The Story Behind EASEL’s New School Building
“In 2010 I began an initiative in my hometown of Hazelton, British Columbia, to raise funds for the building of a school for underprivileged children in a developing nation, in honour of a friend and classmate who had been killed in a tragic car accident at age fifteen. Hazelton is a small, remote community which faces severe economic issues; yet it is very close-knit and the support for this project was truly incredible.
Over the course of several years, we raised $25,000, but then struggled to find an organization that would allow us to name the school we were donating the funds for. In 2014, I learned about EASEL through a mutual connection, and thus began the collaboration between my group and Leng.
During 2015, we sorted out the logistics of purchasing land and building a new, three-classroom, school for EASEL. The building itself is named the ‘Savannah Jones Memorial Classrooms,’ in honour of the girl who passed away, and will provide a permanent base for EASEL’s operations. Leng is also planning to plant a garden on the school property to supplement the students’ nutrition.
Construction was completed in late 2015, and the students are now studying in their new school. Not only has the project provided EASEL with a better, more permanent building, it has also employed Cambodian construction workers and thus provided some impetus for the local economy.
We visited Cambodia in December 2015 to help with the finishing touches on the school, build playground equipment, deliver books and school supplies, and attend the grand opening. A documentary about EASEL, its students, and their village will be forthcoming.
I am, as is the greater Hazelton community, very honored and excited to be able to support such a worthy organization as EASEL. The Savannah School Project has allowed something very positive to develop out of tragedy, and has enabled us to help Leng achieve his mission to empower Cambodian students to create brighter futures for themselves and their community.”
– Tiffany Bennett, Savannah Jones Memorial School Project Coordinator
A Long-Anticipated Dream Becomes Reality
All aspects of design and construction were conducted by locals, thus providing safe and steady employment for Cambodian workers over approximately six months. This also enabled the school to be designed specifically for EASEL’s needs and allowed the village to truly take ownership of their new school from the beginning of the project.
Prior to the official opening of the new school, the team from Canada (Tiffany and her family, and relatives of Savannah Jones) worked with Leng and Mercy Youth leaders to build playground equipment (a swing set, volleyball court, and soccer goals), paint murals on the classroom walls, and prepare gifts of school supplies for students.
On December 18th, the Savannah Jones Memorial Classrooms were officially opened in a beautiful, joyous ceremony. EASEL students performed creative, elaborate, and long-rehearsed songs, skits, and traditional Cambodian dances, and the Mercy Youth leader, Srey You, acted as master of ceremonies. Speeches were given by the village leader (to recognize EASEL’s importance to the community), a close colleague of Leng, from Freedom Stones (to commend Leng for establishing EASEL), and Tiffany (to commemorate Savannah Jones). Mercy Youth fundraised to rent a tent, decorations, and a sound system for the event, which was attended by almost 300 people.
The Savannah Jones Memorial Classrooms, EASEL’s new home, have been in operation since December 2015. The new school was an instant hit in the community and has become a bustling hub of activity, filled with children from morning until night. Now the children in this village have a safe, clean place to learn, play, and socialize.
Each day, three morning classes and three afternoon classes are conducted in each of the new classrooms, and are filled with bright and eager learners. 2016 is off to a great start for EASEL School!