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Digital Media School Project in Angkor Wat, Cambodia

By Keith Hajovsky

Last updated 11/29/2011 3:59:48 PM

Digital Media School Project in Angkor Wat

While the world's eyes were still on the fallout of the Vietnam War, the Khmer Rouge - followers of the ruling communist party in Cambodia - carried out a radical social reform program from 1975 to 1979. This program included isolating Cambodia from foreign influence, closing schools, hospitals and factories, abolishing banking, finance and currency, outlawing all religions, confiscating all private property, and relocating people from urban areas to collective farms - all with the horribly misguided intention of returning Cambodia to it's ancient glory.

The purpose of this policy was to cleanse the country of outside influences and create a purely agrarian-based Communist society in one generation. These actions resulted in massive deaths in schools-turned-prisons and in their "Killing Fields" through torture, pick-axe executions, work exhaustion, disease, and starvation. About 2 million Cambodians are estimated to have died needlessly in these five genocidal years, and these horrendous acts were aimed particularly at teachers, the educated and intellectual elite.

Today, some 32 years after the fall of the Khmer Rouge their fallout remains: over 30% of Cambodia's population is under age 14 and uneducated. Nearly all of these post genocidal-era children work or beg in the streets rather than attend school. Without proper education this cycle of poverty cannot be broken and the suffering merely gets passed from generation to generation.

But all is not lost in Cambodia. In 1998, one woman, Ponheary Ly, a teacher who miraculously survived the Khmer Rouge regime and one of CNN's 2010 Heroes, started a project to get rural children back to school and help them stay there. Since its inception, the Ponheary Ly Foundation (PLF) has put well over 2000 Cambodian children through school, continues to modernize many facilities and attracts visiting instructors from all over the globe.

ART + WEB + LEARNING

WOWi (Windows of Wonder Institute), a nonprofit organization based in Austin, Texas, will assist Ponheary Ly in realizing her vision by providing students with hands-on training in digital media - the lingua franca of the 21st century. In February 2012, WOWi will launch a unique, multi-year, international project to bring together special audiences in Siem Reap, Cambodia, and Austin.  For two weeks in February, eager students at the PLF Tchey School's new computer lab near Siem Reap, students in selected Austin schools, and retirees in selected Austin retirement communities will participate in a web-based WOWi event featuring creative exchange and learning. 

To facilitate this, a WOWi team in Cambodia will work with PLF students to develop their 21st century skills in digital media creation.  At the same time, other WOWi teams will work in various ways with both students and retirees in Austin to develop these same skills. Following this event, regular training and mentoring will continue, and a team will return to Cambodia biannually until a self-sustaining digital media school has been created in Siem Reap, operated entirely by Cambodians.  In this way, WOWi will both help break the cycle of poverty in Cambodia and, in the process, create a method of international development that will be replicated elsewhere in the world to help solve this all too pervasive problem.    

Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day.
Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime.

If you would like to learn more about this project please visit www.wowi-austin.org 




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