24 March 2020
Warm greetings from very quiet and empty Xavier Jesuit School (XJS) Cambodia.
Xavier Jesuit School has been shut down since Monday, March 16, 2020 when we received an official announcement from the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sports of Cambodia. We usually have over six hundred students on campus each day but now it is only the three Jesuits and few volunteers plus our day guard.
We do live in “uncertain and challenging times” and it is not affecting one part of our world but every corner of the world.
Since shutting Xavier Jesuit School down, we had to say farewell to two volunteers serving XJS for the last seven months to one and a half year. Their organizations insists they return to their home country because of their safety and wellbeing. This coming Thursday, we will say farewell to another volunteer from France who only just arrived three weeks ago. When they heard they had to return to their respective countries, tears came down their eyes because they did not want to go home. However, their government, who supported their organizations, requests they must return by the 27th of March.
There were ten members on the Xavier Jesuit School team and by Thursday, we will be down to seven. Br Deepak, a Jesuit scholastic, will also depart within the next few weeks. Flights have been bought for him but they got cancelled so we are seeking other flights so he can return to Hazaribag province.
Last week, all the borders crossing to Vietnam were closed, and yesterday, all the Laos and Thai borders were shut down until the 5th of April.
The number of cases in Cambodia has increased in recent days. There were only 43 last week and yesterday it has jumped to 86 already. A team of doctors from China has arrived to provide medical assistance which is a good sign. All the factories in Cambodia have closed.
The people in Cambodia are wearing masks on the road these days which is a good sign and they are realizing the seriousness of the coronavirus. Our biggest concern now is: will our students and their families be safe? Many of them are poor and have very little to live by.
And without work or money they will not be able to cope if this continues for three to six months. Their lives as well as our lives have been turned upside down. We are expecting many will come to our door asking for help in two months’ time.
We will continue to pay salaries to our full-time teachers and full-time staff. However those teaching part-time will not receive their monthly salary if the school remains closed.
We are living in challenging circumstances these days and we do not know what will happen next month or the month after. Our French volunteer who will be departing this coming Thursday was refused a visa extension by the ministry of Foreign Affairs because of this Covid-19 outbreak. All our visas will expire this coming August 2020 and at this stage, we are not so sure if they will extend our visas also. We worry that we may have to leave Xavier Jesuit School if they refuse to extend our visas beyond August. Xavier Jesuit School is facing many uncertainties as we go from one week to another.
Our Xavier Jesuit School team had a meeting yesterday morning to look at ways we can adapt and continue to provide support to one another as well as to our neighbours. We agreed to set up an Emergency Fund to help our students and their families who may find themselves in dire difficulty during this Covid-19 period. It is not much but it may help some families when they come to our door asking for assistance.
Just a few lines to update you on what is happening at Xavier Jesuit School Cambodia.
Please remember us in your prayers as we would of you and everyone at CJI.
With warm regard,
Fr Quyen Vu SJ
Director Xavier Jesuit School