The Class of 2011 and the Legacy of the House of Joy and Happiness
Four years ago, youth in the rural Rovieng region of Cambodia were still living in the wake of Pol Pot's tyrannical Khmer Rouge regime. There was (and still is) no electricity, sanitation, or other basic utilities in the region. There is little health care. There are no newspapers. And, because there were no schools in the area, there was little hope for a brighter future for the area's hardworking and eager youth. But, in 2007, the Austin Waldorf School Class of 2011 brought a priceless gift to the entire region: they founded the House of Joy and Happiness, a middle school at Rovieng, Cambodia.
The students of the Austin Waldorf School Class of 2011 wasted no time in responding to this dire situation after their class teacher Steven Roy brought
it to their attention. The story of the school's founding is remarkable in itself—truly a story that every Austin Waldorf School family should hear!
Steven Roy told the story to Nicholas Kristof in the New York Times *:
[The students and parents] wanted to keep the whole plan secret from me, and they had less than three weeks to raise the funds!
The students became enthusiastic. They phoned their relatives, pulled money out of their own savings accounts (sometimes to the extent of hundreds of dollars), mowed lawns, chopped logs, cleared brush, and worked at other jobs to raise the needed funds. The goal was clear – $13,000, or $500 per family. Some could not make this amount, some contributed more, but all families participated. By the time graduation came around – only two weeks later – the goal had been exceeded by over $2,000 dollars, and is still being added to now.
This class, as well as the school as a whole, plans to continue on with this project, and to develop a communication network with the students.
Many parents, students, and Austin Waldorf community members continued to build on the strong foundation begun in 2007 by this compassionate action. The Austin Waldorf School classes of 2013 and 2016, as well as other community members, helped to raise funds to provide for an English teacher, computers, an Internet connection for the House of Joy and Happiness, as well as funding Mr. Roy's first trip to Cambodia for the opening celebration. Last year, Tanya and Alan Green helped students organize a successful fundraiser using the talents of Ian Green and other members of the guitar ensemble, Austin Bella Corda. Most recently, families of students in the Austin Waldorf School Class of 2016 purchased a set of textbooks for the 9th grade Cambodian class, but the 7th and 8th grade classes are still making do with a few tattered copies of books.
The House of Joy and Happiness as Our Sister School
A group of interested parents and teachers have formed the Friends of the House of Joy and Happiness in order to strengthen the connection between the Austin Waldorf School and the House of Joy and Happiness, believing that Austin Waldorf School students will benefit greatly from the service learning and cultural education that a vital relationship between the two schools would provide. The Austin Waldorf School College of Teachers agrees, and officially adopted the House of Joy and Happiness as a "Sister" school. We will soon be able to educate our students about Cambodian culture in age-appropriate ways and raise money for the school's annual costs. We can also offer students opportunities to use their talents to benefit the Cambodian school, and to raise money for other wonderful programs for the Cambodian students--such as a vegetable garden, a school nurse, and more. And we even hope to offer high school students opportunities to connect directly with the school, through the Internet and travel.
We Need Your Help!
The English teacher and Internet connection are key resources for the school in broadening the perspective of the students and preparing them for life outside their rural district. The opportunities for improvements in health and welfare through these resources are virtually unlimited. But each year, Austin Waldorf School students and families must fund the annual expenses in order to keep the programs in place. The English teacher's salary is only $2160 per year, and the computer costs are $1200-- a tremendous value and return on investment in terms of the benefit that an entire community receives by educating its youth.
Please consider making a donation in any amount to help pay for the annual costs associated with the school. Simply make a check out to American Assistance for Cambodia, write School #374 in the memo and send to Linda Cox, 14434 Evergreen Cove, Austin, TX 78737 or leave at the Main Office. Money will go directly to fund the school through the American Assistance for Cambodia--the organization run by journalist Bernie Krisher that has worked together with the Japan Relief for Cambodia to establish hundreds of schools in rural Cambodia! If you would like to join the Friends of the House of Joy and Happiness to help strengthen the connection between our schools, please contact Linda Cox at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*Kristof, Nicholas D. "A New School…." Editorial in column "On the Ground." New York Times. 3 July 2007. Web. Accessed 23 April 2011.