“Suasdey” (Greetings in Khmer)
In late 2018, Box.org, Box’s social impact initiative, partnered with Team4Tech, a liaison organization that connects technology companies to nonprofits throughout the world. Team4Tech paired a select group of Box employees (Boxers) with CARE Cambodia, an international development organization fighting poverty with a focus in rural areas. Nine Boxers and over 700 service hours later, 86% of our audience reported an increase in efficiency due to their newfound knowledge and skill set, and 100% of Boxers reported a personal lasting impact.
Our project supported one of CARE Cambodia’s initiates called the Know and Grow project. Know and Grow is underway in the rural region Ratanak Kiri, Cambodia with a focus on empowering marginalized ethnic minority adolescents, especially girls. The primary goal for the youth is to expand life choices in multiple spheres including economic, social, and health, though improving education in 21st century skills.
Rural regions like Ratanak Kiri are disadvantaged by limited internet access, outdated technologies, and often impassable roads during the rainy season. To address these disadvantages our objective was to provide digital access to academic content via offline RACHEL servers as well as useful Android applications for lesson creation and collaboration.
In the eight weeks leading up to our trip the Box and Team4Tech team met weekly as a group and with our project teams to build workshops tailored to the schools’ IT trainers, teachers, and students. Also in preparation, the Boxers went through Team4Tech's Immersive Leadership Development Curriculum. “This curriculum addresses leadership capabilities such as customer-centric design, growth mindset, and decision-making under ambiguity” - Gail Shen, Team4Tech, Program Director.
On November 26th, 2018, we journeyed to Phnom Penh, Cambodia to meet in person as a group for the very first time before traveling to Banlung in Ratanak Kiri. After the nine hour journey to Banlung, one of the Boxers, Viktoria, recounted how “the Cambodian people [had been] extremely kind and welcoming,” contributing to the team’s excitement for the days ahead. The next 10 days were a whirlwind of travel, workshops, and nightly team reflections.
Navigating bumpy dirt roads, we traveled an hour one way to each school, passing by rubber trees, cashew farms, and nature in the beautiful countryside, and hit the ground running. We split into two sub-teams to cover a total of four schools. Our RACHEL server workshops concentrated on the device’s preloaded educational websites, while our IT workshops showcased administrative tasks on the Rachel servers. Our Android Video app workshops empowered students and teachers to create their own video content to share with their classrooms and clubs. “Pre-recorded lessons uploaded to the RACHEL servers will be very useful during the rainy season when teachers are sometimes unable to physically get to the schools.” - Ryan Phillips, CARE Cambodia, Know & Grow Project Consultant.
Although the project goals can be measured, the impact on each and every Boxer involved is immeasurable. During our nightly team meetings we discussed the workshops, but the conversation turned to our individual reflections and our personal encounters that day. We shared our excitement about the enthusiasm of both teachers and students. As they learned the technology, we learned about ourselves. These are lessons we will hold for a lifetime. “A defining moment for me is a vivid image of this little boy so studiously writing his Wikipedia assignment during the break while most other students were outside playing” remembers Sandy, a Boxer, “back home we really take for granted all of the information we have available at our fingertips.”
After finishing our last workshop, Lusi, another Boxer, reflected, “after a million peace sign selfies and slow goodbyes, it hit us hard to realize that our time here was so short. Although we were out there providing students with access to web content offline, the greater impact was imprinted on us.”
After our brief time, over 90% of teachers reported more confidence and motivation in their use of technology. CARE Cambodia has and will continue to measure and track the ongoing impact of our work and the overall Know and Grow project. In the weeks following our workshops, members of the CARE staff visited three schools and reported “in Andong Meas, they were using the server with the tablets. In both Saom Thom and Ou Chum, they had uploaded a lot more of their own content onto the servers!” With seeing first hand the continued use of the technologies since our departure, the CARE Cambodia staff continues to express excitement for the sustaining impact of our work.
We are so grateful for the opportunity to have been a part of this project. To the amazing students and teachers in Ratanak Kiri, we say “akun” (thank you) for the lasting impact you have made on our lives.