FW: FLOTUS Pool #1 report from Siem Reap, Let Girls Learn

-----Original Message-----
From: Lesley Seymour [mailto:xxx@email.com]
Sent: Saturday, March 21, 2015 12:36 AM
To: Adler, Caroline; Donohue, Kelsey
Subject: Pool #1 report from Siem Reap, Let Girls Learn

March 21, 2015:  FLOTUS Siem Reap pool report #1 Room To Read program/Hun Sen Prasat Bakong high-school:  Let Girls Learn event

Several dozen boys and girls wearing crisp white shirts and black pants or long skirts and holding small Cambodian and USA flags, lined both sides of the walkway to the main common room at the high school to welcome the First Lady of The United States,  Mrs. Obama, and the First Lady of Cambodia, Bun Rany.  The First Ladies arrived at 9:27 (Mrs. Bun Rany in bright orange; Mrs. Obama in a colorful printed dress) and a welcome cheer went up among the students who waved their flags. The First Ladies had a brief private meeting with the ambassador.

The First Ladies entered the common room at 9:49 to met with 10 students.   The girls in the room were identified by given names only as per Room To Read policy. A map of the world was behind them with a green and blue background.  There was a sign on the book shelf that reads "Room to Read," which is the program we were here to learn about. RTR, according to the press handout is "a global organization seeking to transform the lives of millions of children in the developing world by focusing on literacy and gender equality in education." (See >www.roomtoread.org<).

One student and a translator bowed and welcomed the First Ladies saying she was proud to welcome them here today. She said she was excited to learn about Let Girls Learn.

The First Lady of Cambodia welcomed Mrs. Obama.  She called the visit historical. One of the girls stood and sang a Let Girls Learn poem (translation below).  There was applause.  Another girl stood and spoke.  She is receiving support for her education; she dreams of becoming a mathematics teacher.  She wants to change her community and her career.  She lives with her grandmother and auntie. She has to do the housework and take care of the cows.  She gets up at  4 am to cook rice for the family and the to go to school.  It takes one hour by bike to get to the school She has lots of friends in similar circumstances.

She bowed.  There was applause.

Phounam stood and spoke. She educates the local villages about health.  She is 18 years old. She is the youngest in her family.  Her brother is a teacher.  She has a dream to become a doctor. But the hospital is far away and hard to get to.  She lives in the rural area where people don't know how to take care of their health.  They don't brush their teeth or wash their hair.  This is how viruses infect their bodies.  When she becomes a doctor she will help them more.  She thanks the First Ladies for coming and wishes them good health. (Laughter)

The First Lady of Cambodia told the girls they should strive for the best. She talked about how the government is helping to send girls to school.  She said That today  the rates of girls and boys going to school is almost in parity.  Today they give almost 60 percent of scholarships to girls.

Mrs. Obama thanked  the students for their kindness. She said these girls here are the reason why POTUS and FLOTUS are pushing for girls' education.  She said she was proud of the intelligence and poise they presented today.  They are all living proof that the world can't let this kind of talent go unsupported.  FLOTUS said that before coming to the school she had  read each of their stories and thanked the girls for bravely sharing them in front of the world.  (White House will be sending transcript).

She then took questions from the girls. FLOTUS emphasized the need to help other girls to follow their lead.  She asked them to finish what they had started---to become teachers and doctors and mathematicians and to bring all that knowledge back to their families. She said: "The last thing you can do is to use your voices to advocate for good things--more freedoms and more equality.  I hope you will feel empowered to do that."

Last question was:  "What are the First Ladies' impressions of seeing us today?"
The First Lady of Cambodia said she wanted the girls to study hard and be determined.  "When you are well educated, you should pass it along to friends in your community.  You will be a success for your community and country. To be successful let's also get rid of old sayings like, 'girls should only be in the kitchen!' (laughter) so that now girls can be more successful."

FLOTUS said we were gathered today and were inspired and hopeful. "I have two daughters and it is so good to know there are young women half way around the world who are just as smart and courageous....We need your passion and we need your nurturing.  Many of you will be mothers as well.  We need it all.  Our job is to help others come to the same conclusion about women and girls.  For those people out there who think it is better for their daughters not to go to school, you are going to have convince them that it is worth investing in girls.  It will take some time to change those beliefs.  But I know you will do it."

Then there was a group photo taken.

We are currently at the Peace Corps Training for Let Girls Learn.

Translation of the poem:

We are happy to welcome our honorable guest The First Lady of the United States And Cambodian Samdach Kittipritbandit Together in the fight to Let Girls Learn

We are very excited
We are proud to see more women studying
Because of the Let Girls Learn campaign
Women around the world will be more educated

Women will have bigger dreams
There will be less discrimination against girls Gender equality will be better respected Every male and female are equal

Thank you for starting this initiative
For advocating for education
Let Girls Learn Program
Females will have a better life

Thank you father and mother
Thank you teacher
Thank you First Ladies
Thank you Room to Read

We would like to request the First Ladies to continue helping women to support international education to give more opportunities through Let Girls Learn

Pool press by Lesley Jane Seymour/EIC, More Magazine: xxx@email.com

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