Cambodia’s ‘Rubbish Man’ schools children — for trash

This photo taken on October 1, 2018 shows students sorting out salvaged plastic water bottles in front of a Cambodian flag made from recycled plastic materials at the Coconut School at Kirirom national park in Kampong Speu province. (AFP / TANG CHHIN SOTHY)
Updated 12 October 2018
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Cambodia’s ‘Rubbish Man’ schools children — for trash

  • Cambodian student Roeun Bunthon jots down notes during an English lesson at the “Rubbish School” where tuition is paid for with trash instead of cash
  • In return, needy kids like Bunthon, a former street beggar, can take computer, mathematics and language classes

KIRIROM, Cambodia: Sitting in a building made from used tires, plastic bottles and old sneakers, Cambodian student Roeun Bunthon jots down notes during an English lesson at the “Rubbish School” where tuition is paid for with trash instead of cash.
In return, needy kids like Bunthon, a former street beggar, can take computer, mathematics and language classes — and learn the value of reducing waste in a notoriously polluted country where recycling is nearly non-existent.
“I’ve stopped begging... it’s like I have another chance,” said Bunthon, who paid for his enrollment with a bag of discarded bottle caps.
Located in a lush national park, the Coconut School is built almost entirely from recycled waste and is the brainchild of Ouk Vanday, nicknamed the Rubbish Man, a former hotel manager who dreams of a trash-free Cambodia.
About 65 kids are enrolled at the school, where classroom walls are made of painted car tires and the entrance adorned with a mural of the Cambodian flag made entirely from colorful bottle caps.
Most of that garbage came from students in the form of school fees.
“I use rubbish to educate children by turning garbage into classrooms... so the children will understand the value of using rubbish in a useful way,” the 34-year-old said at the school, which opened a year and a half ago about 115 kilometers (70 miles) west of Phnom Penh.
He plans to expand classes in the poor, agricultural province of Kampong Speu to accommodate 200 kids, with a new kindergarten class featuring a wall made from plastic bottles set to open next year.
He’s optimistic the young minds are environmental ambassadors in the making.
“We hope they’ll become new activists in Cambodia, understanding the use, management and recycling of waste,” Vanday told AFP.
Vanday’s inspiration came after traveling around Cambodia and seeing tourist sites clogged with garbage. Troubled by this, he set up a pilot project in Phnom Penh in 2013 before expanding it to a second location in the national park.
Vanday’s vision for a trash-conscious Cambodia is ambitious in a Southeast Asian country where plastic bags and bottles are tossed out without a second thought, many of which end up in garbage-choked cities or smothering once-idyllic beaches.
Cambodia accumulated 3.6 million tons of waste last year, according to the country’s Ministry of Environment.
A mere 11 percent of that gets recycled, while almost half of it is burned or thrown into rivers, causing widespread pollution, said ministry spokesman Neth Pheaktra.
The rest is trucked to ever-growing landfills and dump sites, where the piles of garbage emitting methane gas can lead to unexpected and dangerous fires, as well as add to climate change.
These grim scenes are what inspired Vanday to found the Coconut School, which is supported by donations and volunteer teachers, for kids who would get little in the way of environmental education at regular state-run schools.
It is also a chance to help kids who would not be able to afford the after-school programs that have become commonplace for most youngsters across Cambodia.
Public education is free by law, but “supplemental” lessons for English or other extracurricular subjects cost extra, ranging from $5 a class to hundreds of dollars depending on the school and its location. This could be a steep investment in a country where the average person earns under $1,400 per year.
For poorer families in remote areas, the children are sent to beg for money to increase their family income, making it difficult for them to justify paying for extra classes. At his school, Vanday wishes to put an end to this practice.
It has already worked for some.
“My English teacher doesn’t let me beg for money or gamble,” 10-year-old former beggar Sun Sreydow said.
“I’m glad. When I grow up, I want to be a doctor.”


Russian Slava brings on his clowning in sell-out show in Saudi Arabia

The Tickets for the first performance of ‘Slava’s Snow Show’ in Dhahran were sold out on Thursday. (Photo/Twitter)
Updated 20 October 2018
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Russian Slava brings on his clowning in sell-out show in Saudi Arabia

  • The 900-seat theater at Ithra was sold out for the first performance for “Slava’s Snow Show” in Saudi Arabia
  • The show has scooped 23 awards internationally including London’s Time Out Best Show of the Year

DHAHRAN: The Kingdom is staging the global hit “Slava’s Snow Show” at Ithra’s theater in Dhahran in October as part of the “Tanween” season exploring creativity in art, music, theater, science, literature, cultural heritage and entrepreneurship through a wide range of talks, shows and workshops from all around the world.
“Slava’s Snow Show” was created over 20 years ago in Moscow by the Russian-born artist Slava Polunin, who was inspired by Marcel Marceau and Charlie Chaplin. The show has toured more than 120 cities with more than 7,000 performances in different famous stages and theaters around Europe, America, and Asia. It has been seen by 7 million people worldwide.
The show has scooped 23 awards internationally including London’s Time Out Best Show of the Year and the Drama Desk Awards Exceptional Theatre Project in New York where the show was performed on Broadway.
The 900-seat theater at Ithra was sold out for the first performance for “Slava’s Snow Show” in Saudi Arabia on Thursday, which played to an excited house of all ages. Performances will be held at the King Abdul Aziz Center for World Culture, Dhahran, on Oct. 20, 23, 24 and 26. Slava explained the message behind the show to Arab News. “We aim to demonstrate the Russian art to the Saudi audience,” he said.
He was delighted by the reception at the first performance in the Kingdom. “The audience was wowed. I could see their gasps as I performed. Their fascination showed us how highly they appreciate arts. It is indeed our first time in Saudi Arabia and it won’t be the last.”
During the show Slava takes on many different personas, both cheerful and miserable. His repertoire is more diverse than the two common clowning styles — Auguste and the White Clown. He also invites the audience to interact with him during the show.
"We work to deliver our shows here in Saudi exactly as they are delivered in Russia.”
Slava added: “The theater in Russia is an essential part of the Russian culture and identity and having such shows and performances in Ithra particularly and in Saudi Arabia generally is part of the intercultural relationship between Saudi and Russia.”
When asked about the difficulties that faces this kind of art in theater, Slava said: “The only challenge that we encounter is the traveling exhaustion and that is it.”
“Tanween” events are being held until Oct. 27.