Aug 16, 2018

How you are making a difference - What's new at ISF

Our Education Programme is continuing to make an impact on our students' lives. Thanks to ISF, over 650 disadvantaged Cambodian children are receiving comprehensive education, allowing them to catch up to the correct grade for their age, join government-run schools and, ultimately, find stable employment. Further to this, in November 2018, we will take an additional 80 students into our Education Programme across our two centres in Chbar Ampov and Stung Meanchey. 

We were delighted to see 187 out of 218 catch-up students (86%) succeeding in their exams in May 2018 and progressing one grade. One of these students is Leaphea*, who never had an opportunity to go to school before because her parents simply could not afford to send her. In 2015, our social worker Sophea met with Leaphea and her family. Leaphea still remembers the meeting vividly: “I remember the date, it was on 20th October 2017 that he called my mother and said that I could join ISF’s Education Programme. My first day with ISF was on 1st November 2017 and I joined grade 1. In May, my teachers told me that I could join grade 2. I am so excited! I am always happy when I am at ISF because I have food to eat, friends to play with and teachers that always take care of me. I wish that next year my youngest brother will be able to come to ISF because I want to see him have a good education and be as happy as me. My favorite subjects are maths and Khmer. I want to become a teacher in the future because I want to teach all the children who want to study but do not have the chance.”

A further 353 students, 49% of whom are female, are supported to study at public schools in Stung Meanchey and Chbar Ampov. 89% of them passed their semester I tests in March 2018 with 45% of them scoring above average. Our state school students will take their final exams this month and we are looking forward to sharing their results with you soon.

We are proud to announce that, thanks to the improvement implemented in our Education Programme, our students’ attendance rate increased by 4%. At the beginning of the academic year, 91% of state school students were regularly attending classes. However, the percentage of students regularly studying at state schools increased to 95% in August 2018.

At ISF, we also provide English classes to a total of 489 catch-up and state school students, 49% of whom are female. Students’ attendance rate continues to be very high, with 80-90% attending classes regularly. To improve our students skills and confidence in communicating in English, we hired two fluent English-speaking teachers and English-speaking volunteers continue to visit ISF to support our Khmer staff.

It is hard to believe that just a couple of years ago Sokha* couldn't speak a word of English. Now, she is the top of her class and can confidently hold conversations in English. Sokha told us that her education means the world to her. “I was so sad back then because I didn’t want to stop studying” she says, remembering when she had to drop out of state school. “When I started to study at ISF, I felt that everything was absolutely different from the state school – the teachers took such good care of all the students and I could study English and art."

Mr. Bunthy, Sokha’s English teacher here at ISF, says: “Sokha is the brightest student in the classroom. When she joined my class she didn’t know a single letter of the alphabet. After two years of studying English, she can now listen, read, write and speak in English very well. Her improvement was noticeable at ISF’s Children’s Party earlier in the year when I selected her to do a presentation about her life in English. She did a fantastic presentation in front of hundreds of students, trustees, teachers, staff, and visitors. I am sure she will become a great English speaker and will go on to build a good career for herself.”

Students dropping out of school before completion remains our biggest challenge. Moving back to the rural provinces or obtaining paid work accounted for the reasons why 11 ISF state school students dropped out during the reporting period. These students are receiving 1-to-1 counselling from our social workers and employment team to ensure that they progress on to stable employment and where possible return to school. When appropriate, our social workers and employment team support students to find part-time jobs, so that they can continue to study whilst generating much needed income as opposed to dropping out entirely. Currently, seven students are studying and working part-time as professional football players, football coach assistants, waiters and ISF librarians and five students are undertaking training to become barbers. ISF social workers also support the children’s families where possible by suggesting employment or education opportunities which the family could benefit from. Supporting family members to find gainful employment reduces the rate of older students needing to drop out of school to support their family.

After meeting with ISF's social workers, 17 year old student Vasson* decided not to drop out of school. He learned that not only would his prospects be better if he finished his education but that he could also do vocational training alongside his studies.

Vasson* joined ISF’s Catch-up Education Programme in 2013, to study grade 1 at the age of 11. Now, he is 17 years old and studying in grade 8 at high school.

Vasson recently told us a little bit more about the impact ISF’s programmes have had on his life to date: “Two of my brothers are also students here at ISF and other three have never attended school because my mother cannot afford to send them. Our family’s living situation is very difficult and it made me want to stop studying so I could find a job and work full-time. But, after ISF’s social worker talked to me, I realised that, if I graduated high school, I would have more opportunities to find a job and earn a better wage. Their advice led me to change my mind and continue my studies.

ISF also gave me the opportunity to join their Employment Programme and access vocational training. They support me to attend barber training every Sunday at a private barber shop. I hope that this skill will help me to earn an income while I am studying at high school. I have been attending barber training for one year and four months and I’ve learned how to do many different men’s hair styles. I want to run a small business when I graduate the training. When I have free time, I help to cut the hair of other ISF students who don’t have money to go to a barber shop. Doing this allows me to improve my skills, build my confidence and also helps my friends.I will continue try to overcome all my challenges until I can reach my dream to become a doctor in the future.”

ISF’s university students continue to receive support from our dedicated team of social workers and have access to ISF’s Employment Programme to develop their employability skills and competencies.

We are happy to report that our university student Siekheang recently successfully completed her pre-university English bridging course and Thida is on track to complete it in September 2018. Both students will then begin their university education in November 2018. At the moment, both are also working full-time to help support their families.

The third student, Bunleng, was offered a 50% scholarship to study at the National Taiwan University. Bunleng, who speaks excellent Chinese and English, moved to Taiwan in March 2018 where he will be living and studying for four years.

On behalf of all of us at ISF, thank you for supporting our students and their families to change their lives and futures.

 

*Names of children under 18 years old have been changed.

Leaphea*, ISF catch-up student
Leaphea*, ISF catch-up student
Sokha*, student studying English at ISF
Sokha*, student studying English at ISF
Vasson*, state school student and barber trainee
Vasson*, state school student and barber trainee
Students studying English at ISF
Students studying English at ISF

Links:

May 21, 2018

A Season of Change - The Latest from ISF Cambodia

ISF's Catch-up Student
ISF's Catch-up Student

It has been a season of change at ISF over the last couple of months as we have welcomed new staff members and set things in motion in line with our new strategic plan. As part of a wider Education Programme review in 2017, the organisation undertook thorough reviews of the English and Employment Programmes and developed strategies to further increase impact.

The revamp of the English Programme is now well underway and we opened our dedicated English Language Training Centre at ISF's Stung Meanchey school in Phnom Penh earlier this month. This centre will act as a resource hub for all of our English teachers, providing access to materials for more interactive and engaging teaching methods.

Since its inception in 2006, our English Programme has grown from providing basic lessons to 15 children to offering English at various levels to almost 500 students. We currently employ eight English teachers and a Head of Programme who oversees the academic activities and curriculum across both of ISF’s schools.

At ISF, we know what a positive difference quality education and healthcare can make and 11-year-old Makara*, pictured below, has lovely things to say about our Catch-up Education and Healthcare Programmes. 

Born in Poy Pet, a city in Northern Cambodia, bordering Thailand, Makara only attended school for three years and spent the rest of his time helping his parents, who worked as labourers, to earn a small income. From the age of 6, Makara would lend a hand with tasks such as mixing cement. When he did attend school, lessons were taught in Thai and then translated into Khmer by a translator, making the process of learning that little bit more difficult and time consuming.

Makara’s parents worked hard but for little reward and their employers often paid them the bare minimum if they paid them at all. Because of this, Makara and his family relocated to Phnom Penh in search of a better life with better job opportunities. Makara’s mother and older sister now work in a factory producing jelly and his father still works in construction. Makara entered ISF’s Catch-up Education Programme in grade 2 in November 2016 and has been making great progress in his studies since. Before ISF, Makara had never seen a doctor because his family just couldn’t afford it. Now, ISF’s healthcare provides him with regular check-ups and he has already benefited from dental care.

Makara has visited the dentist six times since enrolling and has had several rotten teeth removed. Before ISF, he had never brushed his teeth because he did not have a toothbrush. ISF’s nurses taught him the importance of basic healthcare practices such as how to brush his teeth and provided him with toothpaste and toothbrushes. The benefit of this is also reaching his siblings as Makara has passed on his newfound knowledge to the rest of his family. Makara’s favourite subject in school is Khmer literature and he hopes to become a police officer when he grows up.

We currently provide 218 disadvantaged Cambodian children (48% of whom are female) with a comprehensive fast-track education, allowing them to catch-up to the correct grade for their age, join government-run schools and, ultimately, find stable employment. Most catch-up students attend school regularly and 199 out of 212 students (91%) passed their mid-term tests in March 2017 with 55% of them achieving excellence. We expect the majority of our catch-up students to progress to the next grade in May 2018.

A further 363 students (49% of whom are female), are supported to study at state schools in Phnom Penh. Although most students score above average in their monthy tests, 18 students are failing as they do not regularly attend classes at state school. Absenteeism has been one of our main concerns. ISF's social workers are working closely with state school teachers to monitor student attendance and progress, and provide support to students who are struggling academically. Furthermore, they have conducted home visits to discuss reasons and encourage parents to monitor children’s attendance more closely. ISF is also running extra classes for students who need further support to improve their academic performance.

As part of our ongoing commitment to enabling our students to find gainful and fulfilling employment when they complete school, ISF’s Employment Programme has been reviewed to ensure that it is up-to-date and that our programme meets the needs of the students we support. ISF’s new Head of Employment Programme started working with ISF in March 2018 and is tasked with building a robust internal soft-skills programme, developing effective and sustainable partnerships with NGOs focused on vocational training and building strong relationships with employers across a range of industries, ensuring that all students completing ISF’s Education Programme will find suitable, sustainable employment that will provide them with the means to support themselves and their families. 

Here at ISF, we’re committed to the development of the individual and we're so pleased to see the success of this approach with our recent graduates. In August 2017, ISF student Bunleng passed his grade 12 exam, completing his high school education together with two other ISF’s students. Growing up in an impoverished area, university was never considered an option for Bunleng. But, his hard work and determination to succeed have provided him with surprising opportunities. Just last month, Bunleung relocated to Taiwan to pursue his studies on a scholarship.

As he boarded his flight to Taiwan, his first ever flight, the young student described feeling a mix of emotions; excited and nervous but also a little sad as he had never spent any time away from his family before. But now, speaking to ISF just a few weeks after the move, he tells us that he is settling in well in Taiwan and is delighted to have the chance to study there. He is attending classes for eight hours a day, six days a week and feels confident that his English and Chinese language skills are improving all the time. Bunleng aspires to settle in Taiwan after his degree and make a better living there so he can support his family.

Thanks to your ongoing support, our programmes are continuing to make an impact in the lives of our students and the wider community. 

 

*Names of children under 18 years old have been changed.

Opening Ceremony, ISF's English Language Centre
Opening Ceremony, ISF's English Language Centre
Makara*, ISF's student
Makara*, ISF's student
Bunleng, ISF's University Student in Taiwan
Bunleng, ISF's University Student in Taiwan

Links:

Feb 21, 2018

Making a Difference, One Child at a Time

Catch-up student studying Khmer at ISF
Catch-up student studying Khmer at ISF

With the beginning of the new year, we would like to send you a quick note to thank you for your support for Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF) in the past three months.

It has been an exciting period for us. In November 2017, we welcomed 80 new ‘catch-up’ students across our two education centres in Phnom Penh. We now provide almost 700 disadvantaged Cambodian children with a comprehensive fast-track education, allowing them to catch up to the correct grade for their age, join government-run schools and, ultimately, find stable employment.

The extraordinary story of ten-year-old Reaksa*, one of our newest students, is a tangible proof of the power of education: “Before coming to ISF, I studied for two years in a state school outside Phnom Penh, but I still had to pay every day for the teacher. One of the reasons my family moved to the centre of the city was to find better jobs and the right place for me to study. We finally found ISF, and I started my first grade in November 2017.

I live in a rented room with my big family. I have an older brother who goes to a state school, but he really wants to study at ISF too because he sees that I’m learning so much more! My mother goes out to work at 5pm and comes home again after midnight, so I never get a chance to sleep next to her properly. My grandmother is getting old, but she still works as a cleaner in a new market near our house. She gets back at 10pm. That means I am responsible for most of the cooking and housework. I feel a lot older than my age because I have more responsibilities than the other children. But I know I can handle it. My father divorced my mother and remarried when I was very young, that made me stronger.

I like coming to school, but I also think a lot about how hard my mother and grandmother work. That makes me want to go home so I could help them by doing extra housework. It seems like there are so many problems to talk about, but what I have to do now is get a good education so I can find a good job and help my family.

I am very excited to have been chosen as an ISF student because I can come to school every day without spending money. I also get a good breakfast and lunch. ISF provides great support not only for my education but also food parcels for my family. We now have rice to cook at home and our lives are so much better. We are very grateful.

I like studying English. I’m learning the alphabet at the moment, and I’m going to keep on learning until I can speak fluently. I am not sure what I want to be, but I want to have a job in an office”.

Children like Reaksa come from very disadvantaged backgrounds. The majority of them had no education prior to joining the organisation and spent their childhood collecting rubbish in order to contribute to their family’s income. Thanks to your support, these children were given the chance to catch-up on missed education, enjoy their childhood and ultimately aspire to a better life. At ISF, the students study the same curriculum as state school: Khmer, social science, maths and sciences, but we also provide them with English classes and extra-curricular activities such as: physical education, Khmer dance, yoga, school trips and, if interested, football, rugby and judo training.

Many ISF families have to survive on less than $2 a day, and thus they do not have enough money to put food on the table. To ensure that our students are not taken out of school to work or scavenge, at ISF, we work tirelessly to give regular and nutritious meals to all our students every day. Their meals consist of vegetables, protein (chicken, pork, beef or fish) and rice. Through your support, we have been able to distribute over 100,000 meals in the form of breakfast and lunch from Monday to Saturday to our students. ISF’s nutrition programme has helped students focus more in class and become healthier and more active. Furthermore, their families receives monthly food parcels, which motivate parents to keep their children in school and make up for earnings lost when a child is not out working or collecting rubbish for recycling.

Through your support, ISF has been able to provide ISF students with comprehensive healthcare. All students benefitted from the healthcare and education provided by our fully licensed school nurses, who also oversee and administer vaccinations against ten illnesses (Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, Pneumococcal, Typhoid, Tetanus, Meningococcus Rabies, Measles, Polio and Japanese Encephalitis). The families in the communities we work in often lack funds, thus most ISF children will have never received adequate healthcare before joining us. Our comprehensive Healthcare Programme has improved prevention and education on communicable/transmittable diseases, hygiene and personal care in our students and their communities as well as provided access to dental, optometric, and ear specialist care.

In addition to this, our Education Programme has a much wider, long-term impact. In October 2017, 74 ISF students completed our Catch-up Programme, attaining the necessary grade for their age to enable them to enter government-run school. Furthermore, three state school students completed high school in August 2017. One has received a scholarship to study in Taiwan and the others are undertaking pre-university English bridging courses in order to prepare for their studies next year. With your help, ISF has been able to continue to support these children with their education and wider needs and will support them until they find stable employment. These children will be able to provide for their families and communities, ultimately breaking free from the cycle of poverty.

On behalf of all the students and their families who have benefited from your generous contribution to their education and futures, thank you!

 

 

*Names of children under 18 years old have been changed.

Reaksa, catch-up student in grade 1
Reaksa, catch-up student in grade 1
English lessons at ISF
English lessons at ISF
Students enjoying a nutritious meal at ISF
Students enjoying a nutritious meal at ISF
Students brushing their teeth after lunch at ISF
Students brushing their teeth after lunch at ISF
ISF students walking to school
ISF students walking to school

Links:

 
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