A lesson of leadership on the Mekong River

21 June 2018
A lesson of leadership on the Mekong River

Last April, while cruising on the Mekong river in Cambodia, I visited the Green School in the village of Kampong Tralach Krom, a rural community 60km (37 miles) North of Phnom Penh, Cambodia’s capital.


During my trip, I saw places with magnificent landscapes such as Halong Bay in Vietnam, great cities like Hong Kong, and one of humanity’s most remarkable artistic heritages, the Angkor temples. But what impressed me most was visiting a remote village and its school, in the middle of nowhere.


I was impressed by the incredible energy of Yiv Vicheany, a young lady who founded this school on the belief that today’s children in any part of the world need to have three strong foundations: speaking English; learning how to use a computer and navigate on Internet; understanding their ecosystem (the influence of plastic in their environment, the power of recycling this material, the importance of planting trees and respecting the environment).


From a very young age she understood that learning English was the key to success in Cambodia and a threshold towards meeting people of different cultures and opening one’s mind to other countries. She started by watching movies in English and in high school she obtained a loan to study English in the United States. As a result, she speaks excellent English and has decided to help her community by teaching English to children.


In the school website she writes “Prior to the year 2012, there were no opportunities for students in the village of Kampong Tralach Krom and surrounding communities to study English in private classes outside of state school. Because the time allocated to learning at state school was not sufficient for maintaining passing grades, this lack of opportunity was crippling to students wishing to receive good grades, and attend university. Even if they had the transportation to attend class in further away communities, the cost of private lessons created a socioeconomic divide between the families who could afford to send their children, and those who could not. In response to this, I began teaching English at my house in 2012”.


A passionate teacher, she raised funds to buy books and started with 6 students. Then she convinced Lindblad Expeditions and National Geographic, two tourist operators active in Cambodia, to support programs aimed at helping children to learn and find more productive ways of spending their free time. In March 2013, they funded the English library program in Kampong Tralach Primary School to encourage and facilitate proficiency in English.


Since the number of students was increasing and there were not enough classrooms for their needs, the Green School was founded from scratch and with no public support. Yiv partnered with Heritage Line Cruise (the company holding the Mekong Cruise that brought me to visit the school) and other tourist operators in order to raise more funds.

Now the school has three classrooms, a computer room and a campus of 300 students.


Yiv envisions  2 to 5 years programs, which include a gradual development of proficiency in fund-raising activities by all members of the community, the launching of a website (which is now online), and the purchase of a plot of land to build an office and bungalows for housing international volunteers. On the website she writes “attracting international volunteers and homestay tourists is an important part of our strategy, as it keeps English-language speakers consistently interacting in the community and keeps an influx of creative ideas and energy flowing into the school system. The land for the school office will also have an instructive garden, a large playground, Audio-Visual room and other facilities in order to make it an attractive and interactive community center for progressive education.

Our long-term vision is to have a self-sustaining campus within the community that serves as a local model for progressive education that leads to individual opportunity and community involvement and integration.”


You can read more about this great adventure on their website



This young woman, driven by a deep conviction and a vision, brought her community into the modern world by respecting its traditions and culture. But what struck me most was her ability to federate, to share and build with village people on one side and, on the other, with institutions that could guarantee the creation and expansion of the school.

Today, she tells her story with passion and humility. She shares her vision with conviction and openness. As tourists, we felt at home: we played with the children, we visited the school with them, we talked and took pictures with them, without feeling like tourists. She treated us as partners in her adventure.


I am used to working with leaders of global organizations and this young lady gave me a lesson of leadership and humility: she doesn’t strive after money, she strives to help her community; she doesn’t seek glory, but follows a vision that is shared by and built with her community and partners; she is not hemmed in by her own way of doing things, she believes in cross-fertilization with international students, interns and partners to prompt new ideas.


When I flew to Asia, I was far from imagining that in the middle of nowhere I would meet a young lady who would become a source of inspiration. This young lady exemplifies outstanding leadership rarely seen in my professional life. I am happy to share her story with you…


If you want to donate to the school (even $20 or 20€ is important), go to website of Child Rescue Inc,  www.childrescueinc.org) and click on the Green School logo to donate.

Presently, Green School and Child Rescue Inc. are cooperated. If you donate via Child Rescue Inc, you will get the tax-deductibility.  


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