Someone Should Do Something to Enable Excellent Education
“Education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world.” — Nelson Mandela
Have you ever had the impression that someone should do something about climate change?
Why isn’t someone doing something to solve the problems of the floating plastic islands in the middle of the ocean?
Someone really should do something to stop human trafficking. Who would raise his or her voice?
It’s been too long that we’ve had to face unfair work conditions in third-world countries. How come nobody is doing anything to prevent future abuse?
Does this sound familiar to you?
I dream of changes for the better. Like you, I have often wondered why this or that issue cannot be resolved. “It’s so obvious!” I think, “we just need to do that [fill in the blank] and then it’ll be solved. Somebody should do it now!”
If you feel that someone should do something — it might as well be you.
You are someone.
And if you have a specific topic on your heart, chances are that you are the best person to address it. At least, if you don’t feel qualified, you are passionate about it. You know what? That’s a great start.
I know high-quality education will change an entire nation
One child, one teacher, one book and one pen can change the world. — Malala Yousafzai
“Someone should do something about the lack of high-quality education!”
That’s what has been on my heart for many years. However, I did not understand right away that I was the best person to make that dream happen.
Let me tell you how to become SOMEONE who can do something to provide Cambodian children with an excellent education.
When I was traveling with my brother in Cambodia, the poverty touched my heart. “Nobody should be poor!” I thought! “It’s a fertile country, and there are a plethora of opportunities to start businesses. We should find a way to help young Cambodians to learn English!”
That, at least, would be a start. It would certainly not solve all of the problems, but it could help curious Cambodians access high-quality information on the web. I imagined spending $50 or so every month to make this dream a reality. “That’s not much for us,” I realized, “but it will make a huge difference in the lives of Cambodian youths.”
Then it dawned on me that I was someone. “Heureka! It’s up to me to make that difference. I have it on my heart, and hence I should find the means to teach English to as many Cambodians as possible. And why should we only focus on their English skills? Excellent education for everybody would make an even bigger difference!”
It was clear that I should enable access for Cambodians to have a high-quality education. I understood that SOMEONE was me. But how could I do such a thing? That’s quite an ambitious goal! I had no clue how to start such an ambitious endeavor.
When I flew back home to Switzerland, that’s where I stopped my reflection. And as I did not see the overwhelming poverty anymore, my dream began to fade slowly but surely over the following weeks. The comfort and our local luxury problems pushed the tremendous needs of the Cambodians aside — and the worst thing was that I was not even noticing it.
I realized that I’m the SOMEONE that may do something about it
“Change will not come if we wait for some other person or some other time. We are the ones we’ve been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” — Barack Obama
Nevertheless, the thought, “that someone is you, David!” did come back.
Two years later, while on a mission trip to Cambodia, my dream resurfaced. And to my surprise, I found the answer to the “how.” We were serving at ICF Cambodia — both a church and an NGO — that had already established a child sponsorship program. They trained Cambodians as caseworkers who would visit the surrounding villages daily.
Now, that program had been running well, and most importantly, they knew the needs of the families they would visit.
“That’s it! The best way is to start an education program with ICF Cambodia.” I spoke to the leader, telling him my vision of how education could change an entire nation due to its preventive nature, which is different from many charities that instead focus on repairing already broken things. He said, “That’s on my heart, too! If you find the money, we’ll get started!” I replied, “That’s a deal!”
At that moment, my company gave me a substantial raise. But I decided to keep my current lifestyle without upgrading anything. That’s the reason this raise enabled me to sponsor students right away. We were also able to build reserves, paying extra money into the education fund to create a margin in case of unforeseen events. For us, it was inconceivable to take students out of a regular school and then tell them a year or two later, that they have to go back because we lack money.
We have to be socially responsible.
The initial pilot phase was a huge success. What started with three students soon became a much bigger education program. Today, 16 students are part of the program.
Would I have ever thought that by being that “someone,” I would initiate such a powerful program? Never! I would have never imagined in my wildest dreams that many Cambodians would be financed one day and thus benefit from a better education.
Would I be the right SOMEONE to take it to the next level?
And again, “the someone should do something about it!” thought stroke again.
It could have been too easy to rest on our laurels, saying, “What a great achievement to provide an excellent education to 16 students! That’s quite an accomplishment!”
It’s good to celebrate victories. But there is much more to come.
On a recent vacation in Cambodia, I had the opportunity to look into further details of the education program. I met the students enrolled in the program, talked with the NGO responsible and visited two schools where our students attend.
Then something unexpected happened. “We need someone like you for the program!” the leader told me. I kindly refused his offer, thinking that I would not be qualified for such a responsibility. I did not envision becoming a teacher, and I was convinced that I had little expertise to offer to build a school. What do I know about teaching, about learning techniques or about didactics? Not much!
My vision changed when I had a long discussion with him towards the end of my vacation. I realized that his goal was to establish a strategic plan to improve education as a whole. We might build a school, or we might set up an apprenticeship program like the ones that have been successfully applied for decades in countries including Switzerland and Germany. And we might even consider training the future Cambodian teachers.
What if I became that SOMEONE making a difference?
“Wow! It’s a much greater vision than I initially thought!” I told him. “It’s much more than just building a school for the students.”
Indeed, it was a much greater vision. And the leader of such a program should not necessarily be a teacher but a visionary and strategic leader.
That sounded a lot more like me. I actually am a visionary person and learned to manage challenging projects in both my work environment as a project manager and for the last three years as R&D manager. Furthermore, I learned a great deal being involved in a variety of volunteer engagements in my local church.
More importantly, that vision lit a passion in my heart. That’s something I wanted to go for, and I was convinced it would change an entire nation!
Nonetheless, I did not accept his offer to take the lead of the education program on the spot. The necessary change was too big for me to envisage right away. Even though the vision did make sense, and I did see how my skill set could make a difference, I was by no means ready to leave my amazing job focusing on technology innovation. I liked what I was doing far too much.
But I told him that I would seriously consider his offer and think it through once I was back home. I needed a few weeks of quiet time to evaluate all the pros and cons of such a career move. It’s a high price to leave a stable and well-paid job in the biotechnology industry, which also provided me with a great perspective for future personal development.
“Someone should do something to improve education in Cambodia.” That was clear! But was that somebody still me? Or was there a more qualified person for that role? Don’t I make a bigger difference if I stay in my job, making money that would enable me to give more generously?
I’m ready to take up the challenge
“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did do.” — Mark Twain
Long story short, I concluded that somebody was me. I thought, “Why not give it a try? What can I lose? I have been working for more than 13 years in the same company. It’s time to move on and to leave my comfort zone.”
I have big dreams.
More than ever, I am convinced that an excellent education will change the lives of hundreds of thousands of young Cambodians forever. They will be better educated, more inspired and more successful. Their future will be bright, and they will finally have the tools to create their own prosperous future.
I dream that one day, every child in Cambodia — and eventually in the nearby countries — will get an excellent education. Something that is a reality for most if not all of the children in European countries may become a reality in Southeast Asia in the near future.
I believe it is possible.
To make it happen, I will contribute something towards that big goal. My modest but courageous step consists of moving to Cambodia this fall. Yes, it takes courage to choose the less-traveled road, letting go of my comfort. Saying no to a promising career and embracing an uncertain but certainly exciting future was no easy choice.
To quote Steve Jobs, “Here’s to the crazy ones. The misfits. The rebels. The troublemakers. The round pegs in the square holes. The ones who see things differently. They’re not fond of rules. And they have no respect for the status quo. You can quote them, disagree with them, glorify or vilify them. About the only thing you can’t do is ignore them. Because they change things. They push the human race forward. And while some may see them as the crazy ones, we see genius. Because the people who are crazy enough to think they can change the world, are the ones who do.”
I decided to become that SOMEONE who will do something so that Cambodian children will get a high-quality education. I’m crazy enough to think I can change the world. I am sure I will never regret my decision to change many children’s lives.
Are you willing to become SOMEONE who will do SOMETHING about it?
The world desperately needs you!
You are someone.
You are someone who should do something.
You are someone who will chance the world.
If you feel that someone should do something about it, are you ready to take up the challenge?
Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world. — Harriet Tubman