Play. It’s such an integral part of our lives. Studies show that it’s also critical to a child’s development, to their critical thinking and ability to envision a future, and to healing from stress and trauma.
But what if your child had never gone on a field trip, played on a playground, or been encouraged to draw a picture from her own imagination?
Every day at our schools, our teachers work hard to offer opportunities that encourage creativity, since, historically, children in Cambodia are not offered many avenues to spark their imagination. We took that to a new level recently by going to Kids City for a field trip – a 10-story “edutainment” center in Phnom Penh. Our K-3rd graders experienced many “firsts” that day – from putting on socks and shoes rather than their usual flip flops, riding in a van, and taking an elevator, to bumper cars, laser tag, and rock wall climbing. The children exhausted themselves simply being kids, with a wealth of fun and hands-on learning right at the fingertips, not to mention seeing some of their science lessons come to life in laboratory-like settings.
These opportunities take them out of their everyday life in a slum community that is riddled with drug dealers, high poverty, and the risk of human trafficking. Students often help their families make ends meet by selling charcoal or other items with their parents while they aren’t at school. The unsafe area often restricts them to their homes after dark.
Changing the reality of children’s living situations can take time, but we work tirelessly to immediately start rebuilding their communities from the ground up by addressing education and the way children think at an early age. Removing the limits where we can, and exposing them to life outside the confines of an impoverished community, is one way to start. We are hopeful that experiences like this will encourage imaginative play and foster creativity for children to dream about their future.