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Two wheels of opportunity amidst a pandemic

By Zach Martorana, 20 November 2020
A Xavier Jesuit School student with his bicycle in Cambodia. Image: Jesuit Mission Australia

 

The COVID-19 pandemic is no obstacle for determined Xavier Jesuit School students in Cambodia, who eagerly ride great distances in rain, hail or shine to their campus after six months of school closure.

Staff and students have overcome immense challenges of remote learning, when the Cambodian government imposed heavy restrictions on community life in March, in order to control the spread of COVID-19.

“With the help of mobile phones we have been able to teach classes remotely and deliver worksheets to those who live far away,” said Father Jinhyuk Park SJ, Director at Xavier Jesuit School and project partner of Jesuit Mission Australia.

Founded in 2015 by Jesuit Service Cambodia, the school is committed to provide affordable, quality education to students from Sisophon, one of the poorest provinces in the country.

This year, however, students of vulnerable families fell into deeper levels of poverty and hunger, as casual employment opportunities disappeared with people being forced to stay inside.

Some families were forced to reduce the number of meals they have per day, as they simply did not have enough food and became dependant on the support from project partners and Jesuit Mission.

“We supported families through income-generating activities such as mask production and distributed 100 emergency packages for the most vulnerable families,” said Father Jinhyuk.

Combined with the challenge of the pandemic, torrential rain in October brought severe flooding, spoiling rice fields, damaging the livelihoods of many Khmer villagers and bringing areas of the school underwater.

However, the students continue to demonstrate their resilience, by prioritising education and even playing in the floodwaters.

“It is fantastic news to hear how the school has responded and to see that the students continue to flourish. It seems that no pandemic or flood can slow these students down,” said Helen Forde, CEO of Jesuit Mission.

You can provide a child with access to a quality education, by purchasing a bicycle for them from Jesuit Mission’s Gifts for Change program.

With each gift purchased, you will receive a card to share with your loved one.

Gifts for Change can be purchased online at https://shop.jesuitmission.org.au/ or call 02 8918 4109.

Zach Martorana is the Communications Officer at Jesuit Mission Australia.

With thanks to Jesuit Mission Australia.

 

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