nam, an elected and extremely well-respected local member of parliament. Seang Nam was inspired by Sue's passion and vision to donate land to the project and become the Patron. Months later, the first buildings of HVC had been constructed on the 4000 square metres of prime land in a beautiful rural setting.
Sue spent many years living in Cambodia and has now retired back to the UK, but maintains contact and still provides inspiration to all at HVC.
Cambodia and Siem Reap
Cambodia is a nation with a rich cultural history, though its current population has been hugely affected by recent wars, famine and the brutality of the Khmer Rouge regime under Pol Pot. An estimated 2 million people (approximately a quarter of the population) were killed and the specific targeting of doctors, lawyers and teachers as well as foreign immigrants and a return to 11th Century agricultural models all but destroyed the Cambodian economy. Further political instability and civil war in the 1980s stalled recovery from the genocide until stability was restored in the form of a multi-party democracy underneath a constitutional monarchy in the early 1990s.
UNICEF has designated Cambodia as the third most land-mined country in the world resulting in over 60,000 deaths and countless thousands more injuries since 1970. Most of the victims are children herding animals or playing in the fields. Though health indicators are generally improving, in some regions of Cambodia 22.9% of infants die before they are five years old. Professional healthcare, especially for rural families, is difficult and for many, expensive.
Although Cambodia has developed progressively over recent years, education is still limited to four hours a day from Monday to Saturday. In primary school there are two shifts, from 7 to 11am and from 1 to 5pm. The government plans to offer every child full time schooling, but for this to happen there will first need to be a large increase in the number of available classrooms. Most primary schools now offer Kindergarten from 5 to 6 years of age, but for a child to begin learning before five, (and for many parents this means an opportunity for extra employment) NGOs provide a free or minimum contribution alternative to the private early education schools in town. Our Khmer students begin at three years old and remain until they can attend the government Kindergarten at five.
Any student who learns a second language ultimately has a wider career choice in a tourist town such as Siem Reap, with its astonshing Angkor Wat temple complex nearby, and the younger they begin the easier it is for them to attain fluency. Our English Kindergarten is available as soon as a child has joined the five year old KG class at government school. We try to include some basic maths as well, since learning in government school is frequently by rote, and maths techniques often outstrip the understanding of the processes used. By providing these structured lessons in English and math and also providing guided opportunities for play, we endeavour to introduce thinking 'outside the box' on a daily basis, as this is a skill that does not accompany rote learning.