Cultural Heritage Course and Phum Ou School
“It is important to share our culture with the children –if we do not educate them how do they know what their culture is?”
-Prouen Sarrath (Director at Phum Ou School
The amber light from the sun creeps through the palm sugar leaves and a bird’s call mixes with the melodic chanting of a head Monk. His bald head is bowed as he chants in Pali (a traditional language of Buddhism from Sanscrit) two hundred young eyes gaze in respectful wonder at the undulating folds of his burnt orange Ungsah (traditional robe) . The chanting halts and he begins his prose: delivering a verbal narrative of why Cambodia celebrates Pchum Ben (The hungry ghost festival).
Pchum Ben is a religious festival culminating in celebrations on the 15th day of the tenth month in the Khmer calendar (October 12th of the Gregorian calendar), corresponding to the end of the Buddhist festival of lent: Vassa. During the period of Pchum Ben, ghosts of the dead (preta) are believed to be particularly active, thus Pagodas are offered food to give to deceased loved ones: a traditional sweet dish (khor) a tasty Khmer dish made from rice, palm sugar, and pork and fruit are the major articles.
EDventure International is committed to creating a sustainable grass roots collective of Khmer and western educators in The Kingdom of Cambodia. We at EDventure see the dramatic importance of working with local culture and customs to provide responsible development to these inspiring people. The community centre in Phum Ou village is dedicated to facilitating the transfer of cultural knowledge from the old to the young. On Saturday morning (10 October 2015) a monk was asked to join us at our school and provide a lecture to our students speaking of the tradition of Pchum Ben. Over 200 students and parents came to listen to this community leader speak. As Monks speak a language, which is unique to monks – Sarth Prouen (school director at Phum Ou school and vocational development centre) acted as a facilitator and assisted in translating the often complicated Pali language to traditional Khmer. Cultural integration into our dynamic curriculum is a major part of how EDventure International intends on securing trust and alliance with the local community, as well as ensuring our presence is not ethnocentric or imposing on local customs or tradition. It is an absolutely integral part of making this project sustainable in the long term. Together with local leaders we are providing a nurturing space for knowledge and education to every individual who attends class without discrimination. This would not be possible without first developing a rapport of trust and mutual respect with the local community.
Sarath Prouen said once to me: “Why Not go to school? – we must all grow together”. These words ring in my ears as I sit and watch this enigmatic figure melodically and powerfully hand his knowledge directly to these young minds surrounding me. This all goes on as the sun climbs higher over the Cambodian countryside – providing nurturing rays to the delicate rice plants below.
Check out a little more about our dynamic approach to education on YouTube: https://youtu.be/TLBkgDdoyK00