This week was all about red helmets for me! The order from Asia Injury Prevention Foundation (AIP) finally arrived on Tuesday and they look great!
This is the culmination of six months’ work for SKOPE which started in one of my first weeks back at school. I had always noticed, and been horrified by, the number of children coming to Sovann Komar School without helmets, especially since a law passed early in 2015 made it compulsory for all passengers to wear one. After I had started SKOPE, I realised I was in a position to instigate change in this area.
Most of the children within Sovann Komar Children’s Village don’t ride motos too often because they take the bus to and from school. However, when they do they are traveling along one of the busiest and most dangerous roads in Cambodia. I didn’t understand why the parents allowed this since they are so loving in caring in so many other ways. The students at our school however often come from very poor families. For some of them, a helmet is seen as an unnecessary expense and therefore they risk their child’s life every day. If you’ve not seen it, click here to watch a video I made.
Most of the funding for this project came from a few generous donors in the USA and Outreach International. Outreach is the volunteer agency I used when I first came to Cambodia and we have kept in touch ever since. They also continue to place volunteers at Sovann Komar and one of the mothers at the village acts as their in-country coordinator. Thanks to their contribution, SKOPE was able to finance the rest of the project with money raised in the UK in December.
I’ve written before about the helmets I chose so I’ll just briefly summarise here: they’re made in Vietnam and conform to US safety regulations. They’re bright red and have the SKOPE logo on either side.
I spent the day yesterday carrying around large boxes to every classroom in Sovann Komar School to fit and hand out the helmets for children who travel to school by moto. Here are some lovely smily faces to give you an idea of my job and why I love it so much.
Yesterday evening I stayed behind after work and when the older children returned from school, we had a little ceremony to give the helmets to the Sovann Komar families too. Each family got three or four helmets (the children had all been sized several weekends ago) because if the whole family are going somewhere, they usually drive.
Along with the helmets, Sovann Komar and SKOPE are implementing stricter road safety rules. Everyone who lives within Sovann Komar Village must wear a helmet when they pass through the gate. If they don’t, they must pay 50 cents to the guards there. Although we are not financially penalising the students enrolled in our school their parents will be informed that we are stepping up our game when it comes to road safety and our guards have been asked to keep an eye out for children who repeatedly do not wear helmets.
However, I do not think we will have much of a problem enforcing these rules. The children who received their helmets yesterday were all very pleased with their shiny red present. They understood the importance of them and so did their classmates. Parents too acknowledged these gifts and will be able to tell the helmets are excellent quality. That, coupled with the letter, and I hope we will instil a safety conscious culture into everyone at Sovann Komar.
It doesn’t sound like much but I think SKOPE accomplished a lot with this project. 117 helmets distributed and over 360 students educated about the importance of road safety. Hopefully these are lessons and practices which will continue for the rest of their lives.