Bringing people to God

12 Nov, 2013 | Cambodia
OM International
Chong Cia Ling (25) from Malaysia saw how the OCZ Cambodia team gave their best in painting and washing childrens hair and hands in a slum near Phnom Penh. It makes me to realise that we not only want to bring people to God, but we should bring God to people, she said.
Mercy Teams International (MTI), a ministry of OM East Asia Pacific, runs a preschool and church in Kampong Speu Province, about a two hours’ drive from the capital city, Phnom Penh. Kampong Speu was chosen for the project because no other early educational facilities exist in the area, and most families with children are farmers, many of whom face poverty.

According to the Understanding Children’s Work 2008 project paper* organised by the International Labour Organization, the United Nationals Children’s Fund and the World Bank, about 49 per cent of children are declared to be involved in work activities in Cambodia, one of the highest rates in South-East Asia. And 24 per cent of children who work and go to school at the same time reside in urban areas, while this number goes up to 45 per cent in rural areas.    

“It is our belief that education offers the best opportunity to break this expectation and cycle of child labour in rural areas,” says Colin Wharton at MTI headquarters. “Preschool education starting at early ages (sometimes as low as three years of age) will certainly catch teachable moments, which will impact hugely on the likelihood that a young child will continue to both remain in education, but also to succeed in later schooling.”

MTI’s preschool in Kampong Speu Province provides early childhood education, opportunities for social interaction and skills development, safety education and Christian values. Children age 3-6 from farming families in the lower-income bracket attend MTI's preschool, while upper primary school children and teenagers are the secondary focus of the church youth group.

Some of the 12-18-year-olds are unable to complete further education due to demands to assist the family farming business. These children, teenagers and youth are given the opportunity to learn a foreign language (English is not offered at local schools), social interaction through team-building games, activities and Christian values.

An Out of the Comfort Zone (OCZ) Cambodia team spent three days in Kampong Speu, teaching English to children and youth at MTI Cambodia's church plant and helping organise lessons at the preschool, including storytelling, crafts, outdoor games and singing sessions. They also visited MTI's Dorcas Women's Sewing Group, where rural women with young children are provided an alternative means of employment. This visit was a highlight for many in the team.

The OCZ Cambodia team also helped paint the interior of a community centre in Doem Sleng slum in Phnom Penh. Chong Cia Ling, 25, from Malaysia said, "It made me realise that we not only want to bring people to God, but we should bring God to people."


*“Child labour as a response to shocks: evidence from Cambodian villages”; L. Guarcello; I. Kovrova; F. C. Rosati; January 2008

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