Veritas School teacher Trina Botelho is teaching at the Don Bosco school in Phnom Penh

Veritas ‘unplugs’ so others can plug in

Veritas Grade 7 teacher Trina Botelho is teaching in Phnom Penh, Cambodia and sent word home that the school has no electronic devices

Veritas students and teachers are going “unplugged” for one week to help raise money for students who have no electronic devices.

For one year, Veritas Grade 7 teacher Trina Botelho is teaching English, basic business and social skills, such as taking notes and answering phones, to women ages 18 to 25 at the Don Bosco school in Phnom Penh, Cambodia where she lives with the students and the Salesian nuns, who also teach there.

“She wanted to go on some kind of mission work,” says Linda Reinbolt, one of the unplugged organizers.

Botelho got word back to the school here that the Cambodian school has no electronics at all, so, for Catholic Education Week, Feb. 3 to 6, the Veritas staff and students decided to raise money to buy the school a TV, says Reinbolt.

The goal is to raise awareness about how other students live without all the electronic devices we have.

At school on the first day, students will attend assembly in the gym and Botelho will Skype in to talk to them and tell them about her day.

And one day that week will be Cambodian school day where students will say their prayers in front of a Cambodian flag, clean the school and have a simple day using basic school supplies, like students without electronics do.

Veritas students will be encouraged to unplug their electronic devices at night and spend time with their families, such as playing board games, to see what it’s like for students without electronics.

And their parents are encouraged to come in and have lunch with their children at school and bring cards or books for an electronics-free lunch.

Students are asking for donations and the goal is to raise $1 per student, says Reinbolt.

“Our school is always generous in that way,” says Reinbolt. A specific goal amount hasn’t been set as they’re not sure what a TV will cost.

And students will be able to win prizes, which are items that Botelho has sent from Cambodia.

In a message home to say how it’s going, Botelho says she’s learning lots and is overwhelmed by her students’ gratefulness to their teachers:

“Things are going very well here! We currently have about 120 girls from the age of 18-25 who attend our vocational school to learn all about how to become a secretary here in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. There is about 80 of the girls that live with us (on the compound) because they are from the villages too far away from our site.

“They girls are amazingly grateful to everyone for helping them learn because they realize that this is their last chance at getting a good paying job. What motivates these girls to come and study for endless hours a day is their families; they want to be able to provide a future for their parents and siblings. They have a strong sense of family here and they are willing to sacrifice so much just to provide for them.

“Their goal after their training here is to make about $120 a month (that would be working six days a week). I am just loving being here and I am learning so much from the girls every day. Their simplicity, joy and dedication to their families are truly an example.

“We have an interview process when accepting the girls and we take the poorest of the poor first. Most (almost all) of the girls are sponsored from outside sources because they cannot afford to pay themselves. To sponsor one girl for one year, it costs $600 (for a student living at the site with us).

“The highlights for me so far has been spending time getting to know the girls, hearing their inspirational stories and going to visit their families in the villages. They are so proud to bring us (the teachers) to their simple homes and we are treated with endless amounts of love and hospitality. I am overwhelmed by their gratefulness!”