When Eddie Roohan â€™10 went on a two-week trip to Cambodia in 2009, he thought he would just teach English to students and return home. Little did he know that the experience would lead him to start a school that offers free English classes.
â€śUltimately, you get more back than you give when you volunteer. We were only there for a couple of days, but the impact it had on me will stay with me the rest of my life,â€ť said Roohan, who majored in Spanish and Theological Studies.
While overseas, Roohan developed a friendship with Sok Pren, a local hotel employee, who wanted to start a school in his nearby hometown, Banteay Srei.Â Roohan said at first he was hesitant about starting a nonprofit in another country, but changed his mind after witnessing Prenâ€™s determination to help others.
â€śI didnâ€™t have the experience to start a school, but I believed in Sok and his commitment to the project. Heâ€™s a hard worker and I wanted to support him and the community. It definitely involved a lot of trust,â€ť Roohan said.
The school, named Bridge of Life, has been running for more than a year and offers two one-hour classes every day. There are more than 60 students who are provided with free classes, books and supplies as long as they regularly attend.
â€śTourism is the biggest source of business in Cambodia, so being able to speak English is more important than earning a college degree,â€ť Roohan said. â€śWe hope the students will be able to acquire the language and take advantage of the large job market in Siem Reap, as well as improve their quality of living.â€ť
Bridge of Life costs about $300 a month to operate and relies heavily on donations. Roohan and Sok hope to create several programs that will help the school to become self-sustainable. They started a sewing program, intending to sell garments at the local market. Also, they built a chicken farm and plan to sell the eggs — or give them to the families of the students. Future plans include purchasing a plot of land next to the school to build a catfish farm and an organic farm to grow vegetables.
â€śWe want the community to feel like itâ€™s their school and that theyâ€™re running it. We want it to be more about them and less about us. It should be the townâ€™s school,â€ť Roohan said.
During his senior year at Loyola Marymount University, Roohan volunteered more than 275 hours for Bridge of Life school. In recognition of his efforts, Roohan received a Riordan Community Service Award in April 2010. Each year, the Riordan Foundation honors six LMU undergraduate students for outstanding contributions in community service.
â€śI was flattered and honored to receive the award. It meant a lot to me to be recognized.Â It also makes me want to work harder and continue to do more service work,â€ť Roohan said.
For more information on the school, or to make a donation, click here.