Learning, the old fashioned way

Students in Camillus and Cambodia exchange lessons without wires, the Internet or the World Wide Web.

In today's world, children of all ages are able to connect with their peers around the globe through the Internet and modern technology. But sometimes, it takes good old-fashioned, hands-on experiences to offer kids a meaningful, tactile interaction with other cultures and ways of life.

That's the kind of cross-cultural exchange Facebook doesn't offer, and that students at Onondaga Road Elementary School were able to be a part of last month, thanks to one local couple.

An unlikely beginning

After Camillus couple Kathleen Hart-Zavoli and Vladimiro Zavoli adopted their two children from Cambodia, they knew their own family was complete.

We didn't want more kids, but we did want to give back in some way, Hart-Zavoli explained.

They soon discovered they weren't alone, and a few years later a small but dedicated group of parents from across the country, all of whom had adopted Cambodian children from the same orphanage, created Cambodia Tomorrow. Their mission, initially, was helping supply children at a Cambodian orphanage with essentials - rice, bedding - and sponsoring their education by funding their attendence at an English school in a neighboring town.

After about four years, Hart-Zavoli said one of the representatives from the orphanage told the parents that the children weren't getting what they needed out of the school, and asked if the group would consider starting a separate school for the kids.

Less than one year ago, Cambodia Tomorrow hired two teachers and started a pilot program; just a few months later, construction began on a school building.

That school, Cambodia Tomorrow English School at Kompong Speu Orphan Center, opened in December.

Tomorrow, today

Currently, 67 young students attend the school, but the facility can carry a maximum capacity of 180 students, Hart-Zavoli said. They will come closer to reaching full capacity soon, when about 30 children from poor local families begin attending school.

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