A group of CCF sponsors are remotely teaching English to children through reading
In a classroom in Phnom Penh, a table of kindergarten students settle down to listen with rapt attention to a book reading.
The reader is a Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF) sponsor more than 12,000 kilometers (7,800 miles) away in the U.S., telling a story to children in Cambodia online.
We decided to provide an educational and engaging experience for CCF students
Storytime was dreamed up by a group of CCF sponsors who wanted to engage students in a fun and stimulating way, while improving their English language skills which had been disrupted during COVID.
For children like CCF students living in an impoverished community in a developing country, the opportunity to learn direct from native English speakers can have a big impact on their vocabulary and confidence.
“During Covid, there were no visitors to CCF so the children weren’t hearing from English speakers in terms of English as a first language, and that was having an impact on their language skills,” explains Ann Stowe, a CCF sponsor who lives in San Francisco.
“We decided to provide an educational and engaging experience for CCF students to further develop their language skills by hearing English [as a first language] speakers read and discuss stories.”
It was Ann’s idea to bring CCF sponsors together in a community of their own where they could share their experiences of being part of a CCF child’s life and support each other through the journey.
The Sponsorship Community currently has five sponsors, from America and one in China, with plans to expand to welcome more members soon.
Their first project was to develop a Sponsor Communications Guide, a resource guide for CCF sponsors to help deepen the relationship with their sponsored child. It has tips and ideas on topics to explore on video calls and in email, while supporting CCF’s mission of learning.
A new chapter began with Storytime in October last year when sponsor Heather Cherry read the first book. Using Zoom to connect from across the world, she read Superhero ABC by Bob McLeod.
The group decided to focus on younger students to start with and wanted to also include unsponsored children, who are missing out on having a connection with a special sponsor of their own.
There have since been three other monthly Storytimes with a fifth, read by Ann, due February.
All the books are educational as well as fun, teaching the youngsters about the alphabet, counting and vocabulary.
It’s very much a collaborative effort with CCF’s team on the ground making sure things run smoothly from the Cambodia end.
Each Storytime has the same format with the sponsor choosing a book and developing a lesson plan, which is sent to CCF a week before.
During the live 45-minute Zoom, CCF staff translate the book as its read by the sponsor for the watching youngsters with key words repeated. Afterwards, there’s an entertaining activity linked to the book, such as coloring.
Kindergarten students, like Karuna and Sinat, both aged six, are benefiting from Storytime, enriching their learning and encouraging their imaginations.
‘The children really love learning a new way, they get very excited,” says Kindergarten teacher Sambath (pictured), who helps translates the stories during Storytime.
“It’s really thrilling to see the students’ reaction, their engagement and their enthusiasm, and to see how they are embracing learning,” says Ann, who sponsors CCF student Sreyvin, 14.
“To know that we are feeding their curiosity is incredibly meaningful and to see how they are embracing learning is really rewarding for us.”
What was appealing to me was the opportunity to develop a long-term one-on-one relationship with a child
Ann, who has been a Communications Leader in the Bay Area for over 20 years working with top names such as Stanford University, Yahoo, Gap Inc and Levi Strauss, first became involved with CCF after a trip to Cambodia with her sister in 2019.
On the flight home, she resolved to find the best possible way to help a child in Cambodia build a better future.
“After research, I found my answer with CCF and I’ve been sponsoring Sreyvin, an amazing 14-year-old for almost four years,” says Ann.
“What was appealing to me was the opportunity to develop a long-term one-on-one relationship with a child and support the wellbeing of the community as a whole.
“I became more and more involved [with CCF] over time. Being part of the CCF community has really become an integral part of my life.”
It’s a full-on family commitment, says Ann - her sister Emily, is now sponsoring a grandmother in the CCF Granny Program, which supports the community’s older generation, and her mum as well as her other sister Abby love to hear about CCF’s work.
Ann, who does not have children, says having Sreyvin has “been a wonderful addition to my life. I feel that she is an extension of my whole family.”
“It’s been so meaningful to have watched Sreyvin grow, become more confident and really come into her own as an individual under the care of CCF,” says Ann.
“I’m so proud of her and love to receive the updates from her.”
Ann is in regular contact with Sreyvin through emails and Skype calls and hopes to visit Cambodia again to meet her in person for the first time.
My experience with CCF as a whole has been incredible
As for Storytime, the aim is to keep going as long as the children are enjoying it.
“It tangibly connects the children with the rest of the world through language and interaction. We hope it enhances their learning,” says Ann.
My experience with CCF as a whole has been incredible and we all so enjoy working with CCF on these projects and having the opportunity to sponsor the children and be part of CCF.
Thank you to the sponsor readers:
Ann Stowe, Heather Cherry, Peter Bradbury, Roxie Paine and Katharine Bostick.
The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle
How Do Dinosaurs Learn Their Colors? By Jane Yoen and Mark Teague
Superhero ABC by Bob McLeod
The Snail and the Whale by Julia Donaldson and Axel Scheffler
Brown Bear, Brown Bear, What Do You See? by Bill Martin Jr and Eric Carle