Ronouch, Social and Health Program Coordinator: a key role with our beneficiaries

Ronouch, Social and Health Program Coordinator: a key role with our beneficiaries

Ronouch is the new coordinator of the social and health program at the Primary school. She tells us about her daily life and the actions she carries out throughout the year, including the annual family visit.

What are the main actions you implement in the Primary school?

Distribution Kits d'Hygiènes Ecole primaire

At the Primary school, I am involved in many different things. I take part in the class councils that take place every term to review the needs of each student and the results of the evaluations. I also take care of the health and hygiene follow-up of each student (management of the annual budget for the purchase of hygiene kits, management of the distribution of the kits, working with the partner clinics and hospitals, facilitating and organizing the stay of the children who are treated outside of Siem Reap province).

I support and stimulate the good attendance of the students by making a regular control of the absences and I encourage them in their learning by trying to find a more professional solution if the student does not want to come to school anymore.

My role is also to supervise and coordinate the recruitment of students for the Bayon Primary school (collecting applications, selecting students), to ensure the annual visit of families (creating a schedule of visits to families’ homes, filling in the database, reporting back to the Primary school team), to engage families in the process of their child’s schooling through meetings, workshops, and food or medication support when needed.

Can you explain the annual family visit that takes place each year?

We conduct the family visit once a year. During the academic year 2021-2022, we have 253 students and 184 families with an average of 2 children in our program. The purpose of this visit is to learn more about the family situation of our beneficiaries and its evolution in order to determine their social level for the new school year. At the end of all the visits, a meeting with the whole team is organized to present the social situation of each family and thus establish a social level.

What questions are asked to determine this social level?

We have 6 kinds of questions to ask each family in order to analyze their social level.

First, we ask them questions about the family, how many members are there in the family now, have there been any births or deaths? Do they have a job now and if so, what is it? Are the family members in good health?

Then come the questions about the housing and their different belongings, to know with what kind of materials are their houses built? How is their sanitary installation? How do they have access to water? Do they have access to electricity? Do they have their own field or land next to their home and what is the price? How big is their house and land? How many motorcycles do they have? Do they have animals? Do they have a car, tractor or other vehicle?

Finally, there are questions about income and expenses. We seek to establish an average of their material and financial assets that allow us, at the end of the visit, to match these answers to our criteria and thus evaluate their current standard of living.

How does each visit work?

Ronouch en visite chez une famille

First of all, we have to establish a schedule of annual visits with the date and time. We always try to combine the visits of families who live in the same village. Three to four visits are scheduled per half day and we visit each family’s home. After we finish visiting the families, we present the results during an evaluation meeting to discuss the social level of each family and to inform each team member of the situation of each family.

What is the most challenging part of these visits?

As the families are all scattered in villages around the temples of Angkor, it is sometimes difficult to remember where our 184 beneficiaries live knowing that they have no postal addresses. The area of the temples is a huge forest whose ground is not always easy to master. It takes time to get to know them better and always warn them of our visit beforehand.

What are some ways families can contact you to report a complicated situation?

When I took over as the Health and Social Program Coordinator at the Primary school, I introduced myself to each family and gave them a number to contact me at any time. If I am not reachable, the family can always contact the Primary school team and they will pass the information on to me.

A significant improvement in the hygiene, health and nutrition of students.

A significant improvement in the hygiene, health and nutrition of students.

Jean-Pierre and Michèle, our referring doctors, look back on their last 4 months at the Bayon School, after 2 long years impacted by the Covid. How are the children doing and what are the current projects? 

Like every year we come for several months to provide medical care for our students. We expected to measure the impact of the Covid crisis which has resulted in the loss of jobs for the majority of parents.

This was not the case. We have seen a steady growth in all children and no signs of undernutrition.

This good result comes from the food aid that the Bayon School has provided since the appearance of Covid to families who had no income. It consisted of monthly rice and various foods (eggs, noodles, oil, salt, …) and weekly vegetables thanks to the purchase of a part of the production of our farmers. This aid, still in progress, has been made possible thanks to a call for donations.

A better hygiene

During the annual examination, a decrease in dental lesions was noted. This good result comes from the regular care that has been put in place thanks to the help of a dentist who has been treating our students for several years at very advantageous rates. The brushing of the teeth that we do after lunch has also contributed to these good results but there is still progress to be made by involving teachers, social workers and nurses.

Showers have also been installed to allow children who arrive at school dirty to wash themselves and put on a clean uniform. This allows them to be aware of a better hygiene and a decrease of skin infections which were numerous since several years.

Educating children is not enough. It is also necessary to get the parents to adhere. We had planned to carry out health hygiene workshops with the parents. Unfortunately, the governmental sanitary rules linked to the Covid epidemic did not allow us to implement them, the access to the school for parents and large gatherings being forbidden.

Access to water for all

During the major medical survey that allowed us to visit 160 families in 2019, we noticed that many families did not have access to drinking water, which led to digestive problems. Many of them consumed water directly from the borehole without boiling it, others bought purified water, which represented a significant cost for them.

We therefore decided to allocate a sand filter, in priority to the poorest families. They were provided by Water for Cambodia, an NGO financed mainly by the Rotary Club. A small fee was charged so that everyone could take ownership of their filter. By 2021, we have installed 29 filters and by 2022, 33 are planned. Before the installation of the sand filters, families are brought together to explain how they work. In case of problems, free maintenance is provided by Water for Cambodia. In addition, our social team, during its regular visits, checks the use and the good functioning of it.

In order to improve hygiene we have proceeded to install individual toilets with the same NGO. In 2021, 9 latrines have been installed, in 2022, 14 are planned or in progress. As the houses are located on archeological sites close to Angkor Wat, we have to obtain authorizations for installation, sometimes after long and difficult approaches.

Emergency medical interventions

The school nurse’s office allows for medical examinations and daily care (wounds, skin infections, various traumas, …). For more serious cases, we are lucky enough to have 2 very good pediatric hospitals nearby, which are completely free of charge.

In order to take care of serious pathologies among our families or students over 15 years old, a special medical fund has been set up for the past 3 years.

We have been able to take care of a student from the pastry school who had a broken tibia that was not well consolidated and would have quickly led to knee arthritis. She had surgery in Phnom Penh and was able to walk normally, thus enabling her to work.

Over a year ago, one of our students presented with a bowel obstruction that could not be managed at the pediatric hospital due to his age. A double intervention was necessary and this young teenager ended up with a colostomy bag. No surgeon in Siem Reap had a solution other than a permanent iliac anus. Fortunately, we were able to find a surgeon in Phnom Penh who was able to perform a difficult operation, allowing him to return to a normal life. Currently all is well and this young boy has been able to regain his spirit and smile!

At the end of our 4-month mission, we were able to examine 430 students (elementary school, secondary school and vocational training). The necessary dental, ophthalmological and ENT care is underway and managed by our nurse and social workers. The existence of a medical database where the results of the examinations and the care provided are stored, allows us to follow the progress of the health program from France until our return next November.

Sponsoring the Bayon School – Why?

Sponsoring the Bayon School – Why?

The Bayon school welcomed its first pupils in the primary school almost 20 years ago in 1993 and over the years, our association has grown and diversified. A program to accompany students in secondary school, a pastry and bakery school, training in agro-ecology, development of income-generating activities for the families of the students… all of this has been made possible thanks to the precious support of a group of people: our godfathers, godmothers and sponsors.

They started out as a small group of about twenty;  now they form a community of more than 450. The Bayon School is a big family, in which each person plays a role: from the volunteers, to Thorth, our executive director, to the occasional donor. The sponsors play a central role in this wonderful picture because they not only bring our projects to life, but also support them in the long term. Accountants, artists, school teachers, from Paris to the small villages of the Vaucluse, London or Singapore, so many different profiles that constitute the primary strength of our projects.

Our gratitude is immense and thanking these men and women is a priority for us. Our regular exchanges with them allow us to maintain strong links over the years. An updated presentation of our projects every other month, a newsletter which discusses fundamental issues every quarter, a direct link with news from the field on social networks and through direct exchange with our communication manager… We do everything possible to place them at the heart of our projects. Authenticity and sincerity are the key words of this relationship which allows us to provide quality education to children living within the Angkor temples.

By sponsoring the Bayon School, they have decided to support this quality education, entirely free of charge for more than 450 young people, taking care of all the basic needs which are necessary to the proper development of children/students. While a quality education is essential to progress in life, it is at least as important to foster personal development through recreational, cultural and sports activities.  This is why we have integrated various activities into the school curriculum, from physical activity to cultural and artistic awareness.

You too can take part in this magnificent web of human links (participation from 13€ per month). All the information about sponsorship and other ways of support on our website:

Four lessons to be learned from this exceptional year

Four lessons to be learned from this exceptional year

Thorth, Vantha, Rithy, Sakoth and Soky come back with their words on these last two years and on what lessons they have learned. What tools will we keep in the future? What did we learn?

Resilience, solidarity and adaptability: these are the terms that have guided their work and become the driving force behind their commitment.

Lesson #1: Learn to anticipate to better apprehend

If you ask Thorth, Deputy Executive Director of the Bayon School, what he remembers about the past year, his first words are “unpredictable” and “stressful”. Indeed, his main goal over the past few months has been “to make sure that we would be able to maintain the education of all our students at a stable level: we had to consider which were the essential actions where we needed to mobilize our efforts and which were the ones where we could slow down, to make sure that we would be able to meet this goal, despite the situation.” 

He explains that we had to consult, debate and make decisions to respond to the emergency, without knowing how the crisis would evolve: “This taught me to analyze and question myself more about future issues in order to anticipate this type of situation as well as possible, even though they are exceptional.”

“We learned to adapt quickly and to find a solution to each problem, thanks to the commitment of the entire team: the challenge was to move forward day after day and to think about our actions in the short term to ensure an optimal efficiency.”

Thorth, Deputy Executive Director.

Lesson #2: Communicate better to be aware of each other’s needs

The implementation of online courses within our training and the obligation to visit our primary school students in the villages made us realize that it was essential to be aware of everyone’s needs.

“We became aware of everyone’s needs because we were with them on a daily basis, in their villages and their environment. We were able to discuss with the parents, especially those whose children are having the most difficulty. Today, this allows us to go back to school knowing which students we need to follow more closely, even though we are back to functioning normally.”

Vantha, Primary School Director.

The development of online education – Zoom, YouTube and Telegram – means that our baking school students have been able to use these different communication channels to stay in constant contact with our teams and their peers. Sokly, our pastry teacher, and Rithy, the new director of the pastry school, were therefore never disconnected from the reality of each one, quite the contrary.

“Each platform had its purpose. Zoom was a way to discuss together any questions related to the courses but also a space where students could hear and exchange with each other. YouTube allowed students to review at their own rhythm and to prepare their questions for our online meetings. Finally, Telegram was our main tool to discuss more informal, but all the more important, subjects at this time: how they are feeling, their emotions about the crisis and how we can help them. It allowed us to stay connected with them and for them to feel that we were listening to them.”

Rithy, Pastry School Director.

Lesson #3: Focus on short and local circuits

When the town of Siem Reap closed and all activities were suspended, the Vegetable Garden Project team was faced with a major dilemma: how to sell the vegetables produced by our farmers and avoid losses? 

Most of the farmers could no longer move between villages while the vegetable production was increasing. They had no way of selling their vegetables and we needed to find solutions. Working with the social team and the follow up team, we decided to buy back the vegetables and then redistribute them to our beneficiary families. They were therefore assured of having an income to take care of their families and we were assured that our beneficiaries would have something to eat despite the loss of their jobs,” said Sakoth, manager of the vegetable garden project and the agro-ecology school. “This project has strengthened the work of our farmers and made them aware of the role they play in Bayon’s chain of support. They are increasingly motivated to learn and to become more involved, so that it benefits everyone.” 

From a more global perspective, the complete absence of tourists has had a considerable impact on our activities, mainly that of the Coffee Shop. For Thorth, it was the opportunity to rethink our relationship with the local population, so that we would not be completely dependent on tourists. “The closure of the Coffee Shop was not easy to manage since its income finances our pastry training program. We had to find new solutions. Today, we would like to develop local products so that we can serve a local clientele and increase our visibility in Siem Reap.

Sreyleak, Coffee Shop Manager.

Lesson #4: Working better as a team for greater efficiency

The social team, in constant contact with our students and their families, has been at the heart of our actions for many months. Their work has been essential in following up with our families and responding effectively to the emergency. Soky, head of the social team, is proud of the work accomplished by her colleagues.

“We had to work hand in hand and it was not always easy. We had to think about our actions as a team, to divide the tasks. We realized what needed to be done and had to prepare ourselves to be more effective in the field. I’m really proud of our work; we’ve been busy, it has been hard work, but we have never stopped thinking about the families and the children.”

Soky, Social Team Manager.

Outside the Bayon School team, it was also necessary to work closely with the local authorities, as it was difficult to get around. “We worked jointly with the village and community chiefs. They often acted as a relay between our beneficiaries and our teams, which allowed us to keep in touch, even when we could not move between areas,” explains Thorth.

What we remember from that time is the force of teamwork: we can help each other to help those most in need. The team is more close-knit now than ever before.

Emergency food baskets to face a growing crisis

Emergency food baskets to face a growing crisis

In March 2020, the COVID outbreak was spreading rapidly around the world and, one by one, countries were closing their borders in an attempt to stop the inevitable pandemic. Cambodia was no exception. On March 9, 2020, all schools in Cambodia closed and the country completely banned tourists from entering. The last foreigners in the country left the Kingdom and the country’s economy was severely affected.

Since September 2020, the situation in Cambodia had returned to a semblance of “normality”, but today the country has, once again, been hit hard by the COVID-19 outbreak. On March 21 2021, we had to close the doors of the primary school, the vocational training in Bakery/Pastry and now the one in Agroecology yet again. Our students were compelled to return home. Faced with the resurgence of COVID cases, measures have been tightened and the town of Siem Reap experienced its first two-week lockdown before regaining freedom, tempered by sanitary measures (curfew, social distancing…). However, schools are still waiting for a potential reopening.

While these initiatives are helping to curb the spread of the pandemic, they are also severely impacting the lives of our families and students. Usually fed twice a day at Elodie’s Canteen, the children rarely receive the same food rations at home, especially since the country has been completely emptied of tourists and a large number of Cambodians have lost their jobs for over a year now. An insidious consequence of this new interruption is the economic burden it represents for families who have already lost their main source of income.

To mitigate the effects of the crisis on our beneficiaries, we had set up weekly food distributions as early as March 2020. The Bayon mobilized resources in order to buy back part of the vegetable production cultivated by the farms we support in the framework of the green farming program, in order to give them back, free of charge, each week to the families of our beneficiaries. This initiative amounted to no less than 300 kg of vegetables per week and allowed these hard-working women to continue generating an income, whilst providing a variety of food to the beneficiaries’ families. For those who had seen their living conditions deteriorate severely because of the crisis, bi-monthly distributions of rice were also carried out, the quantity of which was determined based on the number of people in the household.

Today, faced with a situation that persists and worsens every day, this assistance is no longer sufficient to ensure a decent diet for most of the families we support. This is why we have decided to reinforce the distribution of vegetables, to extend the distribution of rice to all our beneficiaries and to offer food supplements in the form of emergency meal baskets. At a minimum, this initiative will be maintained until the reopening of schools in order to relieve the families, who must now take charge of these additional meals.  It will also ensure that children always have the resources they need for their proper development.

Because healthy eating and family support are key factors in a child’s success in school, we will always strive to provide them with the means to feed themselves and live with dignity.

The Bayon School, from experience to learning

The Bayon School, from experience to learning

The floor is given to Romain, who has been in charge of the health and social project for more than a year and a half at the Bayon School, and whose adventure is ending today. He talks about his journey, his experience and what he has learned here in Cambodia.

After more than a year and a half at Bayon School, it is time for me to close this chapter and start a new one, with other projects in France.

It is with a heavy heart that I am writing these few words about my experience. And with sadness that I will leave this wonderful country! I will not see the schools open again, where the children – running, playing, shouting, laughing – are happy to be at school. Where these young women, studying for a better future, share moments of complicity, despite the language barrier. These are joyful memories, which date already from several months ago, but which I will cherish for many years to come. Then, because the Cambodians, who have suffered so terribly in the not-so-distant past and who are now facing a new crisis, have taught me so much about life, happiness, sadness… Always smiling, they overcome difficulties where many others would have already failed. Thanks to them, I look at the future with fresh eyes and a different way of thinking!

As Bayon School is an agile and reactive structure, I have been lucky to work on all the programs of the NGO. I started by carrying out a diagnosis of the health project and coordinating the sports and artistic activities at the primary school. I also worked closely with the social team, developing the new database which stores the beneficiaries’ social, health and education information. And finally, I was in charge of the cooperation project between BED and PSE Siem Reap. I have enjoyed working with all my colleagues – each one more involved than the other – who keep this beautiful story of Bayon School alive.

I am not saying that everything was easy. A new culture, and new working methods, far from the French way of thinking and from my first professional experience. I had to adapt, but what a great personal achievement. What a reward to see the realization of projects, which have been imagined, conceived and implemented side-by-side with the Cambodians.

Then came COVID-19, where everything has been disrupted. 3-year plans have been discarded, projects have been turned upside down, priorities have changed and actions have been readjusted on a daily basis. The pedagogical teams have tested and innovated in order to find all possible solutions to limit the educational delay caused by the school closures. The social and health team has worked hard to provide the necessary help to the families, with rice, vegetables with the help of the green farming team, as well as medical support… For this, we must give them a special mention. In spite of a situation that is clearly improving in France, with restrictions being lifted one by one, let’s not forget that this virus continues to cause havoc in other regions of the world, unfortunately among the poorest populations. Here in Cambodia, despite the low number of cases and deaths for the moment, the education of a generation is being sacrificed… Inequalities, already glaring, will increase. The future looks complex. More than ever, the role of Bayon School will be indispensable.

But, in every crisis, there are opportunities to seize; for Siem Reap, a new touristic model will emerge and benefit the greatest number. For Bayon School, this extremely difficult period has made our NGO more resilient, our teams more united, for the benefit of the beneficiaries.

Despite the sadness of the departure and the apprehension of my return to France, I measure the road travelled with pride. Proud to have put my skills to good use for the most underprivileged. Proud to have succeeded in integrating myself into this multicultural environment. Proud to have contributed to all these beautiful projects.

In conclusion, I wish the best to all current and future students of Bayon School, be they at the primary school or in the Follow-up program; be they in university or in vocational training. I know they will be supported to the best of their abilities by the team to help them achieve their dreams.

 I would also like to thank all my colleagues, members of the Bayon family here in Cambodia, for their warm welcome and generosity. I will not forget you and I will continue to follow your many successes from afar!