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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.

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.

A year like no other at the Bayon School

A year like no other at the Bayon School

As the year 2020 comes to an end, so does the school year for our primary and bakery/pastry schools. It has been a complicated 12 months, during which our students and teams have been seriously challenged. We have had to adapt, reinvent ourselves and act quickly in the face of a crisis, the impact of which no one could have foreseen. Even though the situation is far from being “normal” again, we have come out of it stronger, enriched and eager to keep innovating in order to provide a better education for those in need.

Let’s look back at the actions and successes of our schools

In September 2019, we welcome our 6th class of students at the Pastry School with 26 young girls; a number, which has been constantly rising since the opening of the school. The new laboratory intended to free up space and reinforce our bakery teaching is almost finished and we are delighted to be able to start the new year in optimal conditions to train more and better. In 2018/2019, we manage to self-finance almost 55% of the school’s costs, thanks to the Coffee Shop’s income, and we are doing our utmost to welcome tourists and visitors to do, if not just as well, even better. The hygiene teaching program is reviewed with a food safety specialist and English classes are reinforced with the launch of a partnership with the Australian Center for English.

des enfans mangent à la cantine

In October 2019, 232 students are enrolled in the Bayon primary school and 120 middle and high school students continue their studies, whilst being accompanied on a monthly basis by our teams with educational and social follow-up. The primary-aged children discover the new sit-down breakfast with a hot meal from 6:45 a.m. The art-culture-sport program is reinforced with traditional puppet classes and one and a half hours a week are dedicated to sports. In February, 30 pupils participate in the inter-school sports championship and win 2 medals; a very proud moment for all involved! Support classes for pupils with difficulties continue and the project for a building dedicated to small group teaching is on the road to completion.

In November 2019, the number of “farmer” families in the Bayon increases to 11, as three new families join the vegetable garden project. This project allows these women farmers to earn additional income and 90% of the vegetables bought for the canteen are now organic.

Cooperation with the association Pour un Sourire d’Enfant (For a Child’s Smile) kicks off and together we launch a major collaborative project to create a field for experimentation in agroecology. Projects such as planting fruit trees and medicinal plants, building above-ground cultivation tables, creating compost and installing an irrigation system mean that this land will become the home to our future agroecology school with its first 10 students in January 2021. At the same time, and in partnership with the NGO Vivre de sa Terre, the 10-month training of the future teachers starts and the team fine-tunes the curriculum.

Une agricultrice montre ses cultures

From December 2019, the families receive a visit from our medical and social teams to assess their sanitary conditions and medical needs. 156 families are interviewed and a major study is conducted to define an action plan to be implemented with our families.

Adapting to the Covid

On March 9, 2020, all schools in the country close their doors and, by the end of March, the last repatriation planes send the last remaining tourists back home. Our students return to their families and our younger pupils are kept away from the school. Disheartened at the beginning, we have to react quickly to help our families face this crisis, not knowing how long it will last.

enfant porte un masque à l'école
des légumes et du riz sont distribués aux familles

All the vegetables produced by the farmers are bought by the NGO and distributed every week free of charge to the families of our pupils, who are no longer being fed morning and night at the canteen. Our social team visits the families at home to analyze the impact of COVID on them: those identified as being in great difficulty receive rice. Distance-learning and very small group-teaching starts in April and in July we receive a donation of smartphones to improve access to online courses for our pastry students. Our teams put in motion the different projects: redesigning the website, painting the walls of the Coffee Shop, studying the situation of our alumni pastry school students, launching a database to regroup all the social, medical and pedagogical information of the students, training for the farmers and precise monitoring of the quantities of vegetables, which just keep on increasing.

tous les enfants de l'école primaire

Bounce back and move forward

All of these actions have made it possible to accompany our families and maintain a pedagogical follow-up, avoiding, as a result, too much delay with the school programs. Some families returned temporarily to their home villages to work the land as they had lost their jobs. The Cambodian people are proving to be resilient and strong in the face of this crisis and we hope that economic and tourist activity can resume as soon as possible to recreate jobs for those who really need them.

photo de groupe de la 6ème promotion
Coffee Shop : self-finance

Coffee Shop : self-finance

Bayon Pastry School was created in 2014. Our first intake was composed of ten young women, all from underprivileged backgrounds in Siem Reap province. As the first year of our training ended successfully, it seemed essential to increase our capacity to make it accessible to a greater number of young women and families in need. The idea was to make this vocational training sustainable.

In 2015, Bayon Pastry School’s Coffee Shop opened its doors. The objective was to self-finance a part of our pastry vocational training. Pastries, viennoiseries and all kinds of breads are produced every day. The recipes are carefully elaborated by our Khmer chef Sokhoeurn Morn, also pastry school director. Her creations are then cooked by the production team mainly composed of former students of the school.The students, on the other hand, receive daily instruction in our two lab: pastry and bakery. They also learn, through the coffee shop, the basics of waitressing. Since its opening, the coffee shop has grown steadily and can now accommodate 30 people. It is now one of the most famous coffee place in Siem Reap city for its pastries but above all, for its quiet environment. This “corner of heaven” is sheltered from the hubbub of Siem Reap and its famous noisy “pub street”. To allow a good service, the coffee shop now counts 3 waitresses and 3 young girls work in the kitchen.

The pastry school also receives orders from restaurants, hotels and spas of Siem Reap. With a dozen regular customers, we are currently able to deliver different varieties of breads and pastries every day across the city. Among them are Bodia Spa, hotels Mémoire, Maison Polanka or even Sala Lodges and restaurants Bakong, Georges Rhumerie or Le Bel Air.
In summary, from 3 years, the coffee shop sales has been enabling us to self-finance 47% of the budget of the pastry school. This last year 2018/2019, we even reached a rate of more than 50% of contribution. And 23 students benefit from our baking and pastry training for free thanks to the Coffee Shop incomes!

Another great way to get involved with our association, another way of giving : a good cake for a good cause !

Bayon school – Dealing with COVID-19

It has now been close to four months that COVID-19 has spread across the planet. Even if Cambodia has officially registered very few cases and no deaths, the country has not been spared and its population is suffering from the loss of jobs and the lack of tourist activity. Bayon School is doing their best to help the families during this unprecedented crisis.

Support the families – The first urgency

Since mid-March, no tourist has been allowed to enter the country and the large majority of the hotels, restaurants and spas have closed, leaving thousands of workers with no jobs and no compensation from the Cambodian government. Many of our families have been affected, losing their primary source of income which allowed them to meet the basic needs of 8-10 people. Furthermore, the children who used to go to school were being fed breakfast and lunch at the canteen, one thing less for the parents or grandparents to provide. Now they are at home and need feeding by their families, adding an additional charge.

Faced with this critical situation, Bayon School reacted quickly. From Week 1, all the vegetables grown by the famers invested in the Green Project were bought by the NGO and then distributed free of charge to the parents of our pupils. This guaranteed a salary for these women farmers and the insurance that the children would continue to eat healthy vegetables. In addition, our social teams studied the families very closely and we started distributing rice to those in desperate need from the second week after the school closure. Special thanks to our donors and the company AMRU Rice for their precious support, which allowed us to finance the rice and vegetables.

Closure of the Pastry School and Coffee Shop – What happens next?

At the Pastry School, we had to send our 26 students back to their families and, as a result and out of obligation, close the shop. The Coffee Shop of the Bayon Pastry School, opened more than 4 years ago, covers 50 % of the budget required for the pastry/baking training programme. Its closure means a significant loss of income for the NGO, which we have been able, in part, to compensate through the generosity of our donors. After two weeks of adjustment and holidays for the catering staff, we put in place several projects in preparation for the re-opening: inventory, storage, planting in the gardens, painting the walls, Spring cleaning, … In the end, the team was very busy. In addition, Sokhouern and Sokly developed a brand-new range of bread with no fewer than 10 new references for sale in our future bakery. They had the time to test new recipes to ensure a wide range of products that we will be able to offer the hotels and restaurants once they can re-open. Finally, since the end of April, the teachers have put in place online lessons for our students, who, each day, receive videos and telephone calls to keep them up to date and help them revise their lessons.

Social follow-up, survey and report

Our social teams have been very committed during this period. They worked firstly on identifying the families with the most difficulties in order to help them in the best way possible. This crisis has also given us the possibility to take a big step back and analyse the impact of our actions on the children and their education. A further study was led with the alumni of the Pastry School, with the aim of updating the details of our former students, analyzing their career paths and reviewing their situation one to five years after graduating.

And our communication?

We have launched the huge undertaking of redoing the website for Bayon School. It will be revealed soon! And we are trying, as best we can, to stay in touch with all the friends of Bayon School, who, we know, stand by our side. An enormous thank you for your help which has allowed us to manage this crisis and help our families as much as possible. We hope to reopen the schools very soon and see again the happy, smiling faces of our pupils as they play outside.

Professionnal Training – Where are our former students?

Between 2014 and 2019, our Pastry school has seen 5 intakes of students and 80 young women have graduated from our professional training programme. What have they become? Let’s take a look at their different paths and their current situation in a Cambodia which is booming, but where there are still many disparities..

The Survey

The Bayon social team carried out a survey early 2020 on 80 alumni with the following aims:

  1. Analysing the impact of the pastry/baking training in the employability of the young women
  2. Noting their personal satisfaction in their current job
  3. Understanding the level of income that they earn in order to live a decent life.

Out of 80 alumni, 65 took part in the survey (by telephone or via an online form), which represents 81% of our former students.

Here are some key figures:

  1. 86% of the students questioned are currently in employment with 14% not working (unemployed, maternity leave or further studies at university). Three quarters of them work in Siem Reap.
  2. The average wage for our former students, across the five different intakes, is $190 per month.
  3. None of those surveyed plans to change jobs and 9 out of 10 are fully satisfied with the skills acquired during the training programme in Bayon Pastry School. They have also confirmed that these skills are extremely useful on a day-to-day basis.

82% of the former students surveyed are currently working in the hotel & restaurant sector and so are using the skills they acquired in Bayon daily.

A reasonable wage in Cambodia.

Although Cambodia introduced a legal minimum wage of $170 (for the textile sector) in January 2018, a large majority of the population does not earn that amount. The students who graduate from the Bayon Pastry School are generally recruited at an average wage of $163 for the first year. This wage increases quite quickly and they can earn up to 15% more in their second year.

The average wage of the graduates surveyed is 190 $/month (excluding those who are not currently working). We can see a clear link between the years of experience and the salaries which increase by 40% over 5 years. When asked “Can you live comfortably and without extra help on your salary?”, 3% (2 graduates) confirmed that they were living comfortably and 89% thought that they were just scraping by.

Meeting their own needs and supporting their families.

The data above illustrates how precarious the situation is for the families of our graduates: many have debts to pay back and as soon as a member of the family can meet his/her own needs with a regular wage, he/her must support the family. Of the 65 alumni questioned, 61 indicated that they were sending money back to their family each month. The amounts for 75% of them varied from $50 to 150$ per month; in other words, up to half of their wage.

KOLA – Former student, training a new student at her new job.

The Role of Bayon School.

Our role is to train young women for a practical profession which will allow them to access the workplace quickly, where they can earn a decent, sustainable wage. For most of them, a large chunk of this salary will be sent to their family, which gives our young graduates the impression that they are just scraping by. However, we do need to remind them that our training programme is relatively new, but that the salaries do increase over the years with experience: +40% over 5 years. Most importantly, we need to remind them that it is the whole family which is better off; brothers and sisters who can go to school, grandparents who can get medical treatment and women who can be proud of having brought about this change.