Fuelling dreams one bowl of soup at a time
For 400 children at Stung Sen Monorum primary school in Preah Vihear Province, this morning’s breakfast is ‘‘korko soup’’, a typical Cambodian dish. This soup is filled with vegetables, including eggplant, pumpkin, green papaya, moringa leaves and long beans.
It also happens to be 11-year-old Siv Yong’s favourite food.
‘‘I like eating pumpkin in that soup. Eating food at school is more delicious than at home as we can eat rice with hot soup here; while eating at home mostly with the same food and without soup,’’ Siv Yong said.
Every day, Siv Yong, who is currently in grade 6, has to walk around 3 kilometres from home to school with his three younger brothers, who are in grades 5, 1 and pre-primary school.
Siv Young and his younger brother always receive top grades in their class, and they aspire for a future where they can help others. “I want to be a teacher when I grow up,’’ Siv Young said. Children in Cambodian villages often say that they wish to be a teacher, as they are educated and are role models for young students, who dream of a career outside of farming.
School meals — helping students and their parents
As a father of four, Siv Yong’s father, Mr Mok Yerng, 33, is trying hard to keep sending his children to school every day.
‘‘I myself studied only to grade four, while my wife never attended school at all. We wish to see our children’s life be better than ours,’’ Mr Mok Yerng said. ‘‘My children told me they really like eating meals at school because they have hot soup and vegetables and the recipe changes every day. I think school meals not only encourage my children but also myself to keep sending them to school regularly, and I work hard for their future,’’ he added.
Local food comes first
The school meals programme in Stung Sen Monorum primary school is implemented by the World Food Programme and Ministry of Education, and encourages children to eat nutritious and locally grown food. Fresh vegetables and meat/fish are grown and raised by local farmers, usually within 10km of each school.
Volunteer school cooks receive these ingredients in the evening and wake-up as early as 3am to begin cooking for hundreds of students. Siv Yong’s father has volunteered to work as a school committee member. He is in charge of collecting money from families to support the school cook’s salary and to provide condiments at school.
As the oldest brother in the family, Siv Yong needs to help his parents to do housework after school. He says he can cook rice very well.
‘‘To cook rice well, we have to make sure we are able to measure the water and rice well,’’ Siv Young shares his life skill.
Next school year, Siv Yong will go to study at the high school, which is about 6 kilometres from home. His father is committed to save money from now to buy him a bike so he can continue his education. With a good diet and an education, Siv Yong may achieve his dream of becoming a teacher and to see the world beyond his village.
Story written by Ratanak Leng.
Learn more about WFP’s work in Cambodia.