Hello from Battambang! My name is Sarah Ruebsamen and I am the new M&E and Communications Coordinator at the Children’s Future Learning Center. Two months ago I traveled to Battambang as a volunteer from Denver, Colorado with music teacher Sopheak Sao. We have both had the privilege of working alongside the staff at the Learning Center and have been loving every minute of our time here.

The catalyst for our trip to Battambang came about 7 months ago when we learned that the Learning Center in Battambang didn’t have a Music and Arts program. Sopheak is a classically trained musician, a teacher, and a Khmer-American who speaks both English and Khmer fluently. I had been working with Children’s Future as an intern and have a background in fundraising and program planning. We were both very passionate about the Children’s Future mission and wanted to contribute to the work being done. The two of us spent a few months fundraising $7,000 to start the CFI Music and Arts Program, bought our plane tickets, and after a little travel through SE Asia, we landed here in Battambang.

We weren’t completely sure what to expect but both instantly became enamored with working at the Learning Center. I absolutely love it here. The Learning Center has a kind of magic about it. There are students running around, playing, being goofy, just being kids. I work upstairs in the operations office so when I take a break I usually go out into the garden, it’s so full of life and laughter, it’s an instant way to make my day better. Even from the operations office you can hear guitars, flutes, and kids singing from Sopheak’s music classroom. I’ve gotten the chance to work with many of the older students as well on their scholarship applications for University. I am so excited for all of the students who are starting University, and can’t wait to hear about their future successes. They are all so genuinely passionate about their education and have worked really hard to overcome obstacles that could have so easily deterred their education. It’s inspiring every single day to see and hear the actual effect that Children’s Future is having on the well-being of so many students. The standards of child well-being are extremely high and all of the staff go above and beyond to care for every student and ensure that the Learning Center is a safe space for every student. I appreciate that aspect of Children’s Future so much. The methods that are used in the Social Work department are not only on par with international standards, but are among the best in Cambodia. I also have to attribute much of the exceptional work being done at the Learning Center to how well the team works together. There is a really strong sense of community and respect among the staff. I feel really honored to have been welcomed onto the team.

At the Learning Center I have been working with the M&E and Grants Officer, Kunhean, to develop and implement a more formalized Monitoring and Evaluations system for Children’s Future. We are working closely with program managers and their teams to get a full understanding of the function of every role and every program. Our goal is to ensure that the staff has input and that we communicate clearly at all steps of the process in order to make a sustainable and effective Monitoring and Evaluation system for Children’s Future. Both Sopheak and I are continuing to learn about Battambang, about the culture, and the customs. Every day I realize how much more there is to learn and explore here, and my love for Battambang and the Learning Center continue to grow.