Westchester: Keeping Girls Out of Prostitution in Cambodia

Room to ReadIt could not be more symbolic that Kall Kann, survivor of Cambodia’s killing fields and Country Director in Cambodia of the not-for-profit global organization, Room to Read, will talk about rebuilding literacy in Cambodia at the Rye Free Reading Room at 7pm on Monday, May 9th, 2011.  Room to Read Cambodia has already built over 1,200 reading rooms in Cambodia to nurture a life-long love of reading and learning since it started its work in Cambodia in 2002.  This has been no small task in a country where virtually all educated people were eliminated in genocidal killing fields and the schooling system all but collapsed during the 4-year communist Khmer Rouge regime from 1975 to 1978.

An improbable torchbearer of education, Kann became orphaned at the age of 12 when the Khmer Rouge seized power in Cambodia in 1975. He was almost 20 before he was able to go back to school, and he finished his schooling at almost 35.  Kann credits his family with instilling in him the value of education from a young age, and this gave him the determination to go back to school when he could.  “I strongly believe that education is the means – the only effective means – to end poverty,” said Kann in his recent interview with 10 x 10, a documentary group producing the groundbreaking feature film 10 x 10 about the stories of 10 girls from 10 developing countries as they navigate adolescence.

In his upcoming talk in Rye on the topic, “From the Killing Fields to Planting Seeds of Hope: Educating One Girl at a Time,” Kann will share stories of Room to Read Cambodia’s journey in helping to rebuild not only Cambodia’s educational infrastructure but perhaps more importantly, a culture of learning which supports girls who are traditionally shortchanged in education and not given the same schooling opportunities as boys. In Cambodia, 4 out of 5 girls drop out of school when they turn 13. The organization’s Girls Education Program has already offered over 1,800 girls a ticket out of poverty and potential sexual exploitation by helping them stay in school.
Nam Sreyny, at 16 years old, was one such beneficiary of Room to Read’s Girls Education Program in Cambodia.  She was forced to drop out of school at sixth grade following her father’s unexplained death while serving the army.  Her mother, left with only a small plot of rented farmland to eke out a living, could no longer afford the $5 monthly school fee, and the nearest secondary school was 20 miles from home. Room to Read Cambodia decided to help Nam stay in school after learning that she had always gotten good grades and enjoyed her studies. They paid for her school uniform, shoes, a book bag, school supplies, and a stipend to one of the teachers to allow Nam to board with her during the week.  Nam also got a bicycle so that on weekends she could return home to help her mother tend to the farm.
Kall Kann’s talk will take place at 7pm on Monday, May 9, 2011 at The Rye Free Reading Room, 1061 Boston Post Road, Rye, NY 10580. Admission is free.  All donations are welcome.  Kindly RSVP to Westchester@roomtoread.org.  For further information, visit www.roomtoread.org/westchester.
About Room to Read and Room to Read Westchester Chapter
Room to Read is a global organization seeking to transform the lives of millions of children in the developing world by focusing on literacy and gender equality in education. Founded on the belief that World Change Starts with Educated Children, Room to Read works in collaboration with local communities, partner organizations and governments to develop literacy skills and a habit of reading among primary school children and to ensure girls have the skills and support needed to complete their secondary education.  Since 2000, Room to Read has impacted the lives of more than 5 million children in Asia and Africa and aims to reach 10 million children by 2015. Learn more at www.roomtoread.org.
The Westchester Chapter of Room to Read was founded in November 2010 by Carine Verschueren who returned to Westchester after 4 years in Japan where she was an active member of the Room to Read Tokyo Chapter.  Volunteer meetings are held every first Tuesday of the month.


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