Room to Grow opened its first dormitory in 2009 and invited almost twenty young women to come and stay in a building close to Umphium’s High School. When discussing this project with the local community, we were heavily encouraged to include boys in the dorm. “Who will carry the heavy rations?” we were asked. We struggled against this idea that girl’s could not possibly have their own space.
All children who come across the border have a difficult journey, but for girls, this journey often poses particular risks and dangers. Providing a safe space for these girls when they arrive is important, as is ensuring that they have equal access to education.
This is the first directly implemented dormitory by Room to Grow and as a result, the funding is far more comprehensive than other projects which were initiated and helped along by local individuals. In addition, the funding includes a monthly budget for hygiene supplies for girls.
The first year of the project was a success. We sheltered 11 girls and one small boy who we did not want to separate from his sister. The oldest girl in the dorm, Yi Yi Aye was accepted into a higher education program this year, in part because of the leadership abilities she showed while staying at the dormitory. In addition, one of the girls scored the second highest mark in camp on her final exams at the end of this year.
In 2010 we will be expanding the program to include 25 girls and young women.
Lah Thaw is the boarding house leader for this project. With decades of experience as a primary school teacher, she is eminently qualified to manage the boarding house. A respected community leader and a retired educator, she is an important member of the Room to Grow team this year.