Fallen Rose, a Miami-transplant, muralist and street artist based in Wynwood traveled to Cambodia and visited the same school…

Fallen Rose, a Miami-transplant, muralist and street artist based in Wynwood traveled to Cambodia and visited the same school that first inspired our buy one give one initiative to provide free books to children around the world. He recounts his experience with the loving Cambodian people, the kids at Samart School, and the present he left for them.

By Fallen Rose (Justin Vallee)

My girlfriend Juanita and I just got back from a trip to Asia, more specifically Singapore, Thailand, and Cambodia; though we found ourselves in Cambodia for most of the trip. Cambodia is a beautiful and magical place, rich with flavor and culture. We stayed in Siem Reap for some time, going to temples, eating, people watching, shopping.




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Thanks to you I got the plug with Song Samart who has two schools in tiny villages about twenty minutes outside the city. They teach English to children in these impoverished communities. The ability to speak English in this county has huge benefits. You take someone who might be working a field or doing construction, and you teach them to read, write, and communicate, and well, you open the world for them. Most places need people that speak English. Cambodia has had its share of rough times. It’s still recovering from the Khmer Rouge genocide from the late 70’s. The generations that left are the survivors of this massacre. They are trying to bring back things that are important to Cambodia, and part of their culture that was forgotten. The effort to re-education their youth is palpable, whereas it’s via the arts, English, traditional Cambodian literature, dance, or some craftsmanship education. The country takes dollar bills at small shops, and all over the country, which is really crazy: things are priced in American dollars. Tourism is a big part of the Cambodia’s revenue stream–Again, a reason why learning English is so important!

Photos courtesy of Juanita Lopez

I was saying, Samart School has two locations. The first school is in pretty bad shape. The ‘plywood’ walls are of low quality, and they are peeling back in most places. The school is on top of dirt and exposed at the bottom all around. There are a lot of floods during the rainy season. I’m told not many kids attend then, and the ones that do have to sit up on top of the desks if the ground is flooded.

There’s a playground, a library, some bathroom stalls, and some support beams for the next build out, but honestly, the school is in bad shape and needs more help.

The second location has had some sponsors and a far more proper feel to it. There is a nice metal playground that looks safer. The school building rests on a cement frame. It has three or four rooms and some donated desks. There’s another library that contains English books. There is a water filtration system and some bathroom stalls. The living quarters/hostel for the teachers that Song also runs is across the dirt road.

I couldn’t leave without contributing to the school. I asked Song if I could paint some of the walls and add color to the school. He agreed. So I painted six murals: Three at the library, and three at the hostel. Children were coming in for class, watching, curious about what I was doing. That part was fun. After I painted, Juanita and I went into the class and chatted first with the older students. I’d say they are seven to fourteen years old. They were adorable. The had prepared questions in English for us. I tried to give honest and quick answers as they took turns to talk.

Where are you from? I’m visiting from the United States.
What’s your favorite color? Yellow.
What is your favorite place? Umm, do you mean here or in the world?… blank stares.
What’s your favorite animal? Dog or cat.

We took turns asking the children questions from their children’s English books. They were quick to answer. They said the ABC’s and counted to one hundred, in unison, at the top of their lungs. We played “Simon Says” and I had some good belly laughs.


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We took turns asking the children questions from their children’s English books. They were quick to answer. They said the ABC’s and counted to one hundred, in unison, at the top of their lungs. We played “Simon Says” and I had some good belly laughs.

The second class was a mixed group mostly younger kids that were at the beginner English level. They had great energy, and you could tell they were very enthusiastic and happy to be there. I did this routine twice with all four classes. The kids come in at night around 5 PM. The do one hour of play and an hour of schooling. And then another group comes after them. They ride their bikes from surrounding villages, with headlamps and the moonlight to guide them. Some of them come from many miles away. Some are dressed nice with clean hair and clothes, while others look like they’ve been playing outside all day in the dirt. There’s a beautiful innocence not lost in the children’s beautifully dark eyes.

Song told me that a few hundred students come to his two locations. The school had day teachers at one point, but couldn’t sustain it. They rely heavily on contributions and the people who can donate their time to teach. For now, only evening school is available.

We were really touched from our time in Cambodia. Juanita and I find ourselves yearning to go back. I’d like to raise some money for the school and help with the building, paint the schools and surrounding villages while I’m there. The Cambodian people have a quiet, gracious way about them. They work hard and smile often. Honestly, we all have a lot to learn from them.

Thank you again, Diego, for introducing me to Song and for the experience.

Fallen Rose
Justin Vallee