This year, the week of the Cambodian water festival fell on the same week as thanksgiving. To celebrate the holidays, Children`s Future gave two afternoons all to the staff, where classrooms remained closed and children and staff were able to spend time playing together.

We decided to use this time to hold staff and student football games at the Learning Center! Social Worker Sonthea Phum rallied the entire Learning Center to come out and play with his contagious energy. This was a great opportunity for students and staff to spend time together in an informal setting and build relationships naturally. Our social workers spend their days supporting students so that students are able to stay motivated and believe that getting an education is worth trying for, even in times when they witness daily struggling, suffering and loss in their family. Teachers successfully started the new semester, switching to a more dense and more challenging schedule in order to be able to meet the student’s learning needs. So, days like these are incredibly valuable for both students and staff; these enrichment activities provide opportunity to spend time together outside of the classroom or social work office.

Events like these are also important for the healthy development of a trusting and caring relationship between our staff and our students, outside of the day-to-day context, and are a chance for our older students to act as role models. While some of the younger students are still not so sure how the technical aspects of the game work and defaulted to doing headstands in the middle of the field–admittedly, though, also fun–the older students stepped in and offered guidance and coaching. The most exciting part for the students was the staff-versus-students soccer game: the 5-to-1 student to teacher ratio made for some good, chaotic fun. After a few hours of the staff and students running and playing in the ever-intense sunshine, some students went to the classroom to get musical instruments and offered musical accompaniment from the shade on the sidelines.

Of course, the students ran circles around our staff and emerged champions. Naturally, the children were thrilled with their victory over the adults, and spent the rest of the afternoon buzzing about it.

Our staff continually emphasize the importance of connecting with our students through enriching activities outside of their everyday academic routine. We understand that the total well-being of our students doesn’t start and end in the classroom or office, but is rooted in developing life and leadership skills.

At the end of the day, we were all thankful to share these happy and fun moments with the students. It`s times like these that we can simply forget about the grief and the constant struggles we see them experience. That we can take a breath and admire how the children have grown. That we can look around and appreciate the number of students who are staying in school thanks to the concerted efforts of the big, caring children`s future family that spans the world over.