Discovering new challenges – Laurane’s feedback

Discovering new challenges – Laurane’s feedback

Laurane was an intern at the Agroecology School from March to August 2021. Although the health situation was difficult during this period, she comes back with words on what she learned here, and the memories she takes with her to France.

What was your first step or your goal in coming here?

I arrived in Cambodia in March 2021 for a 6-month internship during my gap year from my agricultural engineering school (ENSAT Toulouse, France). My mother has been working for over 15 years in the French-Cambodian association « Pour un Sourire d’Enfant » and she visits Cambodia every year. Since I was a child, I have heard so much about this country on the other side of the world; it seemed very close to me although we do not hear much about it in the media. I am very sensitive to the social situation in Cambodia and its history; I think it is essential to give the tools to each population to succeed in moving towards sustainable, solidary and self-sufficient food production.

Coming here, I wanted to help and accompany women and families in the field so that they could become autonomous and independent, thanks to market gardening and agroecology. I am convinced that agroecology is a lever to counter climate change and social problems related to food and health, which are present all too often in developing countries.

What was your role during these 6 months?

The arrival of Covid in Cambodia made the period somewhat complicated, as the lockdowns and quarantines prevented us from visiting the farmers to ensure a regular follow-up as well as the vegetable distribution to the beneficiary families. These last 6 months have been a little unpredictable, but I was able to provide support to the Green Farming team, in particular in analysing the problems met by the farmers and the team, understanding the stakes of marketing vegetables and their production in organic farming as well as the difficulties brought about by the diseases and pests present in the vegetable gardens.

I worked together with Theary, a student from the Agroecology Bayon School and an intern with the Green Farming team. She was very inspiring, sharing her technical and theoretical knowledge directly with the farmers!

I also accompanied 3 students from the school on an internship at our partner Fair Farms in the South of Cambodia. I was able to work with them on the project of planting vegetation cover on a pepper farm. Another project was more oriented towards the protection of the environment and the reforestation of 5 degraded hectares in order to create a stable environment favorable to bees and including melliferous resources (which produce honey) all year round.

What did you learn from a professional and personal point of view?  

During these 6 months, I learned a lot about tropical agriculture and the issues related to the new seasonality: the dry season and the rainy season each last 6 months, and include various challenges. During the dry season, we must successfully irrigate the crops to avoid the development of diseases, and create new shelters to protect the crops from the sun. During the rainy season, part of the fields are flooded and diseases and pests develop very quickly, so it is important to develop new techniques to preserve the crops.

The Bayon School project works hard at finding solutions to the challenges faced by the farmers, giving them tools that can be passed on to help other Bayon beneficiary families.

I also learned about the creation and management of an agroecology school in a developing country where agriculture is often synonymous with poverty and social failure. I was able to see the inside workings of an association and the drive of its members to succeed in following the children and beneficiaries of the NGO as best as possible, even in the current health context. I met many actors and pioneers of agroecology in Cambodia, all of them very inspiring.

On a personal level, I learned to speak Khmer, thanks to my colleagues, and I was able to discover their culture within the families in a more intimate and personal context than at the Bayon School.

What have you noticed about the health crisis? What can you say about the impact it has on farmers and their families? 

« The February 20 Community Event” has turned the daily life of Khmers upside down. Cambodia had managed to curb and control the number of cases on its territory by sacrificing the tourism economy, closing its borders to tourist visas as early as March 2020. The Bayon families living around the temples have many jobs related to tourism and I have seen a great deal of solidarity within the families, with the return of brothers, sisters, and children who had left to work away from the temples. The farmers benefited from more labor to work with them in their gardens, but they also had more mouths to feed, representing a bigger workload. Their families became interested in the project and it was very motivating to work with them and explain the basics of agroecological principles!

What lessons can you take from this particular learning environment?

It is very important to have good communication within the teams in order to support each other and find solutions together. This is true for the Green Farming team, but also for the social team, as we work together distributing vegetables to the beneficiary families. It is in this type of crisis situation that we can observe the resilience of a project and a team, as well as improve certain points to better understand and find solutions to these difficulties.

What do you retain from this experience?

Whilst agriculture and agro-ecology act as a lever for the empowerment of a country, it is really the education of future generations that will boost the development of Cambodia. The majority of the members of the Bayon office have benefited from educational aid programs and, in turn, they are giving back to the underprivileged children of the Angkor temples. I really hope that Cambodia’s vaccination campaigns will allow the schools to reopen quickly so that the children can return to school.

I thank my colleagues Theary, Chorvin, Sreyleak, Sakoth and En for their welcome, the transmission of their knowledge and the smiles I received. I leave for France with my head full of memories of the farmers, of their laughter and of the pride they display in producing these vegetables and providing for their families. I will remember the courage and strength of these elderly women, who often work alone and who were able to regain their dignity and joy, thanks to the acquisition of this new knowledge in agriculture. The best moments of the week were always the visit of their gardens and the distribution of vegetables. It is such a pleasure to see them blossoming, exchanging tips and admiring each other’s vegetables!

I wish good luck to Marie, the new intern of the Green Farming team, who will be the lucky new interlocutor of the farmers!

If you had to summarize your experience here in 3 words?

 Gratitude, Challenge and Autonomy. And Morning Glory!

Pedalling for Equality : 5,000 km across Europe

Pedalling for Equality : 5,000 km across Europe

Can you introduce yourself in a few words? 

Hello, my name is Diane Robert, I am 21 years old and I have just completed a Bachelor’s degree in Political Science at McGill University in Montreal. 

Where did you get the idea to cross Europe by bike? What is your itinerary? 

Since I started my studies at McGill, I had planned to take a gap year after my Bachelor’s degree to discover new countries and new projects. I did not have a specific plan as I wanted to give myself the opportunity to push myself beyond my limits and adapt to different circumstances. With Covid, the idea of going further and further away was replaced by the desire to take the time to discover places closer to home. This, combined with the thirst for freedom and meeting new people, gave me the idea of discovering Mediterranean Europe by bike. 

Why did you decide to get involved in an associative project?

I did not want my project to be just a personal adventure; I wanted it also to have a positive influence on people close to me and to be useful to others. Being particularly invested in gender equality issues, I wanted to carry out a project with a concrete impact in this field, as well as supporting an NGO concerned with this issue. Through awareness, education and fundraising, I wanted to participate in the improvement of the economic and social situation of some women, whilst opening the debate on these issues to those around me. 

Why did you choose the Bayon School ? 

I firstly wanted the funds collected to go to an association whose name and effectiveness I knew. I particularly appreciated the work of the Bayon School and its focus on education, which I felt was the most effective way to have a short, medium and long-term impact on individuals and society as a whole. Within the School, one project particularly resonated with my values and commitments. Your Pastry and Bakery School allows young Cambodian women from underprivileged backgrounds living in the Angkor temple region to have access to quality education and to promote their professional integration at the end of the training. In addition, I had the chance to visit your center during a stay in Cambodia and I was touched by your commitment to stay close to the children, young people and families that you support on a daily basis.

How will the funds raised be used?

The goal is to raise 2,500 euros; this amount corresponds to the complete training of a young woman at the Bayon School of Pastry and Bakery. It includes the student’s food and lodging, all courses and related expenses, school supplies and uniforms, a bicycle to facilitate transportation as well as the monthly allowance.

Why does the issue of gender equality interest you so much? What do you think you can contribute? 

Firstly, it is one of the themes that affects the largest proportion of the population. It is also a theme that is often misunderstood or misinterpreted, leading to debates that are often poorly researched and therefore counterproductive. In my opinion, equality is the most basic justice. The courses I have taken on this topic have allowed me to form clear and critical thinking, with the conviction that change is possible, through action but also through reflection. While it is necessary to improve the situations of the most vulnerable people in this regard, I believe that it is equally crucial to raise a constructive debate at the societal level in order to change certain mentalities. I hope that, by sharing quality resources and taking the time to listen to various opinions, I can improve my knowledge on the subject, promote this questioning in the minds of new people and present or support concrete proposals in this direction. This is why I would like to ask one question of as many people as possible that I’ll meet along the way: “In your opinion, what should be worked on as a priority to reduce gender inequality?” 

Equality is the most basic justice.

So if I ask you “In your opinion, what should be worked on as a priority to reduce gender inequality?”, where would you start?

Education. I think that we must start by observing society to take into account gender differences in order to denormalize and de-banalize certain phenomena. For example, it is not normal for a woman to feel unsafe in public places just because she is a woman. Street harassment should not be seen as normal and inevitable when a woman goes out. Similarly, it is not normal that a woman does not have the same opportunities as a man to access quality education, stable employment and security. Sadly, these inequalities do exist. I believe that the first step is the actual recognition of these inequalities, the study of their sources and their consequences. Only then can we hope to find solutions to reduce them, or even to erase them. This is what I hope to do by communicating personally on the subject and by showing my commitment to projects like the Bayon School. 

What would you like to discover or learn during this trip? 

During this trip, I aim to take the time to cross different European countries, getting to know the local populations, eating and sleeping in their homes. By doing so, I hope to understand the many European cultures, which are both so diverse and varied, but yet so similar to ours. I would like to learn from them, from their reflections on their society and on these questions that I ask myself. I would also like to grow, to learn about myself, about my mistakes and my successes, to confront difficulties and to observe how I face them.

Can we follow you on your journey? 

Yes of course! I will share my adventures on my Instagram page (dianerobert8) and prepare some other small surprises for you. I cannot wait to “take” you with me, so that you too can discover a little more of Mediterranean Europe, the Bayon School and the solo cycling life! 

 

See you soon!

Proud to be a life-changing teacher

The floor is given to Chamrong Youn, English teacher at the Bayon Pastry School since 2018. Proud to be a teacher of the young girls in the training, he looks back on his beginnings, and on the evolution of his work with them.

My name is Chamrong and I’ve been teaching English at Bayon Pastry School since 2018. My first experience with the students at the school was… strange, in the sense that I met young adults who were shy, lacking confidence in their ability to learn (none of the students had finished high school), and unable to say a word in English.

This was the first time in my career that I had worked with adults as I was used to teaching children! Very quickly however, as I got to know them, learning more about their stories and where they came from, my apprehension turned into a real commitment. All of these girls come from the most disadvantaged backgrounds in Cambodia; this is why I consider it my responsibility to help them as much as possible.

I always try with all my heart to give them my very best when I teach so that they can live their best life and reach their professional goals. 

It is not always easy because they have a lot of difficulties, but after many months of work, a great deal of effort from both parties and, most importantly, recognition of their progress, I am proud to say that they now speak English with confidence. As a result, they can work in well-known hotels and restaurants.

I am very grateful to have been able to teach such students and I want to keep helping young women in my country to achieve their goals.

Successful start for the agroecology school

Successful start for the agroecology school

Agroecology School Director Sakoth Brang talks about this new vocational training program that has just been launched at Bayon.

The Agroecology School is a cooperative project launched in partnership with Pour Un Sourire d’Enfant (PSE) and Life & Earth. The school opened its doors on January 18th of this year and welcomes its very first intake of 10 students. Following Khmer tradition, the inauguration was accompanied by a blessing ceremony during which three monks were invited to bless the students, the staff and the facilities. In Khmer culture, the blessing ceremony is very important, bringing luck and prosperity to those who receive it.

Coming back to the school, our vocational training program aims to give young people, selected from disadvantaged families in Cambodia, skills in agroecology over a 12-month period. Because we wanted our training to be adapted to the context and allow students to be able to insert themselves into the job market in agronomy, our program meets the Cambodian certification criteria in the field.

In order to ensure that they develop the skills and acquire the practical tools they will need for their future profession, field trips are regularly organized. Students are also invited to meet the farmers that we support in our green farming program, or to benefit from technical lessons given by professionals in specific fields.

In addition to the regular courses taught at the school, the students will have the opportunity to do 2 internships in farms, agricultural companies, or cooperatives. The objective is clearly for them to gain a first professional experience and to put to the test the skills they have acquired during the training.

Beyond this approach, the internship is an opportunity for them to become familiar with a company that will probably welcome them at the end of their training. Indeed, a study conducted on our pastry school showed that nearly 74% of the students were hired at the end of their apprenticeship in one of the establishments where they did their internship. We expect the same success rates for students in the Agroecology School.

In any case, and because our support does not end with their graduation, we will accompany them to the door of their first employer.

At the end of the training, students will be able to use their technical skills to put agroecology techniques into practice and to carry the values of sustainable development into their future jobs. This implies knowing how to manage small productive farms, how to sell their organic products on the local market, how to establish links with other farmers and organizations, and how to understand agricultural and food systems. In this sense, the primary focus of the training is not the study of agroecology as a discipline, but the profession of agroecologist. The main skill is not to understand or analyze the agroecosystem, but to develop and act as a practitioner of agroecology who knows how to mobilize the ecological principles and processes of ecosystems to produce in a sustainable manner.

On behalf of the School of Agroecology, I would like to thank the generous donors who support this project and our two partners PSE & Chivit Neing Dei for their educational expertise and participation.

From kindergarten to a qualifying diploma: Bayon’s educational pathway

From kindergarten to a qualifying diploma: Bayon’s educational pathway

The implementation of a comprehensive educational program for all the children of Bayon primary school reflects our desire to ensure them a better social and professional integration.

It is our duty to bring all the children of Bayon to realize their dreams

To this end, we have recently initiated an educational reform within our programs to offer this opportunity to every Bayon child.

We have set simple but essential objectives for the success of their professional project

  • To support the child throughout their educational journey to a qualifying degree
  • To guide and support the child in the realization of his/her professional project
  • To individualize and personalize the child’s follow-up
  • To help children with the most difficult educational and/or social situations
  • To improve the overall quality of education

Each child who will begin his or her schooling at the Bayon primary school by the kindergarten section will be followed until the fulfillment of his or her professional project.

« Alongside reasoning and intellectual reflection, the sense of observation, the taste for experimentation, sensitivity, motor skills and creative imagination are developed.”

enfant porte des fournitures scolaires

The primary school is a period that plays a decisive role in the educational curriculum of each student. We therefore wish to pay particular attention to the development of fundamental learning (reading, writing, counting and respecting others). To do this, we have doubled the number of first, second and third grade classes and set up support classes for the students with the most difficulties. An awakening to culture, art, music and sports has also been reinforced. This basic foundation is essential to serenely apprehend the classes of CM1, CM2 and 6éme and reinforce the learning capacities of the children. Primary school is also a time when the child’s personal development must be actively encouraged. 

This is why at Bayon School we implement a pedagogy that focuses on the students and their individual abilities.

enfants de maternelles en classe
enfants essayent un instrument de musique
enfants en uniforme de sport célèbrent

The follow-up of students in secondary schools is facilitated by the opening of a Community Center on February 8, 2021. Within this new structure, students have access to support courses in Khmer literature, mathematics and English. An individualized follow-up is possible thanks to the presence of a social worker directly at the center. Beyond the academic follow-up, we are also committed to guiding the young people in their educational and professional path, because their professional project starts there! The implementation of a professional orientation process, occupation and training, will therefore help the students to make the right choice between accessing vocational training or university studies.

Distribution de matériels scolaires aux étudiants
rencontre avec les étudiants boursiers
distribution de matériels scolaires

Whether they want to be mechanics, bakers or nurses, we are here to help them realize their dream.

Job placement: an issue for the year 2020

Job placement: an issue for the year 2020

The Bayon School is facing a complicated problem: finding professional opportunities in a sector, which has been greatly impacted by the total halt of tourism in Cambodia. The students will graduate at the end of December 2020 and our role is help them achieve financial security once they leave our program.  

From family to employer

We train young women from disadvantaged backgrounds in bakery and pastry making, thanks to a practical and highly professional training that enables them to find a job quickly in a field that, until February 2020, was experiencing a boom. Our support does not stop at the graduation ceremony and we accompany the students to the door of their first employer. We also help them in their search for accommodation (usually a small shared room) as they cannot return to stay with their families, who live too far away and often have little understanding of the reality of the working world in which their daughters will be working. We therefore support our students each step of the way to ensure their safety during this transition phase.

 

la 6eme promotion de l'école de pâtisserie
filles sur des vélos

Partners who are going through the crisis

After 6 years of existence, and with more than 80 graduates, the school has acquired a certain reputation among the hotels and bakeries of Siem Reap. The top chefs of the town recognize the quality of the training program, coming regularly to choose students at the end of the year; 90% of jobs are generally found in the Siem Reap network. This year, because of the COVID crisis, 78% of the town’s hotels have closed or ceased operations. Our partners for internships and professional placements have no openings to offer us so we still have to find professional opportunities for the 26 students of the 6th promotion (one quarter more than in 2019).

Phnom Penh, a growing local market

Cambodia’s capital city is home to a growing wealthy population, with a middle class that frequents international hotels, cafes and restaurants. Bakery products are popular and more and more Cambodians are buying French bread or pastries. At the beginning of November, our teams went to Phnom Penh to meet potential future partners. Renowned companies such as the Thalias group (a chain of top French gourmet restaurants in Asia), Kayser bakeries (7 branches in Phnom Penh) and Brown Café (a chain of luxury coffee shops) have shown an interest and 9 openings are currently available. 5 other students have already found jobs in Battambang and Siem Reap.

The young girls are sometimes very apprehensive about going to the capital (traffic, cost of living, …) so we accompany them in this next major step in their lives, doing our best to help them integrate structures, which will take charge of their care and their meal expenses.

Etudiante de pâtisserie entrain de réaliser un dessert
étudiantes posent avec un bouquet
Chef juge étudiantes de pâtisserie

The 7th intake

The students of the 7th class of the Bayon school will start on January 4, 2021. We have made a strategic choice to recruit only 15 of them so as to respect the rules of social distancing but also to avoid the risk of training students, for whom we may be unable to find work. The Cambodian government forecasts 20,000 tourists for the year 2021; this may be the glimmer of hope much needed by the tourist industry in Cambodia.