WHEN Jan Gracey left her primary school teaching job in Spalding to do VSO work she never imagined that six years later she would be building a school in Cambodia.
Jan left posts at Lutton Primary School and St Norbert’s – and 30 years of teaching in the town – to go to Cambodia to share child-friendly teaching methods with trainers in the teacher training college.
The two-year World Bank-funded project was extended another two years and then Jan stayed another six months because she had made close friends in Sisophon, in the north-west of Cambodia, where she now has a house she shares with friends Samuth and Polin, who look after it while Jan spends six months of each year in the UK.
During her last half-year in Cambodia, Jan secured a six-month contract with the local state university to improve their international relations with other universities. However, during that time there was a huge flood and Jan says: “People around me were made homeless and were camping on my road.”
Just as distressing was the fact that the local school, which Jan knows well as she had used it for teaching practice, was under a metre of water.
Photographs of this devastation were duly sent to friends at home and ended up being seen by a couple in Market Harborough who were looking to help a charity financially. They stumped up the £150,000 needed and Jan is now building a replacement school with proper floors and 12 classrooms, with Samuth project managing it.
When Jan returns in September the school should be ready and the benefactors intend to fly out for the official opening in October. However, there are still extras needed, such as landscaping and play areas, and Jan is now collecting money to cover these costs, such as the £200 given by her friend who received money in lieu of gifts for his 60th birday.
Jan is also giving talks about her life and work in Cambodia – the first is at Georgian Court in Spalding this week – but she is hoping other groups will be interested in her talking to them in return for a donation to the fund.
She knows her work will never be done in Cambodia because even as Jan has been enjoying a holiday in the UK she has been told of another school that needs a new roof to stop the rain water pouring down the classroom walls.
Those who would like to contribute to Jan’s work in Cambodia or who are interested in her giving a talk to a group can contact Jan on 01775 711479 or 07513 457889.