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 !
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.
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 Bayon social team carried out a survey early 2020 on 80 alumni with the following aims:
- Analysing the impact of the pastry/baking training in the employability of the young women
- Noting their personal satisfaction in their current job
- 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:
- 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.
- The average wage for our former students, across the five different intakes, is $190 per month.
- 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.