scholarships

Life in the Big City

Bun Leang is a bright young man who believed his God-given potential could only be achieved by furthering his education at university. But how could he attend when his family stood deep in medical debt?

Bun Leang grew up in the countryside of western Cambodia in a Christian family. His father worked faithfully for many years as a construction worker to support his wife and six children. But eventually, as his body grew slower and weaker with old age, he could no longer continue this physically intensive labor. Some time later, Bun Leang’s mother also accidentally fell. The fall broke her hip. She needed surgery, but the doctor refused to operate because she had diabetes. Caring for their mother by providing necessary medical care drove Bun Leang’s family deep into financial debt.

Bun Leang participating in worship team!

During this time of Bun Leang’s childhood and adolescence, Bun Leang enjoyed playing music. He performed musically and shared the gospel in surrounding villages. When Bun Leang was nearing university age, CWEF heard about both his academic potential and the financial hardships his family faces. So CWEF donors like you came together and awarded Bun Leang an academic scholarship, making it possible for him to attend university. 

Bun Leang embraced the opportunity by first pursuing an associate degree in his hometown. Later he took an even bigger leap and transferred to a university in Phnom Penh, far away from his family and everything familiar, to study engineering. Bun Leang studied hard. During his classes, he most enjoyed listening to professors who shared stories from their on-the-job engineering experiences.

One of the schools Bun Leang attended

But Bun Leang also struggled to adjust to life in the big city. He felt lonely. All his family and friends lived back in his hometown, and he knew no one else in Phnom Penh. Once, he even regretted coming to the big city and wished he had stayed in his hometown. Also, he felt very stressed. He knew that his family needed more money to pay for his mother’s medical debts, but he didn’t have a job and couldn’t help.

Bun Leang working with his technical team
Visiting a work site

Later on, while still in school, he did successfully find a job as part of a technical team. Bun Leang explains, “(At first), I didn’t understand a single word of the technical English terms used on engineering sites, but that is a good starting point for me to work harder. It took me two years and a lot of effort to learn how to be skilled at my job, but now I’ve been working for three years and am the Senior Technical Project Manager.” 

Bun Leang on his last day of engineering school!

This year Bun Leang will graduate with a degree in engineering! He says,  

“…if I continued to live in my hometown without furthering my studies, I really can’t imagine what my life would be like. But now I have a job, and I dream that I can support myself and give back to my family.”

Throughout this year, Bun Leang has described his life as a blessing, and CWEF has been a big part of that: providing support and encouragement. Bun Leang says: “CWEF has provided support such as: school fees, some living costs before I was strong enough to seek a job, housing fees, and another extra course…CWEF takes good care of me… I am so grateful for your support.”

Bun Leang surely will not stop here. He has more goals he wants to achieve in the coming years. He shares, 

“Education has played a big role in transforming my life. First, I’ve become knowledgeable, and it opens my vision to see the next plan for what I want to achieve more, for example, in 5 years or 10 years.” 

Eating a meal with family!

Bun Leang is so grateful to God for blessing him in every way, and he is thankful to everyone at CWEF for providing him with a scholarship and a chance to pursue higher education! Through this opportunity, he was able to make his dream come true, and now he looks forward to pouring into his church and community in the future!

Want to help more students like Bun Leang fulfill their potential? Donate here!

Meet more students like Bun Leang and read their stories here.

This report was written by Panhary, Education Program Coordinator in Cambodia; translated from English into Mandarin by Qian Qian, CWEF volunteer; and edited in English by April Chiasson, CWEF Communications Manager.

Lijuan

Dare to Try

Hello everyone! My name is Lijuan, I am from Guangdong province, China.  When I was young, my father, the only breadwinner in my family, fell ill and was unable to financially support my education. And so first of all, I would like to express my heartfelt thanks to my teachers and all the caring people of Concordia Welfare & Education Foundation for helping me in my most difficult time and for choosing me among so many people to receive financial support. 

In addition to that, the summer and winter camps held by CWEF & Shining Star every year made me and the other students feel happy and cared for and exposed us to new things and new friends. I have become a more cheerful and confident person because of this organization.  

Looking back on these ten years of schooling, I am very happy that I was able to receive a higher education with the help of many kind people. Growing up in such a difficult family, I knew that only studying could change my fate; so I studied diligently from elementary school through high school. I have been asked many times by other parents, “Do you have any tricks to study? How come you study so well?” I would usually laugh and think, “I don’t have any tricks. It’s just that I have no one behind me, so I have to work hard.”  

The moment I received my university acceptance letter, I was both happy and frustrated. Happy that my hard work for more than ten years had finally paid off, and I could change my destiny; frustrated that my debt-ridden family could not support my college expenses.  Thanks to the good policies of the Party and the Country, and thanks to the kind-hearted organizations like CWEF, I was able to fulfill my dream of going to college!  

I entered the university knowing that the opportunity to go to university is not easy to come by, and I kept telling myself that I should cherish it twice and that studying should be the first priority. So I studied hard and ranked in the top 20% overall, while also pursuing a minor in administration over the weekends.  

Every year I have worked hard to get scholarships, some of which were supplied by Concordia Welfare & Education Foundation, and these scholarships have largely relieved me of my worries. By using the scholarship funds I received only for my studies and real needs and by not comparing my food and clothes to those of other students, I relieved my family of some financial burden.  

As a college elective, I decided to try a new challenge: tennis. When I began, the coach thought I was short and had no advantage in playing tennis. So I just followed the other players and taught myself. When I had time, I went to tennis lessons, played on the courts every day, and consulted with the coach and other players. After another year, I became the best player, and the coach was impressed with me.

The tennis coach wholeheartedly trained me every day.  Soon I became the assistant tennis coach, and I worked part-time during weekends and holidays. Because of the coach’s help and teaching, I became a better version of myself during this period of my life. And after four years of ongoing practice in college, I had the honor of winning the tennis championship my senior year.    

After graduating from college, I began regularly supporting charity work, and I started a tennis club along with some of the other athletes. I also began studying for the teacher preparation exam. I was unsuccessful in the first round of exams, but I studied and prepared for the exams again. Fortunately, I got into the teaching profession. I am now a teacher with a bachelor’s degree in physical education from Guangdong Institute of Petrochemical Technology. I like my job, and my life is the way I want it. Thank you for all the people who have helped and encouraged me over the years.  

Many times over the years, I was confused and torn by the choices I faced, but as long as you follow your heart, not afraid of failure, not afraid of hardship, and dare to try; I believe you will become what you want to be. 

Thank you for your generous donations to Concordia Welfare & Education Foundation’s scholarship fund for Chinese girls! Because of you, young women like Lijuan have been empowered to change their destinies and reach their professional dreams. And now they are helping others do the same.  

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This letter was originally written by Lijuan in Mandarin; translated to English with the help of Qian Qian, CWEF volunteer; and edited for length and flow by April Chiasson, Communications Manager.

This summer, during our Join The Community campaign, we are looking for more people with a heart for students like Lijuan. Would you consider joining The Community as a monthly donor today?

Sreymom

How She’s Giving Back

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 didn’t want to work there. I wanted to study even though I didn’t know what it will become. I still wanted to study. ” 

Sreymom

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 unnexpectedly.”

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 graduating from university surrounded by her classmates
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 back at CRO
Sreymom, with a few of her students

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Become part of the CWEF community and transform the lives of more outstanding young people by donating here.

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

Phanna’s Perseverance

In 1980, a young man in Cambodia stepped on a landmine laid by Khmer Rouge soldiers while clearing land for farming. He survived but faced many hardships as a disabled farmer. He married and had four children, one of whom was a boy named Phanna. The family worked hard for a low income, but then sadly faced a terrible tragedy when Phanna’s mother passed away in 2010 from chronic heart disease.

Phanna’s father was not able to care for all four children on his own, so he made the difficult decision in 2011 to bring them to a nonprofit center called the Child Rescue Organization (CRO), where their physical and emotional needs could be met. With this extra support, Phanna was able to develop his natural gifts. He grew into an exceptionally bright and diligent student, and he was a disciplined and helpful member of the CRO community. His English also improved rapidly through his own study and as he practiced with teams of students from other countries who came to visit and serve at CRO.

Phanna continued to work hard throughout high school and eventually graduated in 2017, earning a Grade A on the national exam – a very prestigious accomplishment in Cambodia. That year, nearly 100,000 students took the national exam, and Phanna was one of only 424 students in the entire country who earned an A!

Because of his excellent academic record, Phanna was awarded scholarships from two universities in Cambodia, but they only covered his tuition costs. Because of CRO’s relationship with CWEF, Phanna also learned about the CWEF University Scholarship program. He applied and was approved for additional support from CWEF for not only his living costs, but also for his continued spiritual, mental, and emotional development through regular encouragement and training opportunities with the CWEF team in Cambodia. Your generous support of CWEF made it possible for Phanna to realize his dream of studying International Relations at the University of Cambodia in Phnom Penh, the capital city.

Phanna-with-fellow-scholars
Phanna with fellow CWEF Scholarship students in Phnom Penh;

But Phanna’s dreams and determination didn’t stop there.

During his first year in Phnom Penh, he began researching scholarships for study abroad programs and started preparing himself to be a strong candidate. The CWEF team encouraged him to apply for scholarship programs that interested him – even if he failed, it would be a great learning experience for him. In the end, Phanna was awarded a 4-year scholarship to study Social Policy and Development at Thammasat University, a prestigious institution in Bangkok, Thailand.

Headed-to-Thailand
At the airport, leaving Cambodia for Thammasat University in Thailand
With-fellow-students-in-Thailand
With fellow students at Thammasat University

CWEF is thrilled to be able to continue supporting Phanna with scholarship support for living costs, and the CWEF Cambodia team continues to help him with anything he needs, giving him confidence and encouragement to take advantage of this unique opportunity.

Phanna recently shared with us that he has never feared living alone in Thailand because he knows that there are people from CWEF who are always there to love, care, support, and pray for him.

Phanna

Phanna will soon enter his third year at Thammasat University, and it should come as no surprise that he continues to excel. In his most recent semester, he earned a perfect 4.0 GPA. Not only that, Phanna joined a volunteer program at the university that is working to facilitate projects designed to help children in rural communities in Thailand.

In the future, Phanna wants to be a Governance and Policy Specialist and hopes to bring a positive impact to the society in his home country of Cambodia. We look forward to seeing what God has in store for the next season of Phanna’s education and adult life.

Because of your faithful prayers and generosity, Phanna is able to confidently share:

“In the future, I will be able to play a critical role to improve people’s living conditions in my country.”

by Panhary Port Puth (Cambodia Education Programs Director), with Joshua Lange (CWEF Executive Director)

Support Future Leaders Like Phanna

 

A Grateful Heart in the Midst of a Tragic Year

written by Elena Semler, CWEF volunteer

Xuemei, a high school senior in Yunnan Province, has dealt with many hardships and feelings of helplessness during the past year due to COVID-19: 

“At the beginning of the school year, I failed to go to school for the first time. I had to stay at home and attend on-line classes… The price of everything was increasing, but the income of my family was decreasing. Living expenses became more expensive, and our debts were getting heavier and heavier.”

Like many around the world this year, Xuemei and her family struggled with increased living expenses and growing debts. It was then, in a time when she needed some hope, that Xuemei found it in the support she received because of your gifts.

“With your support, I didn’t feel so helpless. I felt warmth and saw light ahead of me.”


Xuemei with her classmates

Xuemei is a recipient of a CWEF High School Scholarship, which covers all school-related costs and provides student development support in crucial areas such as setting goals and making plans, managing emotions, teamwork, and more.

Although Xuemei’s family has struggled financially due to the pandemic, their decreasing income did not put an end to her education, thanks to your generosity. Once it was safe for the students to return to school, Xuemei was able to return as well. She is happy to share: “Now we are lucky to be able to go back to school again.”

Because of your generosity, Xuemei has not only been comforted amid a challenging time, but she has also received tangible help that, in her own words: “let me move forward and get closer to my dream.” With her renewed sense of hope for the future, Xuemei remains faithful to her goals and aspirations, “I will study hard and try my best to go to university.”

Xuemei and her family have lived a difficult life in rural Yunnan even before the pandemic. However, it is these difficulties that have given her a perspective that we should all aspire to have. In a letter to her scholarship sponsor, she writes, “Though I have never met you or seen you, I will still have a grateful heart.”

CWEF scholarships educate and equip bright young women like Xuemei to live a life of leadership and service. People like you make it possible for people like Xuemei, even after a global pandemic and a devastating year for her family, to have hope for the future.

Yinlu’s Angel

Written by Elena Semler – CWEF Volunteer

You are an angel in my heart,” Yinlu writes to her high school scholarship sponsor of 3 years.

She is from a village in northeast Yunnan province and is a recipient of a CWEF scholarship, which provides financial assistance so she can attend high school. Hardships in life have given Yinlu an extra sense of purpose. “I am more mature than my peers. I think knowledge can change my fate. I studied even harder to enrich myself with learning and more knowledge. I want to be more excellent and capable.

Yinlu has had to endure more than most people will ever experience, in a short amount of time. “My mother left us when I was 3. She could not bear the poverty.” Her father, now burdened with a larger financial load, took a job at a coal mine. Her grandmother passed away not long after. Then, it was only a mere two months after her father buried her grandmother that, “he [my father] also left us forever,” when he died in an accident at work.

With more and more tragedies piling onto Yinlu’s family, her grandfather, heartbroken, took in his two granddaughters, Yinlu and her younger sister. Her grandfather would travel to many places to find work in order to provide for the three of them, but it did not matter how far he went or how late it was, he always came home to them.

As Yinlu’s grandfather, now 74 years old, deals with the difficulties of old age and still tries to help out around the house, Yinlu was sent to a welfare home for a period of time. Although difficult, she acknowledges that she learned a lot from that challenging time. Yinlu reflects:

“I believe that God is fair to everyone. He closes a door for you and will open a window for you. He gave me a poor and seemingly unfortunate life, but He also let me recognize the reality [of life] ahead of time.”

Yinlu understands the power of knowledge and has asserted that she will use her education for good and that she “will try to help others and become a person who is useful to society.”

Your gifts to the CWEF High School Scholarship program provide bright young women like Yinlu scholarships and support, preparing them for a life of leadership and service to their families and communities. Additionally, student development programs equip students for life after school, including crucial skills such as: setting goals and making plans, managing emotions, working in teams, and more. 

Thank you for being an angel to Yinlu and many more like her!


Yongjin’s Education: Blessing and Responsibility

The aged woman looked at the infant sleeping in her arms and thought, “she’s as small as a kitten.” Yongjin was only a month old when she was abandoned by her father into her grandmother’s care. Her mother suffered from a mental disorder and was unable to care for her. Yongjin, now 16, was raised by her cherished grandmother in rural Yunnan province. “I feel sorry for my grandma, for the hardship she has been through.”

Yongjin, full of gratefulness, was awarded with a CWEF scholarship to cover her high school tuition and related costs. She reflects, “…your sponsorship allows me to continue pursuing my study without worrying about the tuition and living cost, which is a big expense for my family. Your help greatly released my family’s burden.” Yongjin’s grandmother was overjoyed when she heard the news of her educational assistance. “Your help makes me feel that I am not alone and that there are people in this world caring for us!” Yongjin shares.

Even though her life has been hard, Yongjin has persevered and is wise beyond her years. “I am not ashamed for what happened to me, in fact, these [hardships] have enabled me to gain some competencies that many people my age don’t have—cooking, seeing doctors by myself, being very independent. I’m confident and don’t think that I’m lacking anything compared to others.”

CWEF scholarships provide bright young women scholarships and support, preparing them for a life of leadership and service to their families and communities. Additionally, student development programs equip students for life after school, including crucial skills such as: setting goals and making plans, managing emotions, working in teams, and more. Yongjin shares, “The scholarship is precious to me, and I will make sure to use it wisely to optimize the value. Looking at it, I feel that I can accomplish my dreams and I’m very appreciative for that. It’s a blessing, also a responsibility. It motivates and stimulates me, and also reminds me that I’m not alone. There are also others like you and my grandma supporting me.”

According to the World Bank, the education of girls is central to breaking the cycle of poverty. Your support helps students like Yongjin realize a bright future with better earning potential and increased knowledge about health and nutrition. “I’m prepared to conquer the difficulties and hindrances in my life with grit and perseverance. I hope, in the future, I’ll be able to help others like what you have done for me.” Yongjin’s bold optimism embodies CWEF’s vision of a world of thriving communities, serving and inspiring hope in others.


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. …

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