MERCY Youth: Focus on Robert
LWB has provided higher education support for orphaned and impoverished students in China since 2004. When we expanded our work into Cambodia, we knew that higher education support was a program we wanted to replicate.
Here are some quick education stats for the rural region in Cambodia where we are now working (data from 2014):
- While an estimated 8,000 children enroll in primary school, only 1,000 of those children will complete 6th grade.
- By 8th grade, that number drops to 250.
- Upper secondary numbers are even more sobering, with only around 50 students each year successfully completing grade 12.
The high dropout rates in this part of Cambodia are primarily due to economic issues. Often, students face intense pressure from parents for their child to drop out of school to earn money for the family. In addition, many rural families can’t afford the school-related expenses such as uniforms, books, and teacher fees, so their children simply can’t attend.
LWB is making a real difference in this western region by providing school tuition, tutoring, and mentorship to high school students. In addition, we offer a college scholarship program for those who enroll in our MERCY community service program and complete a set number of volunteer hours. MERCY teens spend at least one day per weekend in remote villages, helping younger children with reading, art, music, and hygiene.
Today we want to introduce you to Robert, one of the incredible young people in the MERCY program, who is now in his final year of high school.
Robert is from a large family and is the eighth of nine children. His five older sisters and two older brothers all dropped out of school due to poverty, which means that Robert will soon be the very first in his family to graduate from high school!
Robert would love to attend university to study accounting and English, as he believes he would then be able to help support his family. His passion, however, is music, and we can definitely vouch for his amazing singing voice. Robert shared with us that he first became interested in music as a child because he was so sad that all of his older siblings had to leave home to work in Thailand. He started to listen to music to try and make himself feel better.
Robert then taught himself to play guitar by watching videos online. He feels there’s something about music that can make a person’s stress melt away, and so whenever he feels anxious he plays his guitar and sings.
We asked Robert why he was so determined to finish high school, and he said it’s all because of the encouragement he received from his older siblings and family. They all want him to graduate since they didn’t get that chance, and they’re so happy and proud that one of their family members will soon have a high school diploma.
Robert volunteers on the weekends for LWB by giving music and guitar lessons to children of all ages.
He also teaches in the evenings, in addition to studying for his own classes, so he’s definitely one hard-working young man. In August Robert will sit for the university entrance exam. LWB is committed to helping Robert become not only the first high school grad in his family, but within a few short years, the first university graduate as well.
We’re so proud of everything he has accomplished so far, and we know you’ll join with us in cheering him on.