‘I couldn’t be prouder of what the Shine staff has built for our girls’

How Hope for Justice Cambodia is creating educational opportunities and transforming lives

Hope for Justice has become the first NGO in Cambodia to successfully run a government-approved and formally recognized education programme through Grade 9.

This impressive achievement was marked at a recent Academic Achievement Certificate Ceremony at our Shine Career School, held for Grades 6 and 9.

The event was a fantastic celebration of the students’ tremendous efforts and academic achievements over the past year, attended by not just the students and staff, but also government ministers and official representatives of the Cambodian Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport.

Staff members from Hope for Justice Cambodia's Shine Career School, with Ministry of Education officials

Staff members from Hope for Justice Cambodia’s Shine Career School, with Ministry of Education officials

Shine Project Manager Nourn Vanna, education liaison to the Ministry, said getting approval and a formal Memorandum of Understanding from the government in this way is “a sign of their trust”. Vanna added: “They know about Hope for Justice and they know about Shine. They trust us to provide quality education for our students.”

The main entrance hall of Shine Career School was specially decorated for the celebration, which was a great success, with speeches and a traditional Khmer Apsara blessing dance performed by five Shine students.


Ngin Sam Onn, Operations Director at Shine Career School, said: “With a formally recognized certificate of academic competence, the students have access to many more educational and professional opportunities. For students who would like to keep studying, their Grade 9 certificate is necessary to move on to further grade levels and creates the possibility of attending university at a later stage. For our students attending vocational training, there are many benefits when applying for jobs. Prospective employers understand that applicants with this certificate are more academically advanced, being able to read, write, and complete a certain level of mathematics. It gives them a competitive edge.”

designed-by-culinary-arts-vt-studentsAfter the much-anticipated certificate presentations, there was a buffet of delicious Cambodian dishes prepared by two Shine Career School culinary arts vocational training students, one example of which can be seen here!

‘It motivates them to strive for their dreams’

Country Director Stacy Biggs said: “The Grade 9 certificate also gives the girls much-needed and deserved confidence. Many of our Hope for Justice girls come from backgrounds of little to no education. For their determination and dedication to studying to be rewarded with tangible proof of their success motivates them even more: to keep studying; to apply to that challenging vocational training programme; to strive for their dreams. And that’s what we really want for them – to show them all that they are capable of.

“I couldn’t be prouder of what the Shine staff has built for our girls. At this time last year, the Grade 9 Accreditation Program was just beginning, and we didn’t yet know the degree to which it would impact the girls or how much they would embrace the opportunity to study such difficult subjects. Now, a year later, it quite literally brings me to tears to witness their pride as they accept the certificates they worked so hard to achieve. This is a tremendous moment for everyone at Hope for Justice.”


One 12th Grade student, 17-year-old Chantavy*, gave a speech at the ceremony. She said she was both excited and nervous to speak in front of so many people, including government officials, but the speech went excellently, and she did a fantastic job of explaining how Hope for Justice has supported her and the other girls. She said afterwards: “I really want to say thank you to everyone who has helped to make this ceremony a possibility. Education is so important. The opportunities I am given through Hope for Justice will allow me to continue my studies after I graduate from high school.”

The Shine Career School will keep expanding its educational programme. Sam Onn explained: “Since the ceremony, our Grade 9 graduates have started Grade 10. As each year goes by we plan to add another grade level to the Ministry-approved certification programme. We are very excited to expand our curriculum and create more educational opportunities for our students!”

* The survivor’s name has been changed for her protection.      

Words and photography by Josephine Rees and Adam Hewitt