scholarships

How She’s Giving Back

Dropping Out of School

Her name is Sreymom; she is Cambodian. She grew up in a village as the oldest of five children. Sadly, when she was just twelve years old her mother died. Then helping her father earn an income for the family became her responsibility too, and after she completed sixth grade, her father asked her to begin full-time factory work.  

Sreymom describes, “In my village, mostly at the age of 12–13 years old, (the young people) will (lie about) their age in order to work in a factory. They don’t want to study but want to work in a factory where they can earn money and become beautiful. However, I don’t want to work there. I want to study even though I don’t know what it will become. I still want to study. ” 

At twelve years old, Sreymom was underweight. When factory managers saw her small size, they refused to hire her. Not a single factory accepted her. However, every other one of Sreymom’s friends, who were of normal height and weight, received job offers and began working full-time in factories just like they had dreamed of. 

After all the factory rejections, Sreymom’s father sat back and considered what to do. If not in a factory, where else could he find work for Sreymom? Soon he found a skills training center in Kompong Chnang province for women who had dropped out of school. The center taught marketable skills like sewing and cooking. 

An Unexpected Opportunity

Sreymom really did not want to go to the training center. She wanted to continue her formal education. But she could not speak up or refuse her father. So in the end, she left home and began the multiple day journey to her new life at the skills training center. On the way, she stopped to lodge a single night with one of her relatives. The relative worked as a cook at a Christian orphanage called the Child Rescue Organization (CRO). This ‘chance’ visit would change Sreymom’s life forever.

While she was visiting, the CRO manager also met Sreymom and found out about where she was headed and why. In that one evening, the director ended up inviting Sreymom to live at CRO instead and pursue her studies there. After some initial surprise and discussion, Sreymom eventually agreed.

But the decision didn’t come without cost. When Sreymom’s father found out about the sudden change in plans, he became upset; and for the whole first year, he couldn’t support it.  He very much wanted Sreymom to give up her formal education so that she could earn money. But finally, the CRO director was able to talk with her father and explain the benefits of Sreymom furthering her education, and Sreymom’s father eventually agreed.

The Love and Care of Strangers

When Sreymom first heard of God at CRO, she was incredulous. She firmly committed herself to not believing in him. However, day by day, God used the people at the center to give Sreymom some of the love and care that she had never experienced before.  

She confesses, “No one forced me to believe in God at all, but their kindness and love from people that I have met…they treated me like family. And that made me open my mind unnoticedly.”

Through CRO, Sreymom eventually successfully completed middle school and also high school. But then, she faced a new problem: she could not afford college.

College Problems

At this time, Concordia Welfare & Education Foundation (CWEF) was introduced to Sreymom and took up her case. CWEF fundraised through generous people like you to provide Sreymom with the necessary funds and an opportunity to fulfill her college dream.

And then, thanks to her own determination as well as a scholarship provided through the kindness of people like you, a well-known university in Phnom Penh admitted Sreymom as an English major!

At university, Sreymom faced many other battles including the fact that mastering the English language was incredibly challenging. At one point, she almost wanted to drop out of college altogether. But…her now personal faith in God kept her strong. Throughout this season of Sreymom’s life, CWEF staff continued to surround her with encouragement and a loving community. 

Sreymom’s Success

And in the end, she made it! Not only through middle school but through college. She achieved the dream that at one point looked impossible. After successfully graduating from college, Sreymom received job offers with good salaries from schools in Phnom Penh. But she turned down every single offer. Her desire wasn’t to make a lot of money. Instead, she desired to give back to the people that gave so much to her. Now she is working full-time at the Child Rescue Organization that she used to live at providing English lessons to more than one hundred Cambodian students for free.  

Today Sreymom says, “There are many kids who need my help to provide them with knowledge, and this is the best way that I could contribute back to my community.”   

Sreymom is grateful to Concordia Welfare & Education Foundation and all those who helped her on her journey! Now she can use her knowledge and story to inspire the next generation of students to not drop out of school but pursue their dreams instead.

It’s extremely exciting to see how everything Sreymom has learned, spiritually and educationally, is already spilling over and building up the next generation! Thank you for helping to break the cycle of poverty for young people like Sreymom through your generous giving and support of Concordia Welfare & Education Foundation.

Sreymom graduating from university surrounded by her classmates
Sreymom with some of her students

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This story was written by Panhary, CWEF Education Program Coordinator in Cambodia, with April Chiasson, CWEF Communications Manager.

Reflections from REACH teacher training

At the end of May 2019, CWEF worked with two seasoned trainers from Hong Kong Lutheran Social Services (HKLSS) to run a REACH training workshop for 30 teachers at Leju High School in Zhaotong, Yunnan province. These are the teachers who work on a day-to-day basis to educate and equip the young women who are supported by CWEF’s High School Scholarship program at their school.

During this 3-day workshop, the trainers from HKLSS focused on concepts and methods related to experiential education, teamwork, cooperation, and adolescent psychology. The trained teachers will be able to use these new concepts and skills to enhance their support of CWEF’s High School Scholarship recipients.

Thank you for your generous gifts! You are making it possible for these young women to not only continue their education, but also to have their education enhanced through special workshop experiences like this one.


Below are some reflections about the REACH workshop written by Yang H., one of the participating teachers from Leju.

In the summer, Zhaotong’s weather is quite unpredictable. When Xiaohui and Bobo (the HKLSS trainers’ Mandarin Chinese nicknames) arrived in Zhaotong together with CWEF staff Maggie and Jenny, the weather was starting to get cold. The four teachers showed up wearing thin summer clothes and worked so hard to bring us the REACH training workshop about experiential teaching methods, which moved and inspired all of us teachers here in Zhaotong.

Allow me to share more of our experience with you:

Our principal Mr. Zhou began by introducing the trainers:

“Teacher Xiaohui has come from afar and has a new teaching method to share with us.There’s a new philosophy…”

Honestly, at the beginning, we were skeptical. We have been through a lot of training workshops before, and many of these lectures have started the same way.

Then we learned that Xiaohui and Bobo’s salaries are actually very low, but they have both been doing social work for ten years. And then Maggie and Jenny from CWEF said they also have been working in the social sector in Yunnan for more than ten years, too.

The weather was cold but their hearts were warm, and we were moved by their persistence and dedication. 

As the training program began, Xiaohui and Bobo first gave us an introduction to experiential teaching.

“Let’s forget our jobs for a moment and let go of those heavy burdens for a while.”

To be honest, it’s usually very hard for someone to touch your heart when you meet them for the first time. 

But Xiaohui started off with a series of interactive activities with fun, exaggerated behaviors and flamboyant expressions, and everyone was brought in quickly to this new world of experiential teaching methods.

At that moment, we put down the heavy burdens we carry with us all the time and realized:

Life is so beautiful. We can actually relax and enjoy it for a while.

During the workshop, Xiaohui and Bobo first led us to design our own team flag, team name, and slogan. Everyone came up with their own ideas and provided valuable input for the team. Before we knew it, the colleague you were just meeting has become a friend.

Throughout the activities, we feel bad for the team’s failure, and we applaud the team’s success.

When all the teammates stood in a circle and were walking laps together, all of us were united, all hands were afraid to let go. At that moment, all the heartbeats were quietly beating together.

We are united.

Only when a team is united can it go farther and see higher.

On the third morning of the workshop, Xiaohui and Bobo led the group together to design and organize games for each team.

There were disputes over design, conflicts of opinion, and corrections to the plan along the way…

There were team members’ collaboration, persistence, and efforts …

We learned how to design games for use in our teaching and what to consider when designing a game, and how these games can make our work with students more effective and engaging.

In the process of playing, Xiaohui and Bobo turned complex theoretical knowledge into a meaningful learning experience.

It’s a great lesson for us and it will improve our ability to positively impact the students we work with.

When the trainers come to Zhaotong next time, I hope the clouds will part and the sun will shine for them.

– Written by Yang H., Leju High School teacher

Rui’s Story

We met Rui in 2015. She was 17 years old and in her first year of high school at one of our partner schools in northern Guangdong. Rui had a similar story to many of the young women in rural China we have supported through CWEF’s High School Scholarship program. …

Deqing Winter English Camp

DeqingStudents2

December 28-30th, a group of 20 volunteers from Church of All Nations and HKIS went to work with CWEF scholarship students in Deqing, China. The Winter Camp provided English lessons to more than 50 girls. The scholarship recipients visited during this trip are all supported by EMBERThe following reflection was written by one of the volunteer trip leaders. 

“The highlight of the trip for most Hong Kong participants was the enthusiasm for learning that these girls exhibited throughout the 3-day camp. As soon as our lessons began, they gave us their utmost attention. Their palpable desire to learn confirmed that the scholarships are a wise investment in the girls’ future.

Given the challenging home situations these girls face, their acceptance to high school speaks of their persistence to learn. To enroll at either school where the girls attend – Xiang Shan or Confucius Middle Schools – students need to score in the top 1/3 of the country. As these are the two top schools in the area, the scholarship recipients are all high achievers.

In conversation with the girls, we were surprised to learn their daily schedule. Their first class is at 6:50 AM. They have about two hours in the middle of the day for lunch and a nap, and then they have afternoon classes.  After dinner, they have additional study sessions in their classrooms from 7-10 at night. They get back to their rooms around 10:15, and lights go out by 11:30 PM. They have classes all week; Sunday is the only day off for students. Our respect for the girls grew when we visited their dormitory. Each room has 6 bunk beds. The twelve girls in a room share one bathroom facility. The beds are planks of wood with no mattresses to sleep on. No lighting is available during the day, so reading a textbook during mid-day hours requires a battery-powered light. With a cold front bringing near 0-degree temperatures on Saturday night, staying warm is also a challenge for the girls.

Our English lessons focused on the theme of giving during the Christmas holiday season. Students read O. Henry’s classic story, ‘The Gift of the Magi’ in the morning. In the afternoon, the students learned about the tradition of Santa Claus. The key reading piece was ‘On Santa’s Team.’ Both stories emphasize the idea that it is more blessed to give than to receive.

In keeping with the theme, the scholarship girls and the Hong Kong group visited a local elderly home. The girls were just as attentive to the elderly as they were to our lessons. When we returned to their schools, they expressed how much they enjoyed helping older people, a form of learning that is not generally part of their education.

For the volunteers, the great gift of this Christmas trip was to meet such hard-working students who give so generously of themselves to us, to their teachers, to their fellow students, and to the elderly that we visited.”

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