Following the Fellows: Ariel Blum in Cambodia


By Ariel Blum


At this time last year I received an email saying that I was selected to be a Minerva Fellow in Cambodia at The Global Child. I jumped up and down for joy, yet I was nervous and terrified for this huge change in my life.

Now, I can’t even imagine returning home. I have become so connected to my students, the staff and all of the people in Siem Reap.

Although it has only been seven months, I have watched my students grow and mature. This year The Global Child welcomed in a new class, grade 5, and I had the opportunity to attend a few of the interviews.

I saw the poverty and adversity that my students face at home. It is so easy to overlook these hardships when they are in their school uniforms at The Global Child.

In an admissions interview that I attended with The Global Child’s principal, one child said that she collected used bottles from buses to make an income for her family. She began to cry because she wanted a better life and she wanted an education.

The two children from the admission interviews are both students now at The Global Child and they are probably the happiest students I have ever seen. It is truly an amazing experience to watch these students grow and develop so they can achieve a better life. I have seen how the power of an education can transform these children’s lives.

The Global Child is an NGO school located in Siem Reap, Cambodia that gives “eager-to-learn” street children the opportunity to have an education while earning $1 a day.

There is no better word than “eager” to describe these students — they want to learn everything. In addition to teaching English, I developed a mental health class after I witnessed the physical and emotional stress that the students experience at home. Almost all of these children have family pressures caused by extreme economic stress.

Some also suffer from abusive relationships and mental health problems. In order to meet their specific needs, the mental health class teaches about time management, making use of their support systems, handling peer pressure and the positive ways of dealing with stress.

Yet, it didn’t stop there — when they found out that I was a dance minor at Union, they were motivated to learn how to dance new styles other than their traditional Cambodian dance.

To show off their new dance moves, we are hosting a Dance-a-thon Fundraiser on March 1 so the students can gain confidence and perform in front of an audience while raising money for their school.

As I have become a teacher, a “big sister,” a mentor and a friend, I am constantly learning from my students.

Most importantly, despite their seemingly difficult lives, the children never forget to smile.

Siem Reap has become my home, and I look forward to embracing every moment while I’m here.

For more information about my adventures in Siem Reap, check out my blog:


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