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NPO ‘builds hope’ for kids in rural Cambodia

by Kazuaki Nagata

Second in a series

Based on the principle that “building schools is building hope,” Amatak House of Cambodia is providing opportunities for children to get an education in the impoverished country.

Since 1995, the Tokyo-based nonprofit organization has built 15 schools in rural areas where infrastructure is poor and the need for schooling is high.

“Children, especially those at elementary school age, have the right to receive an education,” said the Rev. Fumio Goto, an Amatak representative.

“However, their rights are sometimes not protected due to reasons like poverty.”

Goto said the tendency is more visible in rural areas. If a school is built in such an area, parents might think about sending their kids there, Goto said.

Meanwhile, he said many children are too busy to go to school because they need to help their families at home. Thus, parents who need their children’s help to make a living cannot be forced to send their kids to school, but the availability of one would give them a chance to study when there is time.

Amatak, which means “eternal” in Cambodian, received ¥170,979 from The Japan Times Readers’ Fund in 2009.

The money was used to repair existing schools.

“We have built 15 schools, and those built in the early days got older and needed renovation, so we focused on renovating existing schools this year,” said Goto, whose organization builds one school a year.

Next year, Amatak plans to build a new school, and Goto will visit Cambodia in January to check out the site and finalize his decision.

Goto said that building a school with three classrooms and a teachers’ room costs about ¥3.2 million, with each room costing about ¥800,000. He said the per-room cost used to be about ¥500,000 but shot up after prices for construction materials began rising sharply a few years ago.

Aside from its school-building activities, Amatak has also helped pregnant women and people with HIV who cannot afford to go to the hospital to get proper medical care this year.

Donations to Amatak can be made by money transfer or check. Its account is: Mizuho Bank, Shinbashi branch, “futsu koza” #1393499 (Japan Times Dokusha no Nanmin Enjo Kikin). Checks should be made out to The Japan Times Readers’ Charity Fund and sent to The Japan Times, 4-5-4, Shibaura, Minato-ku, Tokyo, 108-8071. For inquiries, call (03) 3453-5312.