Hope International School
On the day I visit HOPE International School, bright, hand-painted artwork decorates the walls. A teacher greets me wearing a soccer jersey and a cloth bandage wrapped around his head. He’s imitating a storybook character in honor of Book Week. The children have also assumed new identities. One child struts with his cape while a young girl proudly shows off her dog costume.
“Our children don’t usually have tails,” jokes Elizabeth Shin, HOPE’s Office and HR Manager.
Book character dress-up may not be a daily thing, but the levity of the scene speaks to a work of God that takes place every day within the school’s walls.
5 Minute Read
By Megan Sarian
HOPE International School invests in the next generation of world-changers. That is to say it provides quality, Christ-centered education for the children of missionaries and international Christian workers.
The school was birthed out of the needs of a number of missionary families. They wanted to see their children taught from a biblical worldview, but neither the local nor international schools offered that option. Their solution was to establish HOPE School in 2002.
What began with two families has grown to a diverse body of 350 students from 35 different countries. The school spans two campuses, one in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, and offers preschool through year 12.
No matter their country of origin, families who send their kids to HOPE do not need to worry that their children will be held back. The school has been accredited by several internationally recognized standards, including the International General Certificate of Secondary Education (IGCSE) and the International Baccalaureate (IB). It’s also an accredited University of Cambridge International Examination Centre. Students graduate with the qualifications needed to apply to a broad range of universities in many countries.
While HOPE provides a quality education, the school facilitates so much more than that. It helps sustain the work of God’s global church.
“Christian workers often leave their country of service for three main reasons: health issues, financial challenges or their children’s education” says Malcolm Pirie, Phnom Penh Primary Principal. “We’re helping solve one of those issues.”
Helping missionaries thrive
For Judy and Simon Collins, along with their three children, what HOPE provides is no small blessing. They moved to Cambodia from New Zealand eight months ago to serve with OMF Cambodia. HOPE has been a vital part of their kids’ successful transition.
“Coming to Cambodia with a family, we initially thought we were taking a big risk,” Simon says.
“But we’re so fortunate to have HOPE school. Because of HOPE, we can worry less about our kids and focus more on what God has for us here.”
What God has for the Collins in Cambodia are critical roles that contribute to the safety and well-being of the entire OMF Cambodia team. Simon serves as Field Medical Advisor, overseeing the health of OMF workers in the country. Judy recently took up the role of Child Safety Officer for OMF Cambodia. She ensures that measures are in place to protect the children in OMF workers’ care.
For many HOPE parents, the school does so much more than simply free up their time and attention. The school provides space for their children to flourish.
Angeline Porter, who serves alongside her husband Simon in the role of OMF Cambodia Field Director, believes HOPE has contributed to her son Reuben’s confidence.
“A lot of people say that Reuben (age 9) has leadership qualities. I think that’s because, since day one, he was nurtured and given a lot of Christian love from the HOPE and missionary community.”
She also credits HOPE with giving her children a global perspective. “Not everyone at the school speaks English as their first language,” she says. “I think that gives my kids a sensitivity to the world being bigger than just themselves.”
In Cambodia, when missionaries and their children thrive, that strength is sown into a nation in need.
The Gospel for Cambodia
Just a seven-mile drive from HOPE’s campus sits the vestiges of a different school. The building memorializes a brutal period of Cambodian history. From 1975 to 1979, Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge starved, tortured and murdered millions of Cambodians. The school, now the Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, was just one of many sites where ruthless executions took place.
Though much was destroyed during the Pol Pot era, the nation preserved its Buddhist beliefs. Today, roughly 95 percent of Cambodians identify as Buddhist. The Christian population, in contrast, hovers around 1-2 percent.
The precious opportunity to bring God’s message of love to Cambodia is not lost on HOPE families or the teachers who have come to serve them.
“We need people who really believe in the gospel for Cambodia,” says Secondary Mathematics Teacher John Kennedy, who has taught at HOPE for 11 years. He feels strongly that those who simply crave adventure or an easy job need not apply. But, for those who want to support the work of God in Cambodia, “This place is essential” John says.
More than just a teacher
HOPE’s administrators feel the gravity of their mission. As such, they prayerfully select educators who have both experience in the classroom as well as a heart to encourage students spiritually.
Michael Emery, a HOPE chemistry teacher from the U.K., values the opportunity he’s been given to walk with teens at a critical point in their faith journeys.
“I came here assuming that missionary kids had their faith figured out. But they’re starting to become more independent and explore their beliefs on their own,” Michael says. “As teachers, we get to help them through that and provide a safe space for them to ask questions.”
When asked about what it’s like to teach HOPE students, Rebecca Pirie, a year one teacher from Australia, radiates positivity.
“These kids are from all around the world and are doing amazing work,” she says. “They have a zest for life and learning. I can’t think of a better place to teach.”
Hope for Cambodia and beyond
Whether they end up in Cambodia, their passport countries or somewhere else in the world, the students at HOPE have been uniquely equipped to extend God’s healing to those around them.
Praise God for the important role HOPE International School fills in God’s global church. Pray for God’s continued provision for the school as it nurtures the next generation.
Editor’s Note August 9, 2021: At the time of this article Megan worked on the US Communication Team. Today, she now lives and works in Cambodia.
Megan has been working in communications for almost 10 years. Currently serving as Content Manager for OMF (U.S.), she enjoys writing, editing and over-thinking everything word-related. When not in the office, Megan spends her spare time cycling, thrift shopping, exploring her city and drinking coffee with (or without) friends.