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.

Bees for the Bayon School’s moms

Bees for the Bayon School’s moms

Launched in 2021 by UNESCO and Guerlain, the Women for Bees program, whose godmother is Angelina Jolie, aims to promote beekeeping around the world while strengthening the role of women in their communities.

Before having a social dimension, the program is mainly focused on the protection and repopulation of bees, responsible for 90% of the pollination of wild flowers worldwide. Today threatened by climate change, UNESCO plans to install 2500 beehives in 25 biosphere reserves around the world: in France, Italy, Bulgaria, Slovenia, Russia, Ethiopia, Rwanda, China and Cambodia. Indeed, the Tonle Sap region is one of the largest biosphere reserves today and the majestic forest surrounding the temples of Angkor is an ideal place for their development.

The initiative aims to study the benefits of pollination while putting women at the heart of the action. A predominantly male profession, the Women for Bees program encourages women to be “change makers” by becoming beekeepers. The training takes place over several weeks and consists of teaching these women the techniques of sustainable beekeeping, encouraging them to learn and become true experts in the field, before being able to extend their knowledge to others.

In Cambodia, the challenge is to protect the wild bees of the country, regrouping 4 species in total, where in France only one species exists. Eric Guérin, a French biologist and specialist in the conservation of wild Asian bees and sustainable beekeeping, is in charge of the program in Siem Reap and is training six women to become beekeepers, working with one of the Asian bee species that exists here, “apis cerana”. Of these 6 women, 4 are mothers whose children are at the Bayon School.

“Beyond learning technical skills, this training is an opportunity for them to empower themselves by realizing that they are finally capable of doing it. All of them, the first time, and as is often the case in Cambodia among the most underprivileged populations, especially women, answer that they will not know how to do it, or that they don’t have the means to learn. And in the end, they themselves were surprised by their ability to learn about the subject.” explains Eric, who works with them every week in the field.

Located in the temples of Angkor, these future beekeepers are all from underprivileged backgrounds, a selection criterion to be part of the project: if objective number 1 is to preserve bees, a fragile symbol of a planet damaged by climate change, objective number 2, just as important, is to strengthen the skills of women around the world by involving them in the preservation of a sustainable environment.

Eric explains that over the course of the weeks, they have changed: “The women I have in front of me today are not the same as they were four months ago. They have gained confidence, they express themselves freely, they give their opinion. Their transformation is remarkable, as is their desire to learn.”

They have, more than others, an important role to play, especially when we know that they are the first to be impacted by global warming throughout the world (UNDP), and that the consequences of these disruptions lead to inequalities indirectly related to gender issues and social oppressions that women around the world are facing today (United Nations).

At the end of the training given by Eric Guérin, our beekeepers will work together with some of the guides of the Angkor temples to offer tourists a visit of their hives and an awareness session on the preservation of bees around the world. This activity will also allow them to generate a complementary income to their daily activities, thus improving their current living conditions.

“The tour of the apiaries by tourists will be very important, because it will allow these women to see that what they do is of interest to people all over the world, that they have things to contribute, and that what they have mastered now, few people know how to do as well.”

Angelina Jolie recently came to visit them on their grounds to encourage them and see their progress. This is an incredible chance for them to affirm themselves and gain confidence in their communities.

It is also an opportunity for these women to share their knowledge with the youth and adults of the Bayon School who surround them and to help others to rise up around them.

Written by Pénélope Hubert, communication manager at Bayon School.

The Bayon farmers’ project is evolving: Towards the marketing of their vegetables!

The Bayon farmers’ project is evolving: Towards the marketing of their vegetables!

Launched in 2018, the Potager project aimed to train primary school mothers in organic farming. Thanks to volunteers and members of Bayon, a dozen women have (re)learned to cultivate their garden. Eggplant, squash, tomatoes, chili pepper… Year after year, our farmers gain in skills and autonomy. They have seen their production increase and their living conditions improve. Since the beginning of the project, Bayon has been helping them to market their production.

This year, in order to provide them with additional income and to showcase their products, we launched the sale of baskets of their vegetables at the Coffee Shop of the Bayon Pastry School.

An intensive monoculture

According to the World Bank, Cambodia’s agricultural sector contributes 22% of the gross domestic product. Rice accounts for more than half of Cambodia’s agricultural products and makes Cambodia one of the top 10 rice exporters in the world. In contrast, Cambodian fruit and vegetable production meets only 30% of local demand. The rest is mainly imported from Thailand and Vietnam.

With a predominantly rural population (76.6% in 2018) and a third of its people living on less than $1 a day, Cambodia faces problems that European agriculture has faced before. Most farmers are smallholders cultivating less than 2 hectares of land per household.

In order to meet the growing demand and due to lack of knowledge of alternatives, most vegetables and fruits are grown intensively and with many chemical inputs. The massive use of these pesticides combined with the monoculture of rice, prevents the regeneration of soils and leads to a decrease in the yields of current products. The Minister of Agriculture is slowly beginning to take into account the challenges of intensive agriculture in Cambodia, but concrete solutions are not yet available.

The place of women in rural areas

In developing countries, women play a major role in managing their households and communities to provide food security and improve overall living conditions. Nevertheless, they face many difficulties, especially in terms of human rights and income equality. They have limited access to education and very little independence, which does not facilitate their evolution within society.

Rural women represent nearly 43% of the agricultural workforce. Unfortunately, these women farmers are considered “unpaid or contributing family workers“. They therefore have a much smaller source of income than men, which does not allow them to increase the yield of their farms. It is therefore important to rethink this financial system in order to meet the needs of these women who contribute fully to the life of their households and to enable them to become more emancipated.

The creation of the Vegetable Garden Project at the Bayon School

At the Bayon School, the transmission of the principles of agroecology to the families of the children attending our primary school seemed to us to be a viable and effective solution in the long term. That’s why, since February 2018, eleven vegetable gardens have been set up in the gardens of the families we support.

The initial objective of the creation of these vegetable gardens was to provide Élodie’s canteen (primary school canteen with 250 students at lunchtime) with locally grown and pesticide-free vegetables, while allowing the families to generate additional income. Bayon then set up vegetable distributions to help families during the Covid-19 outbreak and organized partnerships with supermarkets like Farmer Market.

In 2021, 17.6 tons of vegetables were sold. This represents a 35% increase over the previous year. This vegetable production generated $13,350 in revenue primarily from the vegetable distribution set up during Covid-19 (70%), the primary school and bakery canteens (20%), and the Farmer Market in Siem Reap (10%).

In August 2022, we will end food assistance, hoping that our families’ economic situation will have stabilized. It is therefore necessary to find other sources of income for our farmers.

One solution among others: Selling vegetable baskets

In order to diversify the sources of income, we set up on April 5, 2022, the sale of farmers’ vegetable baskets at the school’s Coffee Shop.

Each week, on Thursday, we open the basket orders according to the quantities produced by the farmers. Eggplants, long beans, zucchini, pumpkins, limes, peppers, tomatoes, radishes…

Each week the composition of the baskets changes according to the production. On Tuesday we receive the vegetables ordered at the Coffee Shop and our teams distribute the vegetables in the baskets. Guests have the option of adding the fresh bread of the week, prepared by our chef. They can pick up their basket at the Coffee Shop or have it delivered directly to their home.

The sale of baskets allows us to create a real synergy between the different projects of our school. By selling the baskets, it also provides an additional source of income and visibility to the coffee shop and thus helps finance part of the pastry training of our students.

The first orders were a real success. Customers ask for more and are happy to participate in our project, while buying products that are good for their health. This is a first phase towards the deployment of the farmers’ organic vegetable sales in Siem Reap’s supermarkets and restaurants.

So don’t wait any longer, reserve your vegetable basket and talk about it around you!

Written by Morgane Boudoul, communication officer at the Bayon School.

The association les Enfants d’Angkor Wat: What is its mission ?

The association les Enfants d’Angkor Wat: What is its mission ?

Created in 2012 by Dominique Roussel, the association Les Enfants d’Angkor Wat supports Bayon Education & Development in Cambodia, allowing our organization and our local teams to develop several projects, mainly related to the issue of general education. Dominique explains to us what his mission is and the reasons for his commitment.

What is “Les Enfants d’Angkor Wat” ?

“Les Enfants d’Angkor Wat” is is a non-profit association (Law 1901), whose purpose is, thanks to its donors, to help the education, in the broadest sense of the term, of the poorest Cambodian children.

We are involved in the fields of education, health and professional training.

Our goal is to help these children, in often difficult family contexts, to gain permanent access to school, to build their future and to acquire the values that will be the foundation of their lives.

What are the guidelines of your comitment ?

Our actions are guided by 3 principles:

School is a place of development …

Beyond the classical intellectual and cultural learning, we want school to be a place where the child discovers what he/she has the “possibility to be” … and not the “obligation to be” that the family misery can impose on him/her. They discover their rights and duties but also explore their own potential in order to make informed choices for their future.

Health remains a major concern

Even if things are improving with time, health is an area where there is still work to be done. Nutrition remains precarious for many children and when it is chronically insufficient or unbalanced, it generates various pathologies affecting the child’s growth. In addition, diseases not detected at birth are sometimes identified later. We facilitate access to health care and provide financial support because health is still a luxury for the poorest.

The future employability of children is a priority investment

Building the future of these children is our purpose.

In our projects we invest in key fields that are and will be discriminating in their future employment searches. Thus, computer science, English and ecology are major issues in the education of children, as they are omnipresent in daily life and are used as selection criteria in recruitments. So many training courses to which poverty would not give them access.

What need have you identified in Cambodia ?

We must not forget, in Asia, the power that parents have over their children throughout their lives. I think we need to communicate with them more and more, to explain what we do, the values that drive us and that we talk about to the students…

Otherwise, there is a great risk that two universes will operate in parallel, the family and the school, and that one will not be the relay for the other…

Thus, we have to be very inclusive with the parents: share the pedagogical project and involve them in the follow-up as much as they can, so that the school is not only a place where they don’t have to feed the children or look after them while they work. Cambodian social workers and volunteers are doing an extraordinary job in this sense. It is necessary to continue and to amplify this work in order to avoid further school dropouts because the child remains too often an adjustment variable of the family economy.

What projects are you investing in ?

Each age has its own specific needs, so we have decided to create and implement projects for each age group, from early childhood to professional training.

With Bayon Education & Development, a Cambodian NGO, with whom we have signed a partnership and who follows these projects locally, we run a kindergarten class for underprivileged children in the Angkor temple region, we invest in computer and English classes as well as dental care for primary school students. We have also created a hostel for young girls in middle and high school in the north of the country to prevent them from dropping out of school and we support various vocational training programs in the hotel industry, agro-ecology and pastry-making.

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: https://ecoledubayon.opte.io/nous-soutenir/

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.