Support PEPY & Rural Youth Scholars in Cambodia

by PEPY Empowering Youth
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Support PEPY & Rural Youth Scholars in Cambodia
Support PEPY & Rural Youth Scholars in Cambodia
Support PEPY & Rural Youth Scholars in Cambodia
Support PEPY & Rural Youth Scholars in Cambodia
Support PEPY & Rural Youth Scholars in Cambodia
Support PEPY & Rural Youth Scholars in Cambodia
Support PEPY & Rural Youth Scholars in Cambodia
Support PEPY & Rural Youth Scholars in Cambodia
Support PEPY & Rural Youth Scholars in Cambodia
Support PEPY & Rural Youth Scholars in Cambodia
Support PEPY & Rural Youth Scholars in Cambodia
Our scholar Reaksmey at her work
Our scholar Reaksmey at her work

Hello PEPY friends and community, 

As you may know, the COVID-19 cases in Cambodia have spiked exponentially over the last few months. This has impacted our ability to provide workshops and activities to youth, as well as their ability to conduct their research and projects. While we have made a lot of effort to conduct our courses online and connect youth with technology, we are not able to reach rural high schoolers and their families at the same level. 

So far, we have approximately 400+ youth regularly attending our high school Dream classes. Prior to COVID-19, we were working with over 1,100 youth across 4 high schools. We are continuing to engage with the rural teachers, partner programs, and local leaders to try to help youth and families in crisis as much as is possible safely. 

In the Scholarship Project, students and alumni are facing unemployment in an economy with limited job opportunities. The students and team are conducting research nationwide to try to find job opportunities whenever and wherever possible. Unfortunately, unemployment has increased this quarter, with unemployed scholars ranging from 15-25. Even more students/alumni and having their salaries reduced in their current positions. As a result, our efforts to fundraise are bigger than ever, in the hopes that we can provide more support to current scholars and ensure that we have available funding to cover unemployed scholars for longer periods. 

We will keep you posted as the situation progresses! 

In the Learning Center and the Youth Innovators' Space and Incubator (YISI) Program, all youth have access to IT and the classes are running as scheduled virtually. We are excited for the youth to continue working on their projects and business plans as funded by USAID's We Act Project. In the Learning Center, the work is a research project that youth will conduct and present in groups to local leadership. In YISI, several of the Youth Innovators are launching their business on an international and domestic scale, while others are completing their business plan and assessment! 

Read more about their recent work in our Quarterly Report

Learning Center student studying in ICT class
Learning Center student studying in ICT class

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PEPY team welcoming Bong Watd to our team
PEPY team welcoming Bong Watd to our team

Hello PEPY community and friends, 

Let's start with our biggest announcement! In February, we officially welcomed our new Executive Director, Khouth Sochampawatd (Bong Watd). After leading PEPY through its localization and implementing our new programs, Sarakk Rith, will be moving on to pursue his dream. Sarakk will be pursuing his Masters of Science in Human Ecology at the United States at the University of Wisconsin-Madision for the next 2 years. We are so thrilled for him and cannot wait to see him share PEPY's story abroad and to have the youth continue to learn from him and his experiences when he returns. 

Bong Watd has been involved with PEPY for over a decade, serving as a staff member, consultant, and Board Chairperson for PEPY. She was the Board and team's clear choice to pick up the torch and we are thrilled she accepted! Over the next few months, Bong Watd will be learning from Sarakk while transitioning into her role and we look forward to learning more from her and implementing her many ideas. 

Program News:

The PEPY team was thrilled to complete youth recruitment for all of our programs as well as start our workshops and sessions in January! 

  • Scholarship Program Updates: 

This year, 28 scholars were selected from our target communities in 5 districts outside of Siem Reap city. We provided youth an Integration Day Event where they were introduced to our technical training courses at the Learning Center, their housing, and fellow scholars on a camping trip so that they could get to know each other better. By the end of the multi-day program the youth felt more familiar with each other and less scared of beginning their studies in the city. 

So far, the new recruits have been doing well in the Learning Center classes and have participated in many football (soccer) games, dance classes, social outings, and mentor sessions with the older scholars and alumni. We look forward to them completing their univeristy and vocational school registration soon. 

  • Youth Innovators' Space and Incubator Program:  

Our new program and office is off to a great start with our Saturday social enteprise development workshops in full swing. The team has recruited 20 Youth Innovators who are interested in gaining entrepreneurial soft skills development and training over the next 6 months. In addition, 10 additional youth also joined our IT for Business course on Saturday afternoons, helping improve their technical and admin skills as well as helping them build a successful business brand. We are very much looking forward to seeing their business concepts become more solidified and researched as we help them identify funding opportunities. 

COVID-19 Notice: 

Currently, COVID-19 is rapidly spreading across Cambodia so we have had to close schools again. On the bright side, our youth have been trained on using online learning apps in anticipation of another shut down, so our participants are already familiar with applications like Zoom and understand how the classes will be held going forward. The vaccine is also available in Cambodia, and medical workers and the elderly are currently completed their vaccinations. We are staying as postive and careful on this as possible as we closely monitor the situation. 

New scholars during the Integration Event
New scholars during the Integration Event
PEPY team and local partners at Incubator launch
PEPY team and local partners at Incubator launch
Main hall of Incubator Office
Main hall of Incubator Office

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Students returning to class at our Learning Center
Students returning to class at our Learning Center

Dear PEPY Community,

2020 has been quite a year of ups and downs! As Cambodian schools and learning institutions slowly re-open, the PEPY team has felt honored looking back on your commitment to supporting our work and our students this year. COVID-19 has been challenging for all of us, and your support has not gone unnoticed or unappreciated! 

Scholarship Project Story: 

PEPY Scholars faced many hardships as schools closed, and the economy worsened. Many of their parents were working in neighboring countries until lockdowns forced them out. Simultaneously, a considerable percentage of scholars (primarily teachers and workers in the tourist industry) were losing their jobs. As a result, many families were pressuring their children to leave school to help with farming or construction work to supplement their income. 

While we recognize the pressure and desire to help their families may be high, our team was concerned that students would return to their villages and drop out of school and miss their opportunity to find more sustainable work opportunities in the city. We reached out to their families and ultimately provided students and families with stipends or emergency support if they had low food security. Over time, scholars' families grew gardens from the seeds we provided them, and several families initiated chicken coops with the resources and training we provided them. 

The stipends enabled students to stay in the city and continue their studies while we help them find new job opportunities. Several months ago, we hired one of our scholars, Channra, to work as a Scholarship Project Assistant to help the scholarship team support students and identify more job opportunities. In addition, we allowed scholars to work in Phnom Penh for the first time as long as they could maintain their reporting agreement with us and felt capable of making such a big transition. As of December 1st, less than 20 scholars remain unemployed while approximately 20 scholars have reduced salaries! 

The PEPY team provided Urban Gardening training to scholars to grow their own food and save on monthly expenses. Students reported that the garden not only reduced their costs but also contributed positively to their mental health. One of our students, Pha, said, “Urban gardening is pretty good [to] help me reduce my daily spending on vegetables as I need to eat vegetables every day. It also provided me good health with no chemical vegetable. After study[ing] I take all my time to look after them because it also helps me reduce stress and get a fresh feeling. And a big thanks for supporting me [with] seeds and containers. I would like to plant them more.”

Future Plans: 

  • We launched our Future is Bright Lab and Library in November. This initiative allows students and alumni to rent computers, accessories, and training material to self-study or use applications for their homework or look for jobs. We encourage IT-inclined youth to form clubs and meetings to further their web development and coding skills. This project is currently open for GlobalGiving donations as we hope to reach our goal of 40 computers by December 2021. 
  • PEPY is partnering with USAID's PACT Cambodia We Act Project to start PEPY's Youth Innovators Space (YIS) and Social Enterprise Incubator. We hired two new amazing staff members, Phalla and Sreypov, who have extensive business and incubator experience to manage this project. We plan to identify dedicated and creative youth in Siem Reap to allow them to diversify the market and be tomorrow's job creators.   

We hope these changes are as exciting for you as they are for us! We look forward to keeping you updated as these new initiatives progress, and we help make sure every scholar gets back on track in 2021. 

Channra, our new Scholarship Project Assistant
Channra, our new Scholarship Project Assistant
Scholar, Pha, working on his home garden
Scholar, Pha, working on his home garden
Team member, Phalla, welcoming back students
Team member, Phalla, welcoming back students
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Dream Officer Mara preparing to film her lesson
Dream Officer Mara preparing to film her lesson

Dear PEPY Community,

The PEPY team is very grateful to you all for supporting our work, ensuring that rural Cambodian youth are able to continue their education and have financial security during these challenging times. For those of you who do not already receive regular updates from us, we transitioned to online teaching in March for our Learning Center and began providing regular online video sessions for our high school Dream students in May.

In the Learning Center, we provide English classes via Zoom to our students on Monday-Friday and provide ICT sessions once a week via Zoom or through pre-recorded training videos. Each Learning Center student has been provided a tablet and funds for internet cards so that they can study from home. Despite transitioning to social distance learning, we were able to facilitate 2 meaningful exchanges over the last few months:

Packard Collegiate Institute’s Photography Project: Different Ships Same Storm

7 of PEPY’s scholars took part in a photography and writing project with youth from multiple countries including the United States, Israel, and multiple African countries. Each week they would submit photos that communicated how they are feeling during COVID, how they imagine their futures and sharing their culture and daily lives with each other. All participants were able to comment on each other’s pictures and Packard hosted group video calls for them to meet face to face. Our group loved this project and having the opportunity to share their art after several of them had lost their jobs. This project gave them a much-needed outlet. In the next future, Packard will be publishing the photos and the youths’ stories in a book and we look forward to sharing the finished product.

If you want to learn more about the students who participated in this project or see the student’s photos you can read our blog post on the subject here.

6th Annual Irish Exchange:

For several years now, 2 PEPY staff and 2 students have had the incredible opportunity to go to Ireland for 2-3 weeks to visit our partner schools and participate in a homestay to experience Irish culture. Then, Irish teachers come to Cambodia for 3 weeks to work in collaboration with our teachers and learn from our students. This year, PEPY was unfortunately not able to visit Ireland, but in July, Irish teachers  Micheál, Aoife, Jenny, & Áine were at least able to facilitate most of the exchange online. We appreciate them being so flexible and enthusiastic despite the circumstances.

For our Dream Management Project, the Dream team has been producing weekly content for grades 10-12 and uploading them to our YouTube channel. They work in partnership with the high school teachers to connect students to our video lessons and homework. Reaching our Dream students has been incredibly challenging during these times because only around half of them have access to a phone or computer (and even fewer youths’ families have the money to spend on internet cards). As a result, the majority of rural youth have not been able to access our courses or the government-issued lessons online and are falling behind their city-based counterparts.

On our part, we are doing everything we can to encourage safe learning opportunities and talk to local government, but recognize this is a national issue. Even our Learning Center students, who have access to our tablets and internet cards, often experience connection issues and electricity challenges that impact their learning.

Our scholars are all experiencing the crisis differently. Some universities moved to online classes quickly, so they could continue their courses online, while some schools only made the transition recently. PEPY scholars receive monthly stipends from us to access the internet to continue their studies. As the economy worsens, scholars and alumni are losing their jobs (approximately 25% of our alumni/scholars are in and out of work although the rate changes weekly as businesses close and we find job opportunities for our youth). Our Scholarship team works overtime to help scholars and alumni find new work and the stipends give unemployed scholars the opportunity to stay in the city while they search for employment.

Lastly, PEPY has been responding to the crisis by providing emergency care packages to scholars and Dream students’ families who are food insecure as well as working in partnership with selected families to establish gardens and chicken coups in several villages in our target areas. We hope to combat food shortages in rural communities before they are expected to fully hit at the end of this year.

None of this would be possible without your incredible generosity and we look forward to giving you updates in the near future. If you have any questions or want to learn more about any specific project we welcome you to contact and/or follow us here.

Irish teacher Aine in the Irish Teacher Exchange
Irish teacher Aine in the Irish Teacher Exchange
One of our first chicken coops
One of our first chicken coops
Student group in Learning Center presenting work
Student group in Learning Center presenting work
Scholars starting work at a new job in July
Scholars starting work at a new job in July
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Organization Information

PEPY Empowering Youth

Location: Siem Reap - Cambodia
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Twitter: @PEY_NGO
Project Leader:
Kathryn McDaniel
Siem Reap, Cambodia
$43,356 raised of $100,000 goal
 
140 donations
$56,644 to go
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