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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!

The importance of a database

The importance of a database

Pinelopi, an intern at BED for 6 months, tells us about the database she created to centralize information about our beneficiaries. A task that at first glance seems obvious, but that turns out to be both complex, technical and vital to improve the quality of the programs we implement.

In September of 2020, I arrived at Bayon Education and Development to implement a project initially sought out by members of the social and health teams. The project? To develop and implement a database that would organize the data collected on beneficiaries as well as assist with the monitoring and evaluation needs of BED.

Database and its contents

The database was built using an online software called TeamDesk. A tool customized to reflect the needs of BED’s data collection and organization of three main components: social, health, and education.

Throughout their enrollment from kindergarten to grade 12, and in some cases university, beneficiaries are monitored by BED’s team of social workers, medical professionals and educators. The social, health and educational data collected by our teams are essential for proper monitoring of each beneficiary as well as for assessing the efficacy and impact of our programs. As a result, the database currently stores the social, health and education information of beneficiaries enrolled in our Primary School, Follow-up and University programs (372 students and 242 families).

Need for a data base

Prior to the implementation of the database, BED was seeking a way to improve the monitoring and evaluation strategies of beneficiaries and programs.

As information was collected by different teams, and previously stored in several unrelated Excel files, performing analyses across the different components of data collection was quite complicated. Additionally, it was challenging to share information between teams.

Lastly, new records were created every year, thus making it difficult to monitor students and families over time and get a sense of the impact and evolution of BED. Therefore, three basic needs were required of the new database: the ability to

  • Store and relate beneficiary data in one place,
  • Keep a history of collected data,
  • Analyze the collected data

Value & impact

Within the database, each student and family has a personal file that stores data collected by each team throughout their enrollment in BED. This has two important implications:

  • The team has access to a comprehensive file to monitor each student and family and
  • Information related to beneficiaries or a program can be monitored over the years.

 In addition to the impact on data organization and monitoring, the database has also influenced how each team collects their data. Teachers at the primary school can now record attendance and exam scores directly on their phone or a tablet, medical check-ups are recorded using a tablet, and social workers have the ability to update a family’s information at the time of their visit. This feature provides all teams with immediate access to updated information as it is collected.

Etudiants du programme follow-up
rencontre avec les étudiants boursiers

Lastly, information can also be organized in charts, graphs and figures. This enables BED’s management to derive insights on the performance of the different projects under its umbrella.

Implementation & future

As BED also aims to increase the skills of its staff, several training sessions have been given and the local teams are now autonomous in the use of the database.

Training of the staff

Although this project begins with three programs (primary, follow-up and university), the long-term objective would be to carry out data collection for all of BED’s programs on the database. Ultimately, the purpose of this database is to serve BED’s team and management in relating information across different data collection tasks and to improve the organization’s ability to track the evolution of beneficiaries and programs over the years to come.

It has been an incredible experience working with each person at BED to complete this project. To say the least, I believe it has been a learning experience for me as well as for all the team members who have had to adjust to a new tool for completing their work in support of children and families enrolled with BED.

More than an internship at Bayon, a personal journey

More than an internship at Bayon, a personal journey

The floor is given to François, trainee in the Green farming program, who looks back on his experience in Cambodia during which he put his skills at the service of the farmers we support.

As an intern in the Green Farming team since October, my mission is coming to an end in these last days of March. The transition with Laurane, a student-engineer in agronomy in her gap year, is going smoothly. She will take over for the next 6 months and will be the privileged interlocutor of the farmers we support. 

It is not without a pinch in the heart that I will greet the farmers one last time. Aware that what was my present will slowly slip away, as the days and years go by, into a vaporous memory. I will only have a few photos to bring back the moments shared with them, their laughter, their complaints and our exchanges. Many things were learned during my mission, of course they were theoretical and practical, having taught me a lot about agriculture in a tropical country, about project management or about the functioning of an association. But these learnings were also less tangible, because when they find their source in informal exchanges, in sharing and in the relationship with others, they nourish the individual and cannot be transcribed in the lines of a resume.

I would like to warmly thank the people I met during my stay, because they also contributed to my training. I think of the farmers who let me get involved in their daily life. I am thinking of Chorvin, my colleague whose laughter will echo in me for a long time, I am thinking of Camille, Tintin, Romain, Sakoth or Sreyleak.  It is also and especially through this human contact that I learned.

2 membres de l'ONG discute avec une bénéficiaire
Formation des agricultrices accompagnées par le programme

I am aware of my luck. I was able to live six months in Cambodia with these courageous women and committed colleagues. I was able to escape the difficult period that France is going through to dive into the maze of the temples of Angkor, but above all, I was born in the heart of this same country. Because even if it is sad or pathetic to go so far away to realize it, it is a unique chance that we have. Some situations in Cambodia remind us, sometimes brutally, that existence can also be a battle for some people. To be directly confronted with these testimonies or views, without the filter of distance, is quite corrosive. Seeing painful scenes or having access to the history of certain families, observing these difficulties whose multiplicity can make the thing common, one feels saddened, distressed, powerless and then, selfishly, one realizes how lucky we are to have a less painful life. So maybe that’s why, because our life is easier, simpler, we should commit ourselves and try to help those who need it in a modest way.

Formation des farmers

To finish, I wish Laurane to savor every moment here. To take the time to listen, to learn from the people she will meet. And I am sure that she will be able to integrate perfectly in Cambodia and that the project will make good progress during her presence!

So good luck Laurane!

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.

pastry-student
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
Sanitary Conditions

Sanitary Conditions

In 2020, the Bayon School would like to be even more proactive in helping the families of the primary pupils with their health and hygiene. As a result, the annual social visits of the families have been enriched with a health survey which will give us a more complete view of each individual situation and allow us to identify the priorities to be implemented in order to improve their sanitary conditions. Read on for details and the purpose of these visits, thanks to the account from Romain, our volunteer health advisor. Up until now, the association’s Health project has been reserved for the children, be it from the primary school, the Bakery school or the follow-ups in secondary school, and was organised around the annual medical visit by Jean-Pierre and MIchèle, our volunteer medical advisors. Based on their recommendations, those children who required treatment received dental and eye care thanks to partnerships with other health organisations. Any complex cases were registered and sent to the appropriate hospitals. The infirmary run by Jean-Pierre and Michèle during their visit was also very crowded. Last but not least, the hygiene kits were distributed every three months to all the pupils.

The Health team this year comprises Jean-Pierre, Michèle, Soky and me, volunteer for a year hoping to consolidate the health actions led by the Bayon School, and we are in the process of recruiting a school nurse.Our wish is now to reinforce, develop and, more importantly, open this Health project to the families. In order to achieve this target and to identify the priority areas for action, we decided to carry out a thorough analysis of the health and sanitary conditions in the families; we took advantage of the annual social visits to explore the theme of their health. The scope of the study was limited this time to the families of the primary school pupils.

A survey was drafted by both the social and health teams, with a certain number of areas to be explored: housing, access to water, maternal health, medical history, role of local beliefs, health care and care centres, medical costs.


Between December 2019 and March 2020, each of the 162 families of the primary school received a visit which enabled us to understand their situation and discuss their individual issues with them. Each visit was carried out by Jean-Pierre, our doctor and one of the three Khmer social workers, Soky, Chhein or Srotom. The families all welcomed the survey: they spoke openly about their difficulties and are now waiting for the solutions that we are hoping to provide.

Both the answers received to the survey and the visual observations during the visits are important. The information collected is essential to give us a clearer idea of the sanitary conditions that the primary school pupils return to, once the school day is finished.

The conclusions of this survey will be summarised in a report mid-April, giving us a clear view of the current situation and the strategy we will need to implement to improve it.


In the meantime, the first results are already available with, on the one hand, a number of common problems:

• Access to drinking water and clean toilets is not widespread;
• There are many miscarriages and induced abortions;
• Addictions (alcohol and cigarettes) are a major problem;
• Dental problems are significant, as are the number of cases of untreated high blood pressure.
• Finally, medication is haphazard and irregular with a failure to seek treatment, which can be linked to education, cost or the family organisation; this merits extremely close medical follow-up.

On the other hand, certain medical issues are particularly complex and will require an individual solution.