PERSONAL DEVELOPMENT AT ALL AGES – Alongside their lessons, students at Children of the Mekong gain a better understanding of their friendships, work, art, […]
Our mission at the Children of the Mekong charity is to enable the least privileged to get access to a rounded education which combines academic study with personal development.
We have given lots of thought over a long period to the best way of doing this, and have come to the view that our holistic training is underpinned by three cornerstones:
building oneself, opening oneself to the world, and involving oneself in society.
SANDER LIN, LOCAL PROGRAMME MANAGER IN MYANMAR
“I am responsible for several young people in a boarding house in Kachin State in the north of Myanmar. Every day we are facing structural difficulties, linked to the very way that we consider the education of young people in the country. During several years of military dictatorship, the government did not want to develop education. In 2011, when the country was opened, things did improve, but there is still a huge inequality between the cities and the countryside. The level of education is still very low in remote provincial villages in ethnic states, and the environment does not allow young people to develop.
As a result, they lack self-confidence and discernment. Many of those I welcome into my boarding house have plans that are not their own but those of their parents, whose expectations they carry as a burden because they cannot oppose them. Respecting elders and a lack of self-confidence are both a cultural reality in Myanmar. These children are convinced that adults know better than they do what is good for them. Unfortunately, this is often a clear path to failure.
There are several reasons for this reality. The lack of development in the country has a lot to do with it. Certain villages in Kachin State do not have any electricity. It is above all the poverty of the parents, who are very often absent for work and have very little education, that is responsible for the children’s lack of self-confidence. It is also a lack of training for teachers who expect the children to recite by heart rather than truly understand the lessons. However, they should not be blamed, as they themselves are part of a system that does not support them much and pays very little. Therefore, one of the first steps of our holistic training for young people is to strengthen their self-esteem and to learn to be discerning and critical. In my boarding house, we do this by very precise methods such as teaching them to say “no”.”
minors in Myanmar are not in school
of young people at secondary school age in Myanmar are not in school (UNESCO).
For us, a child who chooses not to follow the general trend is often the beginning of a victory!
OUR APPROACH ON THE GROUND
Self-confidence, or self-esteem, is a core theme in the holistic training provided by Children of the Mekong in its centres and boarding houses in Asia. Needs are such that in Cambodia this theme has been adopted as the national theme for 2021! Caroline Derot is an overseas volunteer and manager of the Battambang Centre in Cambodia. She tells us “At the start of my mission, I believed that developing creativity and a critical mind in young people was a priority, but I soon learnt that this assumed they had confidence in their own abilities in the first place. Daring to have an idea or express it is impossible if you don’t have a small amount of self-confidence”. Influenced by what was seen on the ground and the needs of the young Khmers and social leaders, Caroline works with those in her boarding house on the theme of “Confidence and compassion”. “It’s all a question of balance. We try to express pride with compassion because if you build too much pride, you can risk forgetting the others!”
The theme of confidence is also essential in their school curriculum. It allows the young people to have a better sense of personal direction, favouring the knowledge they have themselves and limiting external influences, which count for a lot in Asian cultures. Caroline explains that “in Cambodia, at first our young residents see themselves as poor and, as a result, feel that they will not achieve anything. It is a long process to make them aware of their qualities and talents”.
To achieve these results, Children of the Mekong’s holistic training leaders do not rely on grand theories but rather on a range of daily games and activities. “We would like to introduce them to the genius of the civilisation of the builders of Angkor Wat, the largest religious complex in the world and the pride of Cambodia. We do this so that they can feel proud of being Khmer and gain more confidence in themselves”, explains Caroline. “While waiting for the archaeologist to come and talk to them, we set them a challenge to build their own mini Angkor Wat with what we had at the centre.”
As an additional activity, residents in Year 12 were trained in the operation and maintenance of natural water filters. They were then invited to organise distribution of these filters in a village, in partnership with the association Espoir en Soie, in a village that did not have access to drinking water. Caroline is enthusiastic about the project. “It was a wonderful project. The aim was for everyone to learn how to speak and to take on different responsibilities to move the group forward. At the end, one of the pupils, who was far from being comfortable with this exercise, came to me with a bright smile and said “I had a mission. It was hard, but I accomplished it!”.
The pupils discover more about themselves through these practical exercises. Caroline adds “What I find so wonderful is that our students don’t get jealous of one another’s talents. Instead, the others are motivated by the confidence of their peers”. Chenda is a secondary school student from the Battambang Centre who went very far in the television singing competition “The Voice Cambodia”. She explained to the others how to be comfortable and confident when speaking in public. All of the students were thrilled with the workshop because, thanks to Chenda, they realised that they were capable of public speaking. Chenda chose to continue her studies rather than enter into the world of television and take on the glory that came with it. She later confided to Caroline: “I am happy to have shared my tips on public speaking with the others. I really believe that I was able to help them.”
TESTIMONY FROM A SPONSORED CHILD
Living together makes us all open-minded because we come from different backgrounds. Therefore, we must accept one another and live together in harmony in this big family at the Dr Christophe Mérieux Centre. We help our country, we help each other, and we teach children in the countryside. Even if we are born into poor families, we have a clear goal and strong desire to support one another in our futures.
All things come in pairs: we fail, we succeed; we are happy, we are sad; we are lucky, we are unlucky. But it is the way we work, learn and move forwards in our lives that will make the difference. When we get to know each other, we realise that each of us is intelligent, beautiful, talented, good, able to battle and learn from our failures. Even if we are from a poor family, we are each rich inside because we have a goal, an education, virtues, hope, perseverance, drive, communication, optimism, determination and friendship. We are not helpless or impoverished, we have the help of Children of the Mekong! We each have a hero inside of us, a hero that wants to help us but that we do not use or that we leave to rest. Awaken your hero to succeed in your life and do what you want to. Whatever you do, wherever you go, let it be from the heart.
Kimhuon, Univesrity student at the Christophe Merieux Centre in Phnom Penh.
More articles about holistic training
Third pillar of holistic training: involving oneself in society The testimony of Chandeth, programme manager in Cambodia, and the solutions proposed by Children of […]
First pillar of holistic training: building oneself