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CAMBODIA NEWS - New York Students, Teachers Fundraise for Cambodia




Springville Middle School Sends Ripples of Hope to Borei Keila Children Disrupted by Evictions; to Teachers Training on the RFK Center’s Speak Truth To Power Curriculum



Wednesday January 18, 2012

Two hundred students of Social Studies teachers Drew Beiter and Joe Karb classes of Springville Middle School in New York are planning a charity event to benefit children evicted from the Borei Keila Phnom Penh neighborhood and teachers training on the Speak Truth To Power (STTP) project of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights being conducted by CIVICUS: Center for Cambodian Civic Education.

The students are inspired by what they learned from the RFK Center’s global initiative Speak Truth To Power, especially the human rights educational curriculum, which has already become integral to classrooms in locations throughout the United States, Europe, Africa and Asia, including Cambodia.

The STTP curriculum includes an introduction to and history of international human rights through the tales of the STTP defenders and the play. The curriculum has been adopted for Cambodia and translated into Khmer. CIVICUS Cambodia is working with educators (mainly the Cambodian Independent Teachers Association and monks) in 20 of Cambodia’s 24 provinces.

Explains teacher Drew Beiter, “I think that from our end, all these situations reaffirm the real-time, real-life value of the STTP curriculum and of standing up to injustice around the world. We're happy and proud to be standing with CIVICUS Cambodia and the people you work with and care about.”

The STTP project began with a book of the same name by Kerry Kennedy, daughter of Robert F. Kennedy. The book portrays the stories of fifty-one courageous human rights defenders fighting for various crucial human rights issues from female genital mutilation to freedom of religion and reconciliation and justice. The book is accompanied by a photo exhibition designed by Pulitzer-Prize winning photographer Eddie Adams. In 2000, the play Speak Truth to Power: Voices from Beyond the Dark, written Ariel Dorfman, was adapted from the book and has been performed all over the world by world-famous actors as well as schoolchildren, local heroes, college students, and even prisoners.

It is not the first time these students, under the leadership of their activist teachers, Drew Beiter and Joe Karb, have acted as human rights defenders and translated their concerns for human rights abuses into concrete action.

The two educators teach a course on modern U.S. history, emphasizing the role of human rights defenders in the past and present. Working with technology coordinator Ben Higgins, in the past three years, the group has supported school building efforts in Darfur, Sierra Leone, and Afghanistan. See some of their past activities: www.springvillegi.org/webpages/abeiter/human_rights.cfm

Adds teacher Joe Karb, “I imagine the money might be used for supplies, books, trainings, or even copies of Speak Truth to Power--whatever has a measurable impact.”

Says Springville student Allison: “We want our efforts to have a lasting impact; one that hopefully continues past the current generation. Anything that will help educate these children – books, teachers, classrooms – is what we aim for. With an education, they can continue to do good for themselves and others.”

CIVICUS: Center for Cambodia Civic Education is the partner of the Speak Truth To Power project of the Robert F. Kennedy Center for Justice and Human Rights in Washington, D.C. Taking cue from the Italians, the STTP is translated as Courage Without Borders into Khmer. The STTP program in Cambodia is funded by The Charitable Foundation (Australia). Springville Middle School is one of the schools in New York implementing the STTP curriculum.

CIVICUS Cambodia founding president Theary Seng enthuses, “I am deeply moved by the shared humanity and activism of these young human rights defenders on the other side of the world for the welfare of the vulnerable and oppressed in my home country, especially the children of Borei Keila whose lives and schooling have been disrupted and made even more vulnerable by the violent evictions.”

The charity event is scheduled for late February. Called a “Day of Silence” the Springville students will voluntarily refrain from talking, using their cell phones, computers, televisions, or audio devices for twenty four hours, getting pledges from their parents and community. In doing so, the students are sending a message of solidarity to the Cambodian students who currently do not have a political voice due to government repression or poverty.

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