In Phnom Penh

I returned to Cambodia on 18th August 2003.  On 26th September Seametrey Children’s Village was born. I had come full circle. Saved by education thanks to the scholarship from the French Government, I would become an educator myself and save other lives from misery if not from death.

The school was located in a rented villa on street 288, behind Wat Langka. In March 2004, it moved to its second location at 13A, Street 830 off Sothearos Street, opposite the Russian Embassy. At first it was a tiny school occupying two small rooms  below a wooden cottage, another brick room and a tiny library below an open kitchen. Group circles were held in an open shed. The school acquired a charming rural look and was adequate for the thirty children.

In 2005, the land next door became available. We acquired it and started construction for a new school. The design was the work of my late artist and architect husband, Khin You. We wanted the building to be open and airy with a Khmer touch yet functional and modern, naturally ventilated, not air-conditioned. The new school then opened its doors in September 2006. The nursery occupied the whole ground floor and the front area.  A swimming pool meant that we didn’t have to inflate a plastic one or take the children all the way to the Olympic Stadium as we used to.

In 2007, we opened a primary section with three small bilingual classes – Year 1, 2 and 3. Fifteen children came part time from the Government school nearby to learn English. The following year we decided to turn the primary section into full-time bilingual Khmer English classes. The Khmer curriculum is from the Ministry of Education. The English teaching is a top up providing the children with language skills, computer skills and general knowledge. The children also learnt French as a third language.

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In 2009, the house next door became available for rent. We saw an opportunity to expand the school. So we rented the house and moved the school next door, keeping the previous premises as recreational facilities. At this time the students would go to the old school to swim, play music, dance and do Tai Kwan Do, but there was rent to pay. To help offset the rent we started to convert the old school into a boutique hotel. Once the work was completed the hotel was launched on 11th October 2010. The ground floor became an art gallery displaying Khin You’s paintings. He passed away on 8th August 2009, just before the school moved to make way for his work.  From the wall, his self-portrait surveys the place he had helped create and welcomes the visitors who come to enjoy his art. For more information about our boutique hotel visit ‘You Khin House’, perfectly located in Phnom Penh and within walking distance to all major attractions.

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