Discovering Jimmy’s School in Siem Reap

Visiting Angkor Watt is surely close to the top of many traveller itineraries when in South East Asia, the majority of which will be staying in the town of Siem Reap. It was while visiting myself that I discovered a small project that aims to improve lives through education. Welcome to Jimmy’s School.

The Temples of Angkor Wat

After a day of temple trotting in Angkor Watt, as much as I enjoyed it, I was surprised at just how many kids there were trying to sell things to me. Whether small trinkets and souvenirs or food and drink, there was a child that had what you wanted. What was also shocking is just how good they are at it. However, I couldn’t help but wish they were in school instead. Cambodia has a free school system; however, as in many areas of the world where poverty is common the issue comes when families have to buy school uniforms and textbooks; many simply can’t afford to send their kids to school.

Buying souvenirs at the Angkor Wat temples
Kids of all ages are trying to make money for their parents.

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As I was returning to my hotel I passed a place called Jimmy’s School and decided to investigate. I popped in and met Jimmy, tuk-tuk driver by day and educator in the evening. Jimmy explained to me that he founded the school with the income from his tuk-tuk business with the aim of providing free English lessons to local children in Siem Reap. He went on to explain that many kids are forced to sell things to tourists or beg throughout the day as it is the only way that the family receives an income and are able to feed themselves. (Read about the Milk Baby bagging scam here). His goal is to educate them in the evenings for free; he hopes that some of his kids can make it to college one day and equip themselves for better jobs but even if the lessons just make them happier and better able to communicate with tourists, Jimmy will be achieving great things. I asked if I could attend a class later that evening and Jimmy explained that there was actually no lesson as it was a public holiday, but the kids would still be coming for food, drink and dancing and I was welcome to join them. I accepted his kind offer and headed back to the hotel to find out more about Jimmy’s School.

Swinging through Angkor Wat
I caught these kids having a break from selling and loving swinging around on the vines that hang from the trees.

Happy Kids Cambodia

While looking online I found a small Australian charity, Happy Kids Cambodia, that is helping to fund the school and the following is taken from their project page:

 Jimmy’s Village School provides free English lessons to local underprivileged children in Siem Reap province, Cambodia. Jimmy, the teacher and founder of Jimmy’s Village School, is a young Cambodian local who has dedicated his life to educating children of his current generation; to enable them to access employment opportunities both locally and internationally. Jimmy hopes that his students will carry on his work into the next generation in working towards reviving Cambodia from its devastation and poverty into a thriving country, full of educated Cambodians who can maintain their culture and freedom.

 The current school operates in the front yard of Jimmy’s family home and has done so since 2011. An incredible 120-150 students attend Jimmy’s lessons every evening from Monday to Friday, and it is a tight squeeze! But the passion and energy in Jimmy’s classes are not hindered by the small space.

 Jimmy’s Village School runs purely from donations. Happy Kids Cambodia Inc. is dedicated to raising funds to keep Jimmy’s Village School running and to expand the school in the future so that more children within the community can access free English education.

Visiting Jimmy's School in Siem Reap

My Experience at Jimmy’s School

Later that evening I headed back to school just as the kids were arriving. Smiling and full of life they sat down and paid attention as Jimmy spoke to them. He started talking to the class about the importance of education and how they are the future of Cambodia. The class listened as he continued to tell them that they are so young and can achieve anything they want to if they study hard and help each other. It was an inspiring talk, I was almost welling up. To think Jimmy has made this school from scratch having started off as a tuk-tuk driver wanting to make a difference in his town is so inspiring, the world needs more Jimmys.

When he was done with his talk he invited me to take the mic and talk to the class. I’ll admit, I wasn’t expecting this and I have never done public speaking before so I was a little nervous. Watched over by a smiling Jimmy, I introduced myself and talked a little about schools in England and then invited questions. The kids were great as they asked me about my travels, a project I worked on in Africa and what education is like there. All in all, we were probably chatting together for a good 20-25 minutes. After I had finished the food came out. I helped to serve the kids before being invited to also have a meal myself and join them, an unexpected bonus.

Once everyone was fed it was time for dancing, the music kicked in and the kids went nuts as a few favourites were played. The little ones were going crazy to Gangnam Style and The Macarena . . . well . . . the big ones were too; I’m not going to lie. The 2 hours I spent with Jimmy in his school flew by and before I knew it I was saying goodbye to the kids as there were smiles everywhere.

Jimmy's School

Please try to help

Jimmy is still a tuk-tuk driver by day and currently spends about 60% of his earnings on running the school. If you would like to know more about the charity, and I implore you to do so, head to http://www.happykidscambodia.org or search Jimmy’s Village School on Facebook.

Another way to help is that if you are planning to visit the Angkor site, book Jimmy to take you on his tuk-tuk. Sadly I only found out about this on my return, although my trip was great, I’d imagine a trip to Angkor with Jimmy would be another level of awesome. He has been able to set up his own website which can be found here: http://www.jimmysangkortours.com

Find out what other people say about him on Trip Advisor: Jimmy’s Angkor Tours on Trip Advisor

It was an honour to come across such a great project and something that will stay with me forever.

Discovering Jimmy's School, Siem Reap, Cambodia
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26 Replies to “Discovering Jimmy’s School in Siem Reap”

  1. great post. I think it is great that you went out of the typical tourist zone to explore a situation like this because you wouldn’t have ever found Jimmy’s School or the adventure that was his evening party!
    I love that he gives back to his community with the resources (as limited as they are) that he has! It shows you that just a little bit of love and effort can go a long way.
    Thanks for sharing his info, I plan on going to Angor/Siem Reap next year and will try to use Jimmy for my tour guide so I know that my $$ is going to the kids

  2. It’s exceptional when you find ways to give back to a community you’re visiting that actually feel legit. It’s shocking to think of any child around the world being denied an education – however that is probably the reality for most. Jimmy sounds like an amazing person!

  3. That’s some great work Jimmy’s doing. Once again just goes on to show that every person should put his heart and soul into what he loves doing at the same time helping others achieve their dreams I’ll be sure to hit Jimmy up when I visit Cambodia in February next year.

  4. Amazing initiative. These kids deserve a better future. It’s heartbreaking for me to see children around the world begging money and desperately selling things when at this age, their only concern should be what game to play next. Thank you for spreading the word, I will be sure to use Jimmy’s services if I’m in Cambodia.

  5. Similar situation in India regarding the kids selling things to tourists. And yes, they are so good they could sell a wig to a blind man.
    Incredible story of Jimmys school though and what an awesome oppportunity for you. Good on you for taking the mic!

  6. It’s so sad to think that children in the world these days don’t have the things so many of us take for granted. it sounds like a really inspirational experience, and well done for getting involved!

  7. I also like to get involved in the local communities when I travel. Visiting a school founded by a tuk tuk driver from his own income and meeting the children must be such a unique experience. When English speaking tourists visit such places, it gives children hope, it entertains them and it makes them believe in themselves.

  8. Thanks for writing about something other than the temples at Angkor Wat – it’s really important that more people learn about Jimmy’s efforts here! I’m so glad that he has set up this school so that these children have a brighter future. I will definitely check out Jimmy’s school when I visit Angkor – especially as I’ll have my own kids with me. I would love to get involved.

    1. Hi Emily, thanks for your nice comments. I’m sure Jimmy would love it if you got in touch, taking kids there would be wonderful, I think it would be a great experience all around. It really is a great project and Jimy is one of the nicest, most sincere people you will meet. Have fun when you do go.

  9. It’s kind of sad to see children working on behalf of parents just because they can’t afford it! But anything is okay as far as they get education. Angkor Wat is definitely something we look forward to exploring.

  10. Thank you for sharing this experience! It goes to show you the privilege that we have to access and ability to afford education. I volunteered in Ecuador with the street market children who spent time in the markets with their parents to make money rather than attend school. It’s remarkable what some groups of people take for granted, while children in other countries are just happy with anything that they receive.

    1. It’s so true. Discovering projects like this is what travelling is about and a great example f how it changes your outlook on life. Understanding what others have to go through to simply live will definitely help eradicate the words ‘need’and ‘it’s not fair’ from your vocabulary.

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