Redmond Elementary School students are extending a helping hand to their peers abroad.
On Tuesday, the school held an assembly to kickoff a month-long fundraiser for a school in northwestern Cambodia.
And while many schools and organizations have raised money for international causes, Redmond cause hits close to home. The Cambodian school is in the village of Samraong and on the same property as the school Redmond custodian Chhay In attended.
The money collected will go toward basic school supplies such as pencils, pens and notebooks. The school is a primary and secondary school and is about twice the size of Redmond’s 400-plus student body, but only has two teachers. Money collected will also go toward bringing in an English teacher, not just for students but for the surrounding community.
In, who has been working at Redmond for 10 years, said he would love it if they raised enough money to provide something more sustainable than supplies such as another classroom or a library, but anything will help.
“(Money) just for the supplies, that’d be fine, but if it’s enough for a building or something I’d be so happy,” he said.
School counselor Leslie Fields pitched the fundraising idea to the student council after talking to a friend over the summer from Los Angeles who was sponsoring a Cambodian school.
“And the student body just embraced it,” Fields said.
She added In’s connection to the cause makes it much more personal. In, or “Mr. Chhay” as he is known to students, is very popular at Redmond and received a tremendous round of applause at the assembly. He said the students’ gusto for the fundraiser has been inspiring for him.
“I’m very happy right now,” In said. “It made me think what I could do for (the school) too.”
While Redmond is one of the more diverse schools in Lake Washington School District, principal Joyce Teshima said the fundraiser has helped give the students better insight into other cultures. She said some of her students have not traveled far beyond the state or country’s borders — some haven’t even been to Seattle. Seeing pictures and items from In’s trip abroad and knowing someone who has actually traveled overseas also helps them get a better sense of the world, Teshima added.
“(The students) get to see people are people no matter where you are,” she said.
Teshima has also been impressed with how serious the student council has taken the fundraiser and the work they have put in to make sure it is a success. Part of making the fundraiser successful has been getting the student body excited about it and she said they have accomplished this as everyone on campus has been very enthusiastic about the cause.
“I think any time they can look beyond themselves … I think it makes them feel better to help,” Teshima said.
In’s daughter Dianna In Doeur, who gave a presentation about Cambodia at the school’s assembly kickoff, was also impressed and encouraged by the kids’ eagerness to help. She said it’s great to see there are genuinely open-hearted people in the world and it gives her hope that all is not lost with humanity.
During her presentation, Doeur discussed various topics including Cambodia’s geographic location, climate and vegetation. She also brought up the country’s history, briefly touching on the Khmer Rouge regime that killed between 1-2 million Cambodians from 1975 to 1979.
Cambodia and the Khmer Rouge have always been a particular point of interest for Doeur not only because that is her heritage but also because her parents are survivors of the genocide. Although it has been more than 30 years since the fall of the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia is still a developing country, which is difficult for Doeur to take.
“As much as you want to help, you can only do so much,” she said. “To have people finally recognize it, it feels real good.”
Members of the community who would like to donate to Redmond Elementary’s Cambodian school fundraiser can drop off donations at the school, located at 16800 NE 80th. The fundraiser ends April 15, which coincides with the final day of Cambodian New Year.