Faces with futures

Alexandra Robbins ('07) and her Cambodian friends

Changing the futures for children in Cambodia

Look carefully at the faces of these beautiful Cambodian children. Imagine now, how they have lived.  These children are members of families who work in municipal dumpsites throughout Cambodia, picking up trash to scratch out a living of less than $2 a day. With no access to health care or regular education, many impoverished Cambodian children suffer destitution, servitude and illness. Too many live and die in these conditions.

For some, however, there is a better future. At Aziza’s Place in the heart of Phnom Penh, 21 children live and thrive. Described as a learning center, Aziza’s Place allows children to receive public education, medical care, regular meals and the personal attention of a “family.” Providing the direction for Aziza’s Place and nurturing these children are Alexandra Robbins (’07) and Daniel Haney (’07), interim co-directors.

“Since we have only 21 children,” Alexandra says, “it makes our program very unique and structured.  We give each child the nurturing and opportunities they deserve.” The students study English, their native Khmer language, mathematics, computer skills and Chinese. They also have opportunities for soccer, karate and dance — opportunities completely unavailable to their families.

Daniel Haney ('07) and friends

After graduating from JMU with a degree in political science, Alexandra considered the Peace Corps, but it was Aziza’s place that won her heart. “We get to put our ideas into action,” she says. Daniel got a taste of the world during a Study Abroad trip while at JMU before earning a degree in geographic science. Both Alexandra and Daniel, deeply engaged with Aziza’s place since 2007, hope that someday the Cambodian people will be able to take over the responsibility for the center.

Together, these two JMU alumni are committed to changing lives. In the face of poverty and lack of opportunity, the children of Aziza’s place have a new future. It’s best said here, I think, on the organization’s website: “Now, twenty-one children are growing and striving at Aziza’s Place. Each of their stories are unique, but mirrors the larger obstacles impoverished children face in Cambodia. Their destitute life on the dumpsite, parents with HIV/AIDS, and even a life of servitude do not hold back the will of these children to learn and succeed.”

That is a brighter future.

To learn more about Aziza’s Place and to see a compelling video about the children’s experience there, go to their website:  http://www.azizafoundation.org/projects.html (Don’t miss the video!)

You will also be able to read more about Alexandra and Daniel in the spring issue of Madison magazine.

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About James Madison University
This blog is about the people of James Madison University — a caring, committed and engaged community spread all over the world, making lives better and brighter, healthier and safer, kinder and bolder. As Gandhi suggested, we are taking steps to BE the CHANGE we wish to see in the world. And these are our stories....

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