“There is something about these people that makes me not ever want to leave them. There is a text in the bible where God says, “You are engraved on the palm of my hand.” Well, I feel the Khmer people are engraved on the palm of my hand, in my heart actually, and I can’t imagine being any place else.”
In a country like Cambodia where education at all levels is a challenge, Sister Mary Little shares her energy and talents at both ends of the spectrum. Since she arrived in Cambodia in 2000, Sister Mary has served as a faculty member of the Royal University of Phnom Penh as well as animating and coordinating literacy and primary education for “Little Folks,” the most vulnerable of poor children. Most of the parents of these children are living with HIV/AIDS.
Over the years, Sister Mary and her co-workers have observed and changed the program for the little folks by providing books, supplies, teacher training, and making sure literacy begins at the earliest age possible. She facilitates scholarships for primary school and follows up with supportive presence at school meetings.
At the University, she has taught both French and English; assisted in the development of curriculum; and mentored new teachers, both Cambodian and foreign. Since nothing is written in Khmer in any field of research, English or French are the practical languages that connect students with the rest of the world. They need to be proficient in English as professionals in their fields to continue to update themselves, write reports, etc.
Sister Mary came to Maryknoll from Connecticut in 1969 as a French and Spanish teacher. Since then she has taught English in a government school in Tanzania, Africa and in universities in China and South Korea. Now in Cambodia Sister Mary is a caring and compassionate teacher in a country where the HIV/AIDS rates are among the highest in Asia.