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by Mike Thomson, CEO, Australian Aid for Cambodia Fund (AACF)

AACF February 2004 News Bulletin    Translate This Article
Melbourne, Australia
19 February 2004

Mike Thomson, CEO of the Australian Aid for Cambodia Fund (AACF), who recently returned from a trip to Cambodia, reports on the progress of the Maharishi Vedic University in Cambodia:

AACF's main aid program is providing a consciousness-based university education to rural youth who would not otherwise have access to higher education. In partnership with the Cambodian government, AACF has established Maharishi Vedic University (MVU), Cambodia's only rural university - in the eastern province of Prey Veng. Students come to MVU from all over Cambodia.

MVU currently has two faculties - Agriculture and Management - priority areas for Cambodia's development - with the plan of developing two more faculties.

In addition AACF is helping the rural poor in Cambodia's eastern provinces to improve the their quality of life by using MVU as a base for local village development projects in skills training, agriculture, environmental protection, and health care.

AACF's Inspection Tour of Cambodia January 2004 Members of the AACF Executive Management Committee Nigel Kirwan, Alan Florance, David Essex and myself visited Cambodia to inspect Maharishi Vedic University and monitor the progress of AACF's initiatives. We visited MVU's three campuses and met with the students, faculty and foreign volunteers. We also had meetings with senior Cambodian leaders and officials.

Meeting with Samdech Chea Sim His Excellency Chea Sim, one of Cambodia's senior statemen since the end of the Khmer Rouge era and currently President of the Senate and Chairman of the Cambodian Peoples Party, has been a long-term supporter of MVU. At the meeting with Chea Sim we explained our goal of creating an influence of coherence in collective consciousness. AACF presented a large colour chart produced to celebrate MVU's 10th Anniversary which documents the positive changes in Cambodia over the last decade with comparisons to other countries in comparable situations. We advised him that with the strengthening of our 'coherence creating programs' at MVU we should expect to see a further increase in national coherence and harmony with ramifications in increased creativity, effectiveness andunity in government processes. Chea Sim pledged to build another two-storey building at MVU adding to the two classroom blocks he has already constructed.

We also introduced AACF's plan for a self sustaining agricultural development to support 400 workers, and reported on the progress of MVU's 80 hectare Experimental Farm at Poppel village where agricultural field trials are taking place. Chea Sim offered to donate 200 chickens, some goats and pigs to the farm, the goats to be used to clear undeveloped land on the site. Nigel Kirwan pledged to donate a milking cow and materials to demonstrate hand milking. AACF has designed a project to improve the quality of local cattle and is seeking A$12,000 funding for the project.

Chea Sim commented that when MVU first started many people doubted its longevity and utility and expected it to fail but that our students are now acknowledged all over Cambodia to be of the highest quality.

Meeting other VIPs We also met with other leaders with a long history of support for MVU. - His Excellency Ung Huot, formerly Foreign Minister and for a short time Prime Minister, and His Excellency Son Soubert, member of the Constutional Council and son of former Prime Minister Son Sann.

Meeting with Indian Ambassador Invited by AACF volunteer teacher Abhilash Puljal (from India), the Indian Ambassador to Cambodia visited the MVU with his whole family and stayed the night on the main campus. The Ambassador was impressed with what is being achieved at MVU and intrigued that ancient Vedic knowledge such as meditation and Sanskrit is included in the MVU curriculum. He was well aware of Cambodia's historical link to Vedic knowledge and that Sanskrit was the official language of the Angkorian civilisation which flourished in Cambodia 800 years ago.

The Ambassador offered on behalf of the Indian Government to donate 1000 textbooks from India for the MVU library, to arrange a teacher of Sanskrit from India to come to MVU, and to assist MVU students obtain scholarships for post graduate study in India.

Shortly after the visit he attended a scholarly conference in the Cambodian city of Siam Reap (adjacent to Angkor Wat, the most famous of the ancient Angkorian monuments) and spoke enthusiastically about MVU, telling the conference participants that MVU students had Teji in their eyes (fire or 'divine light') and a sincere desire or enthusiasm for knowledge that he had not seen elsewhere in Cambodia.

The MVU Students There are now over 1000 students at MVU and every year applicants exceed the number accepted. The students are happy to be at MVU, are grateful for AACF's support, and wish AAACF to continue its support. The MVU students were very supportive of AACF 's role and of MVU's consciousness-based approach to education. The students interviewed were all happy to be at MVU. . . .

The MVU Graduates MVU graduates are working in a wide range of sectors including the public sector, multi-national companies, local companies, international organisations, embassies, and community and non-profit organisations.

On the basis of the graduates success AACF is achieving one of its primary goals of reducing rural poverty by giving rural youth access to an education and a better future for themselves and their families.

MVU Graduate Now MP One of MVU's first graduates is now a member of Parliament with one of the opposition parties.

Graduates Clone MVU The last five years have seen an explosion in private education in Cambodia with many new schools and universities starting up offering courses to fee-paying students. Two enterprising MVU graduates have now started their own private universities employing other MVU graduates as teaching faculty. MVU graduate Mr Hok Seoun established the Angkor City Institute with campuses in two provincial cities and over 400 students.

MVU graduate Mr Tun Pheakdey's Institute of Management and Economics (IME) has over 1000 students at two campuses. During AACF's tour we met with the founders of these new Institutes to discuss future collaboration.

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