The concept for an English school with courses taught by international volunteers began in mid-2005, when Mao Savin, a founding member, and his friend, Australian, Geordie Smith were brainstorming ideas for a social enterprise to raise money for rural development projects. At the time, there were concerns about the sustainability of LNGOs as their funding was no fully reliable. Over a number rice-and-pork and iced-coffee breakfasts, they decided on the CWF model.
Semesters 1 & 2
Gerry Nugawela, a management consultant, volunteered to assist in writing a business plan. The Australian Government’s AusAID VIDA program agreed to sponsor Geordie, allowing US$5000 of funds to be used to start CWF along with a US$5000 personal loan. From April 2006, the registration process began, a bond for the school and the volunteer house paid and equipment and teaching resources purchased.
Willem Paling, an Australian IT consultant volunteered to design and make the original CWF website that would be so important in recruiting teachers. A Board of Directors was formed, with Savin, Or Channy, Song Kimhour, Omseng Bora and Adam Starr becoming the first members/supporters.
In July 2006, Huy Sambo became the first manager of CWF before he had even graduated from University. Sambo studied at Maharishi Vedic University (MVU) in Prey Veng province, a rural government university, and where Savin, Geordie, Willem, Channy and Bora and a number of CWF staff also attended.
In September 2006, the first classes began at CWF. 180 students had registered, thanks to the efforts of staff and CWF’s first full-time volunteer teachers, Jake, Kate, Johan, who had trusted their instinct and come to Cambodia without knowing what they were arriving at.
After several months of virtual involvement with CWF from the UK, Alice Jowett — another former MVU volunteer — arrived in Phnom Penh in October 2006. Alice funded herself for a one year assignment to assist Sambo and the team in a number of areas including organisational development and training, creating a volunteer management process, and much needed development of learning resources.
Semesters 3, 4, 5 & 6
In September 2007, Sally Beaumont, a volunteer sponsored by AusAID, began a one year assignment to continue this work. Gradually more teachers were recruited, allowing more classes to be opened and more students to access the affordable lessons- rising to over 500 students in 2008. With early success, CWF secured it’s own future, as well as making it’s first donations to CRDT.
Semesters 7, 8, 9 & 10
When Geordie and Sally departed in September 2008, one of the fundamental goals of the founders was realized—CWF was completely managed by Cambodians—a credit to the young team of 14 staff led by Huy Sambo, Mak Ny, Hour Sopheap and Sok Channrasmey.
In a key development that provided quality and credibility to CWF courses, in 2008 Neal Evans created CamTEFL, an accredited Teaching English as a Foreign Language (TEFL) Certificate course for aspiring international and local teachers.
Semesters 11, 12, 13 & 14
In December 2009, CWF moved to a larger premise to cope with increased numbers of students and volunteers. It also included the luxury of offices for staff and a dedicated teacher’s room.
The ongoing success of CWF was also supported by graduate volunteers: Tom, Helena, Anna, Sara, Carrie, Sarah and others who are still working in the country, assisting the volunteer orientation, experience, and the academic program and teacher training. Management advisers Rod Bourke, co-founder Geordie Smith, IT guru Willem Paling, Gerry Nugawela, Joan Brook, CWF and CRDT volunteer Laura Hodges, Alice Jowett and David Picart also continue to support CWF in varied capacities.
Semesters 15, 16, 17 & 18
2010 saw CWF continue to grow at the new location. The numbers of students reached over 900 students in the September term and 20 international volunteers. These successes also enabled us to the biggest annual CRDT donation to date: US$22,000.
CWF is constantly evolving as a learning organization with a social mission. Under the guidance of the Board of Directors, CWF continues to provide affordable English courses and quality volunteer experiences whilst raising precious funds for CRDT.
2011 Coming soon!
Semesters 19, 20, 21, & 22
2012 Coming soon!
Semesters 23, 24, 25 & 26
Semestesr 27 & 28
Beware of imitations!
We have only ever operated at one location at any given time: on Street 155 in Sangkat Toul Tom Poung I during our establishment years, and at #247c, Street 271, Sankgat Toul Tom Poung II, Khan Chamcarmon since 2010. Any other business using our name such as the private, for-profit language school using our trading name “Conversations With Foreigners” on signage on Kol De Montero, Khan Daun Penh, or a variation of our name such as Speaking With Foreigners, as used by another private, for-profit language school on Street 163 in Toul Tom Poung I, are not associated with us.