What We Do
Although TASSEL was originally founded to provide English education, the organization has expanded its program to encompass other types of aid that reflect TASSEL's values.
An important part of the TASSEL school is the regular interaction between all students and fluent teaching volunteers via video-conference. Over 600 qualified and trained volunteers, most of whom belong to a TASSEL chapter, teach the children as well as local teachers speaking, reading, listening and writing skills.
1. Provide English Education
We provide free, high-quality English education to poor children in rural villages. English is a fundamental skill needed in Cambodia, not just for jobs, but more importantly for the nation itself to gain knowledge in all disciplines. Highly educated people – 90% of teachers and 90% of doctors – were killed in the 1970s by the Khmer Rouge, and the nation cannot rebuild itself without re-education of the country itself. The majority of university-level textbooks, however, are available only in English. Furthermore, much of non-textbook high level learning occurs through interactions with foreigners – thus, an English education is mandatory.
Although the country has now acknowledged the need for English education, quality English education does not exist in most of rural Cambodia. TASSEL has English schools in five villages (Banan, Samrang, Kampong Puoy, Jeepan, and Rattinak) and currently provides free, daily, high-quality English classes to approximately 2,000 children. The children are placed in different curricula according to placement tests and study 80 minutes per day, four times a week. The children are taught not only English but also good study habits and values. They are given daily homework and monthly exams. Daily attendance is mandatory, and students with poor monthly test scores are not allowed to continue with the program. Cambodian young adults, trained by TASSEL international volunteers, teach children reading, writing, listening and speaking skills.
2. Create teaching jobs.
As the nation still grossly lacks quality teachers, an important function of TASSEL is creating teaching jobs as well as training, fundraising for and caring for teachers. TASSEL visits Cambodian university campuses to encourage young adults to choose teaching as their profession. After recruiting high-potential candidates, TASSEL provides them with continuous training, funding and care. The Cambodian teachers have quickly become the core of the TASSEL family. They not only teach but proactively tend to the psychological and emotional needs of the children, family members, and villagers. The teachers are at the forefront of family visits and distribute food, medicine and clothes house by house (see 3~5 below).
3. Provide food aid
Many of TASSEL's students and their families are not eating enough. 60% of rural families face seasonal food shortages (no food during the dry season or before rice harvest season), and the poorest have yearlong food shortages. Many children work throughout the week, helping on the farm or collecting snails, frogs, fish or plants to eat. In order to help the children concentrate on studying, TASSEL provides food aid to families who truly have limited income earning capability. TASSEL provides food aid also to other villagers, especially the elderly, who have no relatives or caretakers.
4. Provide medical aid
A lack of clean water, nutrition, poor hygiene, and severe climate conditions contribute to poor health among many villagers. However, the majority of families in rural Cambodia have no access to quality health care. In most villages there are no doctors, and most cannot afford to pay for transportation (eg. a $5 tuk-tuk ride) to go to town to visit clinics, let alone pay for medical bills. Starting 2016, TASSEL has started to provide healthcare service to the neediest villagers. This includes taking patients to hospitals in the cities, helping with medical bills, and providing ibuprofen and vitamins.
5. Provide emotional care through family visits
Arguably worse than physical poverty for rural Cambodians is the sense of hopelessness and loneliness. Many are still haunted by the memory of the Khmer Rouge era, when they were forced into slavery and had to endure family deaths, torture, violence, illnesses and hunger. Many continue to suffer daily from hunger, illnesses, deaths, abandonment, violence, corruption, and more. Many also suffer from PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). Although free English lessons, food and medical aid are all important, truly giving from our hearts and tending to their hearts is probably the most important aspect of TASSEL's daily activities.
6. Provide education for volunteers
With only a few exceptions, TASSEL's 600 volunteers are organized internationally into "chapters." Chapter members firstly give of themselves as individuals, but as a team, they teach, donate, fundraise and spread awareness. But they do not simply give. Through close interaction with Cambodians as well as other TASSEL members, volunteers receive much education and encouragement themselves as they grow as humanitarians and community leaders.