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Ridgefield Academy Teen Goes Extra Mile To Help Students In Cambodia

Elizabeth Weaver of Ridgefield Academy taught English, robotics and craft lessons last summer in Cambodia.
Elizabeth Weaver of Ridgefield Academy taught English, robotics and craft lessons last summer in Cambodia. Photo Credit: Courtesy of Ridgefield Academy

RIDGEFIELD, Conn. -- A Ridgefield Academy teenager continues to impact children in Cambodia long after she returned from a trip last summer to teach English, robotics and craft lessons.

Elizabeth Weaver, 13, volunteered at the Ponheary Ly Foundation (PLF) in rural Krong Siem Reap, for two weeks last August, teaching students with lessons she developed herself. The experience, her love of culture and a commitment to community service have fostered an ongoing relationship with the Foundation.

It also led her to create a fundraiser with her brother, Liam, called Training Wheels for Cambodia, which helps PLF purchase recycled bicycles. A recycled bike costs just $40, but Elizabeth and her brother accept monetary donations of any amount, at:

“Bikes are a great way to do two things,’’ Elizabeth and Liam wrote on their fundraising page. “PLF promises a bike to all children who finish 6th grade, in order to motivate them. But a bike also allows kids to travel to upper schools, which are often far away.”

The Weaver family has always been passionate about traveling. Elizabeth’s parents, Karen and Leon, have a goal to visit each continent with their three children before they graduate from high school. The family travels off the beaten path, and often incorporates community service into their plans.

More than geography, Elizabeth also learns each area’s history and gains a sense of its people and culture. During their initial trip to Asia, the family stopped at PLF to lead a craft lesson, and Elizabeth fell in love with the country and the idea of teaching at the school. After returning home, she told her parents how much she wanted to return. When PLF asked for volunteers who were willing to teach over a two-week period, Elizabeth convinced her parents to sign up.

Elizabeth cited her experiences with Kate Howell, RA’s Director of Service Learning, as a great influence on her desire to contribute to local and global communities.

“ I just think if you can do the littlest thing it will help,’’ Elizabeth said. “I know it’s such a cliché and everyone says that, but it really does. I think raising awareness is one of the biggest things you can do, and Mrs. Howell does a great job with that here.”

In addition to a commitment to service learning, Karen Weaver credits RA with contributing to Elizabeth’s comfort level with public speaking.

“I think RA has absolutely contributed to Elizabeth’s ability to handle this experience the way she did,” she said. “One thing I’ve noticed throughout her years here is that RA puts a big emphasis on getting up and making presentations. It seems like every week she’s putting together a costume or getting ready to give a presentation. And she (remove comma) has tied much of what we do on these trips with the service learning that Mrs. Howell does.”

For more on Weaver’s story, click here to read a story on the Ridgefield Academy website.

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