Project #10626

Give Phnong Children the Gift of Education

by Lotus Outreach
Sinuon with her mother
Sinuon with her mother

LO has supported the Phnong Education Initiative (PEI/PTTC) at Mondulkiri since January 2010. The program supports 31 high schools and 20 Provincial Teacher Training College students every year. Almost all of the students are ethnic Phnong. The program also contributes to a great deal to preservation of Phnong culture among the students, their families, and communities by supporting training of both students and teachers in the ways of Phnong culture and cultural research assignments. PEI has provided residency to children whose families live far away from school. The program has also implemented a well pump close to the dormitories so the children have access to clean drinking and showering water right at their doorstep.

Sinuon, an eighth grade student studying at Oraing Lower Secondary School, is from a Phnong indigenous group living in Oraing District, Mondulkiri Province, which is about 7 Kilometers from the school. In the past, Sinuon has always walked to and from school, a difficult hike up the mountain to her home. When Sinuon reached secondary school, she was invited to stay in the student dormitory which is located in a convenient location near school. Sinuon is from a monetarily poor family and was selected to receive scholarship assistance from KAPE in 2014. With PEI support, she received uniforms, books, pens, shoes, equipment, a monthly stipend, and extra classes. Most importantly, she is able to stay in the school dormitory where she has access a a clean toilet, a full kitchen, and a water well-pump that was all funded by Lotus Outreach. She is now so happy to have many friends whom she shares joyful times with.

In December, there was a problem with one of her eyes and her vision became blurred after she had a motorbike accident. At the time, she received some stitches to her head and was told there was no further injury. Unfortunately, since then, her vision has been deteriorating. PEI took her to a central clinic in Mondulkiri province but it did not seem to be getting any better. She is now scheduled to see a specialist in Phnom Penh. We are hopeful that will be able to figure out the issues.

Her mother, Det, has been living with liver disease for many years. She has been weak and is not able to do any work on the land where they live. Only her father, Srong, and her older sister are able to work hard on the rice field to support their family. Sinuon goes back home every weekend and spends the whole time working at the cassava plantation where she can earn around five dollars per day which goes towards helping her family. Sinuon loves education and is strongly committed to studying hard.  “I shall still keep learning until I finish grade 9 and I wish to finish grade 12 as well.” said Sinuon. “I want to be a teacher and I hope I can work in a school which is close to my village.” she added.  

Thank you to all the donors who enable young students like Sunuon to continue studying and receive the care that is needed. The Phnong communities are so grateful.

PEI Girls with Glenn, Director of Field Operations
PEI Girls with Glenn, Director of Field Operations
PEI students in their classroom
PEI students in their classroom
Meet Soma.
Meet Soma.

The Phnong Education Initiative education program has seen significant changes to the lives of many Phnong girl scholars entering job employment as primary teachers. In addition, the project has promoted minority cultural understanding to the Khmer children at school and the community by a range of activities that show aspects of Phnong culture e.g. dance, life skills, significant celebrations such as weddings and funerals and this has helped the Phnong children be proud of their culture and to increase respect for each other within the two communities (Khmer and Phnong). In total, 60 Phnong girl scholars that have been funded by the Lotus Outreach International have become primary teachers and of that group approximately 28% had received scholarships from Lotus Outreach at lower secondary level. This successful group now teach thousands of Phnong children in their communities.

In 2015 a total of 51 girl students received scholarship support funded by Lotus Outreach International.

Soma, aged 19, has received a scholarship from Phnong Education Initiative (PEI) project since Grade 7 at Oraing Lower Secondary School funded by the Lotus Outreach International. In 2013 Soma passed her teacher training examination. She continued receiving a $20 stipend per month which she spent on her study materials and food for her two-year program at Teacher Training College in Steung Treng Province. Soma is from a Phnong ethnic minority family that grows rice up in the mountain. Their rice growing depends on natural rain and sometimes when there were droughts, the rice was not enough to feed them. They did not normally buy food in the market. When they didn’t have rice they dug up bamboo shoots and pickled them to eat.  Receiving scholarship support from the project has helped to reduce Soma’s family’s expense of study materials and food. Soma is a hard-working and clever student and has volunteered her time at school for a the Phnong research club and was a member of the student council. 

Soma successfully graduated from her teacher training course in August 2015 and became a primary school teacher at Puchu primary school where there are more than 90% of Phnong ethnic minority students studying. “I will save money for my parents, they work very hard to raise me until my age. I would like to see my parents eat delicious food with my first salary of being a teacher,” Soma said happily.

Thank you to all of the donors. With out support from you, Soma would not be able to give back to her community and family in such an influential way!

Group photo of PEI graduate scholars
Group photo of PEI graduate scholars
Mei, another recent graduate who is now a teacher.
Mei, another recent graduate who is now a teacher.
PEI Scholars receiving sport suit and volleyball
PEI Scholars receiving sport suit and volleyball

Since the last PEI update, all of the 31 scholarship students passed their exams. In other news, in late may, three of the PEI girl scholars attended a women’s volleyball competition. Their team won the first round of the competition and received a volleyball, sport suits, as well as a prize of 100,000 Riels. This was their first time to travel outside the province; they reported that they felt happy and nervous about this competition. In June, an agriculture teacher at Oraing high school conducted training on vegetable growing to all the PEI scholars. Teachers demonstrated methods of growing vegetables and making vegetable gardens in school. The girl scholars reportedly enjoyed the training and were very interested in growing vegetables at their own homes after the training.

Sopheap is a 15 year-old scholarship Phnong student studying in 8th grade at Oraing High School, which is about eight Kilometres away from her house. Sopheap’s walks forty-five minutes to school, up the mountain and through the quiet forest. She lives in Oraing district, Mondulkir province with her widowed mother and four siblings (3 girls, 1 boy). She is the second child in the family. Her father died when she was in 6th grade. Her mother works in the rice fields, and sometimes works as a seed collector to earn enough money support her children. Sopheap also helps her mother to earn money by working in the cassava plantation during the weekends and holidays. Sopheap and her family work hard to earn a living.

Sopheap has received a scholarship funded by Lotus Outreach International since she was in the 7th grade. Since then, she has received 20 note books, 10 pens, 2 sets of uniform, a school bag and $20 monthly stipends (for buying exam papers and food). “I feel extremely happy to have uniforms to wear, more note books to write in and monthly stipend to support my study”, she said.

Sopheap is a hard-working and outstanding student in her class. She is ranked number second among 40 students. Her strongest subjects are math and writing. She is active in school activities and participates in research activities and student council.

Sopheap wishes to finish grade 12 and would like to go on to be a teacher. Her mother expressed that she feels so happy to see that her daughter is a clever student and respectful child and she hopes that she will be a teacher in the future.

With out the support of PEI, students like Sopheap would be forced to drop out of school. Sopheap would like to express her gratitude to all those that have helped with her education including Lotus Outreach and all of its donors.

Sopheap and PEI scholars at computers to study
Sopheap and PEI scholars at computers to study
Sopheap and her mom do house work together
Sopheap and her mom do house work together
Sopheap on her walk to school
Sopheap on her walk to school
Cherbb's class

The Phnong Education Initiative provides minority students in Cambodia with scholarships and housing assistance so they can continue to attend school. Otherwise these students would be forced to drop out of school due to poverty and/or distance from the nearest school. The indigenous minority, Phnong, survives on subsistence agriculture. Literacy rates for highland tribes are 5.3%, and females among this minority fall to 1%. Phnong Education Initiative provides children and teacher trainees with scholarship packages, and aims to change to gender imbalances.

Cherbb, a 15 year old that is in 7th grade lives with her mom, Krum in their home at Pu Haem Village. Cherbbs family and 25 other households share a large part of Phnong’s community where they continue to practice slash burn agriculture on land that sits on the edge of the ‘Mondulkrir Protected Forest’ area which has one of the largest continuous stretches of dry and semi-evergreen forests in South East Asia.

Cherbb’s community has a local primary school, by her estimation it is, “a 20 minute walk up a hill,” but the nearest secondary school is 14 kilometers away. At least half of the children from this Phnong community don’t finish their first year of high school because it becomes too far and too expensive to commute, so they are forced to drop out.

Luckily for Cherbb and her sister, their parents see the value of education and receive support from Lotus Outreach that allows them to stay in dormitory accommodations during the week and then return home for the weekends. Almost all of the PEI students work on the weekends either on the home plot or to earn money doing seasonal work when it’s available near their homes. Cherbbs mother tells us, “With an education a girl can and often will, support her family with the salary from the type of job education will ensure. Without assistance from the program, which pays for school uniforms, books, tuition and weekly stipend we also wouldn’t be able to afford the cost of transport and incidental expenses and Cherbb would have to drop out. We feel education is important and valuable, but we can only do what’s affordable for us. We are very thankful for the support”

Cherbb is very happy to have transitioned from primary school into 7th grade, “its my dream to teach English at lower secondary school level, I am very keen to learn English"

The Phnong people have been living in mud floor dwellings with wood and thatched roof huts for hundred of years. The Phnong community lives 40kms from then nearest health clinic. Infant mortality although preventable, is very common problem. Cherbbs mother spoke of her experience with this, “I actually had 4 children and two died of diarrhea, one at 4 months and one only a week old. Even though we only have two children, I'm not well and use the birth control pill to avoid pregnancy. We drink water from a ring well not far up the hill and boil it to avoid infections.”

The traditions and culture of the Phnong are difficult to hang on to, as interest in preserving their culture becomes less important than their immediate survival. Cherbbs mom expressed, “We will continue to support Cherbbs education as best we can until she finishes year 12 and becomes a Lower Secondary School Teacher”. Given that no one else in the village has ever achieved more than a 10th grade education, Lotus Outreach is encouraged to assist students such as Cherbb as long as possible. We will continue to support them towards a goal of higher education and an overall well being to in the Ethnic Phnong communities of Cambodia.

Thank you to all the supporters who allow young students like Cherbb to attend school, Lotus Outreach couldn't do it without you!



Cherbb(second to the right) and friends
Cherbb(second to the right) and friends
Cherbb and her sister husking rice
Cherbb and her sister husking rice
PEI girls at school with teachers and Glenn
PEI girls at school with teachers and Glenn

The following story highlights the huge impact this program is having on the lives of Phnong speaking minority children living in impoverished conditions within Cambodia. For just $130 feed a student in profound need like Sagn for an entire academic year, and rejoice in the greatest gift of all: the gift of education!

Sagn is a Phnong speaking student in grade 7 at Oraing high school. She lives in Potro Village within the Oraing District of Mondulkiri Province. She is the youngest child of 6 siblings; all of her brothers and sisters are married and have left home to live on their own. Sagn is 14 years old and still lives with her parents in a small cottage with bamboo walls.

Unfortunately, her father suffers from a respiratory illness and thus cannot work while her mother can only work part time in the rice fields, because she is getting older and more fatigued each day. Her older brothers and sisters did not have a chance to go to secondary school, because school is so far from their village. Living 18 kilometers away from the nearest school, Sagn never expected to attend secondary school.

Luckily, thanks to Lotus Outreach and this program, she got a scholarship from our partner KAPE that provided uniforms, a pair of shoes, study materials, monthly stipends, and most importantly, a spot in the dormitory close to the school with a very nice kitchen, toilet and pump well for all the scholarship students living there. This great opportunity has completely changed the trajectory of Sagn’s life.

Sagn has lived in the dorm since school started in November 2014. At first she was homesick and she found it difficult to live on her own, but after getting support from the older students in the dorm, she feels more confident and is now much happier. Besides her regular classes, Sign attends a study club that teaches girls how to make bracelets and Phnong scarves for the cultural center. Every day she spends three hours taking extra classes in Math, Khmer literature, and Chemistry with support from her scholarship.

During the holidays she goes home to help her mother at the rice field especially during the harvest time. “I am so happy to be a scholarship student,” Sagn stated.

“This scholarship has given me a chance to get more education than I ever would have gotten and I feel I am more confident in speaking to other people. Before I was really shy and I did not like to talk to people I did not know. Moreover, I know now that people have to help each other; not only in living, but in learning as well. I have learned a lot from the other people around me.”

Help more girls like Sagn through our PEI scholarships, and give the gift that never stops giving!!!

PEI Students Receiving Materials!
PEI Students Receiving Materials!



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Organization Information

Lotus Outreach

Location: Ojai, California - USA
Website: http:/​/​
Project Leader:
Ed Malley
Sacramento, CA United States

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