Teen opens school in Cambodia

Just when Rachel Rosenfeld, the granddaughter of Hilda and Phil Rosenfeld of North Shore Towers Building Two, should have been attending her junior year of high school, she became ill and was unable continue with her studies. However, she put the time to good use by starting a fundraising campaign to open a school in Cambodia.
Rachel got sick in September of 2006 and was in too much pain to work with tutors at home. She read an article in The New York Times that addressed the lack of education in Cambodia, as well as child slavery, and the impact education had on the children. Rachel said she was shocked when she first read it and could not believe such things were happening to girls her own age.
“That really hit close to home because for the entire year my education had to be put on hold,” Rachel said. “I realized how much I took school for granted and thought if there was any way I could help them get the education they deserved, I would jump at the opportunity.”
Her grandparents were in Florida when they heard that Rachel wanted to build a school.
“We were just amazed,” Phil said. “It just blew us away.”
To begin her fundraising efforts, Rachel sent out letters in February of 2007 seeking donations, doing the project as part of America Assistance for Cambodia’s “Put a Roof on Their Head” program. Rachel went into the fundraiser hoping to collect $13,000, which is the amount needed to pay for the structure itself. She even thought that even if she raised a couple of hundred dollars it would still be better than nothing.
“[It] turned out people were more generous than my family or I could even imagine,” she said. “Numerous checks would come in everyday with amounts that made my jaw drop.”
To date, Rachel has raised $57,000, which includes donations from North Shore Towers residents. She said she was thrilled when she realized they would be able to open the school, adding, “The fact that something good was able to come out of such a horrible year for me is incredible.”
“I would love to give a big thank you to everyone who contributed and just let them know how much of a difference that have made in young people’s lives,” Rachel said. “These children now have an opportunity that was previously unavailable to them and you made that possible.”
On December 26, 2007, Rachel, her parents, siblings and grandparents all went to Cambodia for the dedication of R.S. Rosenfeld School. As they began to walk towards the school, Hilda said there were 300 students lined up and applauding them.
“It was the most incredible experience,” Hilda said.
Rachel described it as a once in a lifetime thrill and said that seeing the children made her realize what an impact she had on their lives.
“The highlight of this adventure was definitely my trip to attend the school’s opening,” said Rachel, adding that it is also nice to know people think of her as a role model. “Being able to see the joy on the kids’ faces and watch them look at me in awe was just the perfect reward.”
Rachel said that she and her family now get monthly updates from the school. She also has an account with unused funds that she can use in the future to further equip the school. She and her brother are now collecting children’s books and sneakers to send to the students at her school and to some orphanages in Cambodia. Rachel also said that she hopes to be able to visit the school again within the next few years.
“This whole experience changed me in so many ways,” Rachel said. “I see education so much differently now and my work ethic has changed dramatically. I appreciate what I have so much more and no longer take what I have for granted.”
Anyone wishing to donate to Rachel for the R.S. Rosenfeld School can e-mail her at Rach4219@aim.com.

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