Foldscope, a Life-changing Invention of Microscope & bringing it to Cambodian Students.

“Foldscope Cambodia aims to empower socio-economically disadvantaged students by providing more accessibility to the microscopic world so that they realize and aware of their potential to create sustainable impacts in the community.”

When you are sitting in a biology lesson in school, have you ever wondered what the cells would look like because your school lacks thousands of dollars? 

Have you ever gotten sick because of the water you drink because you are unaware of just how much monstrous bacteria there are in that little cup of water?

I guess if you are living in a city and study in a modern school, you haven’t experienced these situations; but many people in rural areas face these problems every single day. 

The lack of scientific equipment such as microscopes limits experimentation, realistic visualizations, engagement, and understanding for the students. Therefore, the students have no inspiration for exploring. This ultimately drives students out of the passionate-zone when it comes to science and biology, leaving them disinterested. 

But today, there is a mindblowing tool called Foldscope which is the light for those students who need a cheap microscopic tool. 

Foldscope Viewing: Directly with your eyes - YouTube
Photo by Foldscope Instruments Youtube Channel

Foldscope is extremely affordable (only 1 dollar to make!), portable and durable. This mini-paper-microscope was invented by Stanford Professor and a Ph.D. student: Many Prakash and Jim Cybulski. 

Foldscope has a magnification of 140x which enables students and explorers to enter a whole new world of microorganisms that they had never even imagined about before. This revolutionary tool has been inspiring more passion for biology and encouraging significant scientific curiosity and exploration in all corners of the globe, especially impoverished and underprivileged communities. 

That is the reason why Cambodia is the perfect place to implement Foldscope, given our lack of technical supplies in standard education systems. Cambodia is still growing in many sectors, especially in education which is a driving sector of our nation’s future. While trying to improve our education system, many people overlook the importance of science. Many students lose interest in this fascination subject day by day because they do not have a chance to get out of the imaginary textbooks and to actually explore the real mind-blowing world of science. 

With the mission to bring back the passion towards science exploration and biology, I am honored to be a part of the Foldscope Cambodia Project which put our best into crafting an engaging and effective workshop to implement Foldscope in different government schools. 

In order to do so, we have created several Foldscope tutorial videos including What is Foldscope, How to assemble and How to prepare sample slides. 

After hours of hard work, we were excited to finally bring our workshop to two government schools in Kompong Thom with the help of the Youthstar organization. 

These two workshops were so impacting to me and other members of the projects just as much as it was to the young students. 

Upon our arrival, many students gathered with curiosity to wait for us. After we introduced ourselves and the project, we could see the fascination in their eyes, and that made me really happy. The workshop continues in smaller groups with a Foldscope Cambodia member as a facilitator.

During the Workshop when students are divided into teams and guided by one Liger Student as a facilitator

This experience that put me in the middle of a group of young students waiting for me to guide, assist, and show them was a new experience. It was completely outside of my comfort zone, which is great. Although I was nervous, excitement precedes. 

While teaching the technical skills of assembling the microscope, preparing the slides, and other scientific knowledge, I tried to encourage soft skills team-work, collaboration, communication as well. I made sure to give a chance to quieter students to speak and give the task to someone who is not as active. After a while, the students understood both the technical concepts as well as the soft skills as well. They helped each other with all of the tasks and were ready to explore with the tiny microscope which they assembled by themselves for the first time! All of them ran out of the classroom with the sample slides in hands and scattered out to scavenger-hunt the samples. A few minutes later, they arrived back with a smile and impressive samples in their hands. Some brought dirty water and some brought all kinds of insects and parts of plants. 

After hunting down these samples, it was time to reveal the secret of these samples. The reaction from the students to the sight of what was under the lense of Foldscope the greatest part.

A student in a primary school in Kompong Thom curiously exploring the view under Foldscope.

They were so fascinated and curious that they couldn’t stop questioning. Not only the students but the teachers in the school were even more surprised by the view inside Foldscope. 

I remembered a child examining an ant she found inside Foldscope and said loudly that it was so big. 

At the end of the workshop, we gathered everyone together for the reflection and conclusion. We asked representatives from each team to present their findings, reactions, thoughts, questions, and future plans after the workshop. That was the most memorable part where we could hear from those students the impact we made. All of them loved using Foldscope to explore the simple everyday nature around them like insects and plants. Furthermore, they asked thought-provoking questions that proved to us the impact Foldscope can make. 

Finally, we congratulate the students for their outstanding performance and expressed our gratitude to the schools by donating 2 sets of Foldscope kits and other educational books as a resource for these curious and bright young kids. 

Liger Students giving the school director two sets of Foldscope and books as a token of appreciation.

Although we met a lot of challenges during implementing the workshop, the result was so beyond-expectation that we would love to see this project grow even more. 

After the Foldscope Cambodia Project, I truly believe that the innovation industry should try to focus more on helping those in need and not just create technology for already-advanced communities.  

As a member, I am so grateful to see curiosity and the will to explore science from those young and underprivileged students and believe we should do more towards helping them to continue learning and exploring. 

Sharing My Life-Changing Outdoor Experience

My smile when I got to talk to new people

On the 22nd of November, 2019, I had one of my greatest sharation (presentation event) ever in Liger which I presented about the impact that Outdoor Leadership Program brings to Cambodian youths and to me. The most joyful part was meeting many older students, seeing their smiles, and hearing that they were inspired by the project I was presenting.

Presenting to Inspiring and Supportive teachers from India

Besides the student, I coincidentally met an outdoor trainer which I easily made connections with due to our experience and perspective in the outdoor field. He shared his outdoor experiences in many beautiful landscapes in different countries he went to. His lessons learned from his trekking leadership with many participants he lead helps our program to be better. In addition, I was able to inspire an IT that only works with technology and entrepreneurship to start going outdoors, and take some moments to change the perspectives from technology to nature. 

Sharing my stories and experiences

 “Do you think Humanity is being consumed by technology?”, “What do you think about how our nature is being threatened?” and “Do you think humans are being disconnected from their true homes?” These are the questions I asked audiences to hear from their perspective and get them to open up. I was amazed to see so many great responses and discussions out of the several questions we asked them. 

Asking students questions and challenge them to think

Then, I started telling them the journey of our project:

“It starts from the great success and impact we saw from Liger students, and we thought: Why don’t we begin to spread this success and experience to other students? In my last 14 weeks, I worked in this project that aims to bring the wonderful and life-changing outdoor experiences to students. We carried out two workshops; one in Kampong Cham Province and another one in Happy Chandara which is an all girl school. It was a perfect opportunity for us to empower those women who always fight through this stereotypical society.

My group of female participants in Happy Chandara Workshop which we introduced a new perspective of leadership to
The Whole Excited Crew!

I am sure they are familiar with the concept of “Girls are housewives and indoor workers rather than explorers in the outdoors.” We wanted to fight that stigma together by introducing these girls to our program. After the workshop, they were all enthusiastic to go to the trekking right away. Their smiles, responses to our questions, discussions with each other and especially their spread of ideas with their peers proved our project was making real impacts. We watched them have fun, learn and grow together in just an afternoon of our pre-workshop. I can’t imagine what change it can bring to them after the whole program.” 

“I want to have the workshop and go out trekking, too!” One of the girls from GreenLand said full of energy. I replied telling her that we are going to collaborate with her school, too. She was happy, and I was even more excited to work with them already. I continued with the stories from my most life changing outdoor trip ever that I had just a few days earlier: 

“Wow, I do not know where to begin this great adventure story of mine. It was my absolute most challenging and most outside-of-my-comfort-zone experience which I discovered the true strength of teamwork and the power of determination.

My Girl Team!
The Start of the Adventurous Journey

It leads me to overcoming my fears, walking through obstacles and fighting through the hardest challenges, taking real risks and responsibilities and especially to think and see beyond. It proved the saying: Difficult roads often lead to beautiful destinations. I can tell you it’s most true when it comes to outdoor.

The great exhaustion, 

the short breaths and pounding hearts, 

the muscle ache, ankle twist, blisters, blood, sweat and tears,

were the only light to self-improvement and growth. 

It leads us to the greatest sceneries, 

Of mountains and valleys,

Of singing birds in their paradise, 

Of  wild animals living in their true homes,

Of families of bees, that chase and stinks us,

Of gnarly bushes of trees that reach out to us,

As we trek, sang, and explore,

Discovering new wonders as we go. ” 

Outdoor Leadership is not just a typical trip; rather a personal experience, an exploration, a discovery that will forever capture our fascination in the deepest part of your soul.

Youth Outdoor Leadership Program

Deep in the woods. Lost in the wild. Found my soul

Lifestyles in the city are full of modern technologies and convenience which tend to slowly take humanity away from their true home, nature. After years of growing up in the city, I did not have a lot of time to spend in the wild beauty of nature and get a chance to actually appreciate how special and wonderful it is. Luckily, I got to have a full experience in the wilderness during an exploration called Outdoor Leadership. That is when Nature became a big inspiration for me and I wanted to share that inspiration to other youths in Cambodia. 

Youth Outdoor Leadership Program is an exploration that gives me a chance to use my wonderful experiences and lessons I got from my time in nature to inspire other students in my country. The mission of this project is to empower Cambodian youth to be outdoor leaders and environmental stewards by introducing them to natural spaces, raising awareness of conservation threats, and nurturing the passion and skills needed to positively impact their communities. 

To complete this mission, we have came up with specific goals that we want the youths to experience. 

First of all, we would love to give them a chance to explore the outdoor nature of Cambodia and learn about the wonderful wilderness we have. This will be an experiential outdoor program because the students are going to trek, camp, observe nature and practice a lot of skills in the wild. 

In order to prepare them for the trips, we are going to run four main workshops with them that focuses on different skills including: leadership and community building, medical and risk management, nature appreciation and wilderness skills. By introducing them to these skills, we are hoping to develop their appreciation of nature and the treasures they did not know existed in their own country. 

This round, we focuses mainly on developing the four workshops. The exploration have talked to many outdoor leaders working in different fields and places to strengthen our understanding about outdoor leadership. Through this experience, I can understand deeper about outdoor leadership and how to develop a great workshop. 

Female Outdoor Leadership Team

This Outdoor Leadership Program for Youth is hopeful for creating a huge impact, not only on those youths who are participants, but their community as a whole. Participants who are joining will be encouraged to break down gender stereotypes which always limited girls from doing outdoor activities and sports. The youths will also be encouraged to get outside of their comfort zone and try something that they have never done before. 

To keep the positive impact going, even this program ended, we are going to ask the participants to continue spreading the environmental stewardship to their own community through the Final Impact Project. The participants will create their own projects to share their experiences and awareness to a bigger audience. By doing this, the change will keep going and the hopes of preserving our nature is brighter.