A Note From the Founder: Joji Tatsugi
I really could not have imagined how impactful TASSEL could be when I left the corporate world in 2011 to start this journey. In less than five years, the TASSEL family has grown from two Cambodian teachers, six U.S. volunteers, and 60 Cambodian children to 25 Cambodian teachers, 600 international volunteers and 2000 children.
But numbers in themselves are not meaningful. What truly is meaningful is how the growth has happened.
The growth has happened because of hearts transforming hearts. Compassionate international volunteers and Cambodian teachers whose hearts were transformed by the helplessness, humility and courage of the children and villagers. In turn, the children and villagers whose hearts were transformed by the selfless acts of the volunteers and perseverance of the Cambodian teachers.
I would like to share with you a story of one of our students, 14-year old Sophear from Kampong Cham Province. When I met him four years ago, his father had just died in an accident as a laborer at work, leaving him, his siblings, and his mother, destitute. Sophear had already failed the first grade twice due to malnutrition but now he had to stop school altogether and work, selling rice snacks door-to-door to villagers. A TASSEL mother from the U.S. heard about Sophear and decided to sponsor him starting three years ago, providing him with not only financial support for food and school, but also true love. In the past three years she visited him three times in Cambodia and also sent him letters of encouragement regularly.
In short three years, Sophear blossomed into a bright, outgoing student who ranks highly in his class and who always insists on accompanying me on visits to the poorest families. In one of my recent visits where Sophear saw another desperate family barely eating, he told me in near perfect English, "Teacher, I am now receiving enough to eat and study, and I want to share my sponsorship money with them every month." I was so pleased with him and asked him to share that with the family's mother. As he explained in Khmer to the mother that he was a boy whose father had died but who wanted to share his monthly sponsorship, the mother began to cry, explaining how moved she was by the boy's compassion. Sophear then went back to the TASSEL school and asked other sponsored children to join. The others agreed with little hesitation, and now the sponsored children collectively have decided to sponsor another poor family with the money they are receiving! They also want to start visiting the family regularly and care for the children.
Hearts do transform hearts. Incredible volunteers and local teachers have become role models to the children and villagers as well as to their peers. I encourage you to read the Meet the Family section. Read about our volunteers who have stepped up to take action and affect others. Read about our teachers who, despite having been raised poor themselves, have chosen a career of serving their nation. Read about the children and families who are living against all odds but with the hope of helping others in the future.
As a field worker who sees your kind actions transforming the locals everyday, and who also sees you being transformed by the locals, I know what happens when hearts transform hearts.
I am truly blessed to be working with you everyday and to be witnessing all of these miracles on a daily basis.
Founder and President