Nheun grew up in a small ethnic Phnong village about 3 km from Oraing lower secondary school in Mondulkiri, Cambodia. Like all Phnong, Nheun’s family spoke their own language at home and gradually picked up Khmer while being forced to adapt in the early grades of primary school at a time when there were few, if any, Phnong teachers. Minority communities everywhere face varying degrees of social exclusion that often negatively impact the broad spectrum of human development indicators including education, health, and infant mortality.It’s for these reasons and more that the Phnong Education Initiative (PEI) was conceived in 2009. The PEI program, which is delivered in partnership with Kampuchean Action for Primary Education, has two goals: a) ensure Phnong girls can stay in school through basic scholarships and b) support teacher trainees from the Phnong community who will return to minority classrooms and pay forward the gift of education.Nheun started in as a basic PEI scholarship recipient in 2009, and continued on to teacher training college in Stung Treang with support from the project. In July 2012, Nheun took the national pedagogy exam and ranked fourth in the entire province. Today Nheun is back in the classroom about 15 km from her home village, and now teaches a class of 13 third-graders.Nheun recently received her first paycheck which was a long-awaited event for her entire family. She tells us, “my parents and two elder sisters didn’t go to school at all but my mother always supported my education, especially as no one else in the family was educated. While I still had to work like everyone else, I wasn’t made to work too hard and had time to study. From my own side, I always wanted to remain in school as long as possible no matter what difficulties I faced. My father was sick for many years and that brought a lot of pressure on all of us to make up for the loss of income. He died in 2006, and my elder brother was the one that had to drop school in year 9 to become the breadwinner.”In terms of her teaching career, Nheun tells us the village children are very irregular at attending school which makes subject mastery difficult. Despite the challenges, Nheun pushes forward. “I go to the village very often to ask why parents are not sending the children and try to motivate them to send the children to school every day,” she shares. Nheun’s passion for education also shows in her colorful classroom, which is sprinkled with creative teaching-aids she collected during her time in pedagogy school.Though Nheun tells us Khmer is becoming more widespread in her community, she still encounters many Phnong children that struggle with the language. “Many of these children arrive at primary school with very little Khmer. I’m happy that I’m able to help my students with my mother tongue so they can get ahead more quickly than children in my school days. Back then, there were absolutely no Phnong speaking teachers.”PEI is working to change that, and will graduate an additional 16 Phnong teachers this year. In addition to mainstreaming Phnong children into the Khmer-based education system, PEI is celebrating and preserving Phnong culture through the creation of a brand new cultural research center and museum in the region.To learn more or make a donation to this project, please visit http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/pei/.
The Phnong Education Initiative just wrapped up its third year this past December, and we are delighted to report that in this short period of time, the program has already graduated 20 Phnong scholars from the Provincial Teacher Training College. All of these promising young educators are now back in Mondulkiri’s public classrooms paying forward the gift of education to other linguistic minorities. The cost of training one teacher—who will spend her lifetime inspiring and educating other Phnong children—is just $340 for the full two years.Of our 31 lower-secondary school students, all but three had remained in the program at the close of the year. Three girls dropped out of school to enter arranged marriages, and we were unfortunately unsuccessful in persuading them to delay marriage until they completed their studies (in Cambodia, it is illegal for a child to attend public school if she is married). Three equally needy girls have been identified to take their places and are now attending school regularly. Overall, 90% of students advanced to the next grade level in 2012, and 26% of them ranked in the 75th percentile of their class.The program’s cultural club continues to research and document Phnong cultural traditions, and recently prepared and presented a report on Phnong funeral processions. Members produce traditional Phnong scarves, baskets, and wine which they showcase in the cultural center and sell to local visitors and tourists. The students also recently stocked the Phnong Cultural Center with traditional skirts, jars, baskets, gourds, and arrows.The program’s student council in Oraing recently started a small vegetable garden to serve the school dormitory, and installed a pond for a small fish farming operation. This effort is aimed at enhancing the nutrition of our scholars, and may eventually provide a way to generate income and enable the program’s self-sufficiency.We thank you for giving the gift of education to these promising young students, and we look forward to keeping you posted on the program’s many successes in the months and years ahead. If you have any questions, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
During the past quarter, we are pleased to share that not a single PEI scholar dropped out of school, demonstrating the growing commitment to education in Mondulkiri’s Phnong communities—even in the face of extreme poverty. In late September, four of our teacher trainees graduated from the Provincial Teachers Training College in Kampong Cham, two of which are already teaching in (predominantly Phnong) primary school classrooms in their home districts, showcasing the multiplier effect of investing in capable linguistic minority school teachers.In the beginning of the 2012-2013 school year, we launched a high-profile enrollment campaign, which was conducted by 10 teachers, 105 students and 30 villagers/parents. The central message of the campaign was “Sending Children to School is Like Saving Wealth for Your Children,” and poor villagers across the program area were informed of Cambodia’s Right to Education law, and admonished to enroll their children in local schools at the start of the academic year. The impact of such campaigns is well-established; MIT’s Poverty Action Lab reports that every $100 spent on education advocacy in the developing world results in 40 additional years of education. Recognizing this substantial return on investment, all of Lotus Outreach’s scholarship programs incorporate awareness events, public forms and enrollment campaigns designed to increase community understanding of the importance of sending children to school.The Phnong Cultural Center continues to thrive, and we recently purchased eleven new Phnong artifacts to display to tourists, school children and broader members of the community. The program additionally collaborated with the Vinacomine Company to bring beds, mats, mosquito nets and blankets to the children living in the Oraing school dormitory.The Phnong communities in Mondulkiri are recognized as some of the most isolated on the planet, and very few education and development programs are reaching them—despite demonstrable need. We’d like to give a special thanks to you for giving Lotus Outreach the opportunity to expand education and cultural preservation in these villages, and we look forward to watching the program’s success unfold over the months and years ahead.All of us at Lotus Outreach wish you health, peace and prosperity in 2013.
We are pleased to report that at the close of the 2011-2012 academic year, all 31 girls receiving scholarships through the Phnong Education Initiative passed their exams and were promoted to the next grade level! Five of the girls even placed on the top ten of their classes (which have as many as 80 students), and overall the scholars performed better than their peers which is significant given the severe penury and marginalization these students face.Our teacher trainees are likewise doing well, with 16 of the year-one trainees now carrying out their teaching practicum in primary school classrooms. By gaining hands-on experience in teamwork, student monitoring, teaching methods and school management, these young women are being prepared to pay forward the gift of education to other disadvantaged Phnong children in their home province of Mondulkiri.While working to mainstream Phnong children into the Khmer-based education system, the program also focuses on celebrating and preserving Phnong culture and language through the development of a new Phnong Cultural Center which teaches minority children how to make traditional Phnong baskets, bows, paintings and scarves while compiling and documenting Phnong cultural traditions including recipes, wedding rituals and handicraft techniques. The Cultural Center is open to the public, and the students are able to sell their handicrafts, using the profits to improve education in the region.PEI: Turning Students into EducatorsThe story of Pet Pearny, an 18 year-old Provincial Teacher Training College student, is great example of what the Phnong Education Initiative is designed to achieve.Pearny is from the Phnong minority group in Oraing, Mondulkiri. She is the elder sister of six siblings, all of whom live with her parents in a small wooden house with a tin roof. When Pearny was in primary school she never imagined she would be able to reach lower secondary school level (the equivalent of junior high). At that time, she reflects, most of the people around her didn’t value education and very few bothered to send their daughters to school, preferring instead that they stay home and tend to their siblings or help on the farm. Compounding these unfavorable conditions are the distances to schools in Pearny’s home region; her lower secondary school is 15 kilometers from her house. Furthermore her parents could not afford the costs of education—such as transport, school supplies and books—no less ensure the family had adequate food. Fortunately, she received a scholarship from PEI which allowed her to focus on her studies without worrying about how she could pay for necessities such as uniforms, notebooks, pens and other study materials.While in school, Pearny began dreaming of one day becoming a teacher in her community so she could show people the benefits of educating children, especially girls who are often forbidden by their parents to go to school.Pearny successfully completed the grade 9 diploma exam in 2010, and due to the teacher shortage in remote areas, the Cambodian Ministry of Education Youth and Sports allows students who pass grade 9 to apply to train as primary school teachers. Pearny’s home region has a big teacher shortage so she applied and passed the examination to study at the Provincial Teacher Training College with continued support from PEI. “My dream has now come true!” she tells us.The Provincial Teacher Training College Deputy Director tells us, “Pearny is a Phnong girl who shows high commitment. I hope that she will soon graduate and go back to help the children in her community.”We thank you for generously investing in the futures of these girls, as well as the countless children that will move through their classrooms in the future.
We are humbled yet again by the tremendous energy and compassion our wonderful supporters brought to our first major campaign of 2012. Our goal was an ambitious one: we needed to raise at least $7,000 in a 24-hour period in order to get the most out of two generous donor matches: 100% from a private donor and an additional 50% from GlobalGiving as a part of their second annual bonus day.We are delighted to share that you not only pulled through, but you exceeded our expectations! We raised a total of $7,928 from our supporters, as well as $7,000 from our private donor (who has already delivered on the pledge) and $1,394 from GlobalGiving’s matching fund. Every penny of the $16,322 raised on June 13 will directly support students in the Phnong Education Iniative (PEI) scholarship program in Mondulkiri, Cambodia.PEI provides dozens of minority students in Cambodia with scholarship and housing assistance so they won't be forced to drop out of school due to poverty and distance to the nearest schoolhouse. Furthermore, PEI supports training for Phnong-speaking teachers so they can return to their home villages and pay forward the gift of education by helping other linguistic minorities succeed in the public school system. Each year, PEI provides 31 children and 20 teacher trainees with basic scholarship packages - including food, housing, books, school supplies and transportation - to ensure they can excel in their studies. Investing in the education of these promising young women will not only improve their individual circumstances, but will ripple throughout their communities and future generations. PEI is further designed to "pay forward" the gift of education by investing in the educators of tomorrow.Thank you again for your tireless support of Lotus Outreach. To learn more about PEI or make an additional donation, please visit http://www.globalgiving.org/projects/pei/.
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