To reach the Leadership, Character, and Development Institute’s new facility you have to pass a Khmer school, a Bible school, a Chinese temple, and a Muslim school.
The journey is good preparation for what is found upon entering the institute.
Hanging from the rafters of a new teacher training center that opened Thursday are banners with messages that draw upon myriad beliefs: “Men and women are equal in the sight of God” or “Where there is cold, there is heat.”
But L-CDI, founded in January 2000, does not cater to one specific set of religious beliefs, according to its director, M Singh, who was a motivational writer in Malaysia before he came to Cambodia.
L-CDI’s mission, Singh says, is to take poor school dropouts from the provinces, advance them academically and personally and send them back to the provinces to teach.
Singh calls this strategy “peer modeling,” and the program had positive results.
In just 18 months, the institute has acquired 350 full-time boarding students at eight provincial training centers. A gender balance mandate demands a girl is enrolled with each boy.
“We haven’t seen anything that doesn’t feel good about the institution,” said Ruth Carpenter, a country director for Latter-Day Saint Charities.
She and her husband, Terry, gave L-CDI $5,000 for building supplies, second-hand clothes and school supplies on behalf of their charity
The students were enthusiastic as well.
“Before, I was lazy. I talked back to my parents and had bad friends,” said Thiu Leakana, 18.
She has been studying at the school for six months and plans to teach in the provinces .
Her friend, Sokunthea Flourish, 21, agreed, “I am so different now. My family is so happy to see me changed. Before I was scared to talk to anyone. Now I want to become a journalist.”
A unique component of L-CDI is the emphasis on character development. But Singh claims it does not clash with traditional Khmer values.