Immeasurable Benefits of Education
It was almost two years ago I first visited The MineField Village. There’s nothing quite like the first time you experience such a place, with overwhelmed senses the nature of my emotions followed suit. This was my first time visiting Southeast Asia, my first time to Cambodia, my first time witnessing that level of poverty. I was nervous and I could sense the women of LandMine Design were as well. I’ll never forget the first day we met. We laughed nervously; we struggled to communicate through a translator, and we discussed the admiration we already possessed for one another.
Two young girls from this initial trip struck my heart deeply and continue to today. Their names are Volek and Samphor. Volek was in the LandMine Design Program at the time, Samphor was not but lingered near the hut in which we worked hiding behind trees and quietly admiring the jewelry being made. I remember watching Volek in her quiet nature, her timidness and that of Samphor was different than the rest - it looked like fear and it lived itself out as deep insecurity and feelings of unworthiness.
In many moments with these young girls, I watched as tears welled up in their eyes until they blinked them away. With every hug, I felt their hands grip and cling to me as if they were fearful of letting go. With every passing day when it was time to leave the village, they’d stare into my eyes and tell me to “please come back.”
The vulnerability of young girls is common. To grow and mold into a confident, self sufficient woman is no small feat. Now, imagine living on a former minefield with little or no family to call your own, lack of education, and an uncertain and seemingly hopeless future. The vulnerability we feel as women growing up in a privileged, western culture is valid yet the vulnerability Volek and Samphor have endured is something I will never know or fully understand.
For me, these young girls are remarkable heroes.
Today, Landmine Design employs both Volek and Samphor. For young girls in our program, it is a requirement to be enrolled in and attending school everyday. They're earning an income to help cover the expenses of their education as well as feed their families. They’re learning, and they’re in the top of their class. Beyond learning in their classroom, these women have been transformed.
Volek and Samphor are confident, natural leaders. They walk with poise; they speak with assurance in themselves; they assist and support their colleagues confidently; and they value themselves in a way that has me learning with every interaction. A steadiness has birthed a resilience that surpasses the hardships they are, and will surely, endure. They are beginning to understand their worth and their value.
As I write these words I blink away my own tears as I reflect on their profound transformation. I’m humbled in awe. To receive an education is more than gaining greater knowledge. To receive an education is to possess dignity and to learn to believe in oneself. While I could hug Volek and Samphor tightly, I could not remove their fear of letting go. While I could tell them they’re worthy, they could not hear me until they had an opportunity to learn it for themselves.
To arm women with knowledge through education is to arm women in profound dignity to combat the lies of worthlessness and vulnerability they’ve been replaying in their heads for far too long.
To grant women academic opportunity is more than providing lessons in math, reading, and writing - to grant education is to clothe women in self-worth and to be devastatingly dangerous to the cycle of poverty. I proudly share that Volek and Samphor both dream of being teachers one day, of raising up and pouring into children the way they wish someone could have poured into them.
We are setting out to build a school housing 4th and 5th grade. Donate now to build another school in The MineField Village — a school that Volek and Samphor may one day teach within and raise up young girls. While many benefits of education are measurable, countless are not. I hope you’ll join us in the fight to arm girls in dignity to be immeasurably dangerous to the vulnerability that has robbed far too much.