Bridge of Life School is a Khmer-run not-for-profit organization that provides educational related programming at four sites in the Cambodian countryside. Our primary focus is English language classes which help motivated students learn the language and seek employment in the tourism industry where jobs tend to pay a living wage. We also offer a sewing training and coopeartive for unemployed women, computer classes, a Khmer/English library staffed by a trained librarian, and educational fields trips for students. In 2012 we opened a not-for-profit guesthouse called The Big Yellow House with all profits transferred to the school.
Our major focus is English classes at our school in Banteay Srey and at a pagoda in Kampong Thom. English is the de facto international language and is a very important language in Cambodia, where tourism makes up over 16% of the country’s GNP (nearly 2 million tourists visited Siem Reap in 2011). The industry employs thousands of people in Siem Reap alone, as well as in other major cities and at tourists attractions. Working in hotels, restaurants, local shops and stores, and tour agencies requires English proficiency. Without English it is very difficult to find work.
We offer three English classes in Banteay Srey, including a Beginner, Intermediate, and Grammar/Conversation class. Approximately 100 students participate in the program, including 15 in the most advanced course. To date, approximately 10 students have graduated and found employement in the city at hotels, radio stations, and restaurants. Our second site opened in 2011 and currently offers six classes, all at a beginner level. As students progress, more challenging courses will be offered. Approximately 200 students participate in this program, although it tends to fluctuate based on the season. Our third school in Siem Reap opened in November of 2012 and currently offers elementary English classes for 60 students.
In addition to English language programming, we offer a sewing training and cooperative. Many women were interested in learning the trait, but obstacles prevented them from participating, in particular the costs of machines and courses. In order to support these entrepenuers, we hired an a well-respected sewer with over 20 years experience to teach them her skills. The students study for one year and after finishing the course they are evaluated and then given a machine to take home and provided with a $100 gift from their sponsor. This money can be used to buy any sewing supplies or equipment to start a different business. We have also opened a cooperative that sell purses, dresses, and other items in the United States and at our guesthouse. Money earned is shared with the sewer who made the products.
We also have a small computer lab that teaches Microsoft Office, typing, and Internet/Email. We also have a Khmer & English library, staffed by a full-time, trained librarian, so students have full access to reading materials, especially on the weekend. The librarian also assists students with homework questions and exam preparation.