By Amelia Poxon, CARE Communications Coordinator, July 2010
Elders play an important role in any society – teaching the younger generation about their heritage and imparting the wisdom that can only be gained from experience.
She may only be 48 years of age, but with a life expectancy for indigenous women in Cambodia at less than 60, Ting Preep is one of her Kreung community's proud elders.
The Kreung ethnic minority is one of the six indigenous groups in Cambodia's north-eastern province of Ratanak Kiri. Life for indigenous groups here is a challenge - they live in remote areas with poor access to markets and health services, but the greatest barrier for these groups is that they do not speak the national language of Khmer. Not being able to communicate outside of their community means that Kreung and other indigenous people are often cheated at markets, violated out of their right to land, and unable to access the state education system.
Faced with these challenges as a 20 year old, Ting Preep took it upon herself to take a Khmer course, in order to learn her own country’s national language. Now, 25 years later,she is part of CARE's Highland Community Program which is bringing bilingual education into indigenous communities.
Ting Preep is a member of the School Support Committee at Borkeo Secondary School,where she oversees student and teacher attendance, and facilitates planning aroundeducation within the community.
CARE provides scholarships to students from remote communities to board at statesecondary schools like Borkeo, allowing them the opportunity to continue their educatio once they leave their local primary school.
As each new school year begins, Ting sees more and more children from her community arriving with primary bilingual education already under their belt.
‘I was so excited and so happy when CARE provided this place for the students to stay,’ she says with a broad smile.‘I am so happy to give advice to the indigenous children who come to stay here’, she said.
Over 70 students sleep and study in Borkeo Boarding House under the supportive eye of Ting and the committee. Today, her struggles to access education are in the past, and she is optimistically looking at the future as she sees girls from her own village thriving with the opportunity she has fought so hard for herself.