At age 34, Andrew Wolff is making previously unreachable dreams become reality for hundreds of at risk Cambodian children.
This might seem a stretch for a former businessman who began his second career as a teacher after earning his MA in English as a second language and multicultural education at CU-Boulder in 2006. However, after teaching for a year at an area charter school, Wolff felt constrained by the educational system. Always the adventurer, he bought a one-way ticket to Bangkok, Thailand, hoping to volunteer as a teacher somewhere in Southeast Asia.
While traveling in Cambodia, he met like-minded Jenny Ciucci, and they co-founded Children’s Future International (CFI), which operates exclusively on donor funding. Located in Sous Ey in northwest Cambodia, CFI provides a haven for impoverished and marginalized children whose families still reel from the rampant genocide of the 1975 to 1979 Khmer Rouge regime. During that time, intellectuals were particularly persecuted. As one result, the area’s educational system sorely lacks qualified teachers for Cambodia’s younger generation.
“I didn’t expect to ultimately commit my life to an organization in Cambodia,” admits Wolff. “But I wanted to serve children in some teaching capacity because it’s what I enjoy and am really good at.” He and Ciuccci quickly realized, though, that providing an education for these children also entails building a community in which they are safe, fed and healthy so they can even attend school.
Thanks to CFI’s multiple well-being programs, 200-plus children now receive basic education in Khmer literacy, English, math, computer skills, music, art, sports and critical thinking. In addition to its three-room learning center, CFI also funds and operates a safehouse that currently houses six young women and a children’s home for 16 boys and girls.
School of Education professor Kathy Escamilla, PhD, said, “Andrew is typical of a student who takes the school’s mission of social justice very seriously. He is utilizing what he learned at CU, including strategies of second language acquisition, in his bilingual school. Through CFI, he makes sure those Cambodian children are learning 21st-century skills. We’re proud of him and admire very much the work he is doing.”
CFI is a U.S.-based 501 (c) 3 nonprofit organization. Visit www.childrensfutureinternational.org for more information.