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Social issue

Bayon School’s origins go back more than 20 years. Since 2014, “Bayon Education and Development” is a Cambodian association which is supported by a French association called “SEP du Bayon”. We are committed to the education of children and students who live in precarious conditions; we currently support more than 400 young Cambodians from infant school right the way through to university or via a professional training programme in baking and pastry.

Behind this associative picture hides the story of 400 personalities, 400 different paths where each and every one of our students gives meaning to what we do. Let’s put the figures to one side and concentrate on the individual, take a step back from the school itself and go back into the field to get a sense of what is really going on, to understand. Understand what is happening in the life of these young people who live with very little, who move through life thanks to parents who fight or parents who sometimes give up that fight. Listen to them. Allow them to express themselves so that we can adapt our actions to what they need.

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We took the decision to expand our social team which is now made up of four people: Thorth (Manager), Soky, Chhein and Srotom (social assistants).

This team selects the pupils once they are of age to enter primary school (one of the differences with the state schools), based on the following criteria: the family income, their living conditions, the number of working family members and dependent children, the amount of debt, their medical and sanitary conditions. This assessment gives rise to the attribution of social criteria levels: 1, 2 or 3 (1 being awarded to the most fragile families).

These same levels are used for the young people who make up the “Follow-Up” programme (students in middle school and then high school after having followed the primary school programme with Bayon) and for the recruitment of students for the Pastry School.
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Thanks to close monitoring and annual visits, our social team are able to assess any changes in our families’ situation.

At the end of 2019, it came to our attention that some of the families, who were benefitting from the “Follow-Up” programme, had seen their financial situation improve with higher income. We had to make some difficult, but necessary decisions, passing these families, who were previously Level 3, to a newly created Level 4. This change of level meant stopping financial aid for 15 students (12 families), whilst maintaining school and professional support.

As far as we at Bayon are concerned, this decision is, above all, good news, in the sense that the families have become more independent, better armed to face their daily challenges, freer. They give us hope for the future and allow us to help those families who really need it, with the hope that they, when the time comes, will also be able to set off on their own.

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.

PARTNERSHIP WITH PSE

PARTNERSHIP WITH PSE

PARTNERSHIP WITH PSE ASSOCIATION

As presented and voted at the AGM in Paris, June 2019, the partnership project between Bayon School and PSE is now underway.

WHY THIS PARTNERSHIP ?

Since its beginning 20 years ago, the Bayon School has made tremendous progress, recruiting many talented people, achieving well-deserved success & continually launching new initiatives. It is still hugely rewarding to participate actively in the education of so many underprivileged children from Siem Reap, from signing them up for their primary school years and following them through their secondary years, to developing the Pastry School & Coffee Shop and now by providing the necessary know-how to help families participate in the Green Project.
However, at the same time, we have made some observations;
With the primary school located within the temples, we are no longer able to expand. This forces us to make very difficult decisions when selecting new pupils as we cannot satisfy all the requests, of which there are far too many. Furthermore, our primary school pupils from twenty years ago are now grown-up; we have supported them throughout their studies, but many of them are now looking for jobs. Finally, whilst our “small is beautiful” set-up allows us to be creative, flexible and reactive as well as “entrepreneurial”, it also suffers from the fragility of a small structure.
With all this in mind, we set out on a search for a partner, who would allow us to keep our values, our DNA, our “footwork”, but who would also open doors to new initiatives and professional opportunities for the children, giving the Bayon School long term security, from both an organisational and a societal point of view.

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PSE “Pour un Sourire d’Enfant”, (For a Child’s Smile) an association set up in 1996 by Christian and Marie-France des Pallières, quickly emerged as the ideal association for this partnership.
PSE is a charity registered in Cambodia where it currently takes care of over 6500 children and their families through financial support. PSE also has a number of vocational schools where students can learn a skilled trade in hospitality, management or sales & technical.

PSE has developed its activities mainly in Phnom Penh with some branches outside the capital, but the association has also been overwhelmed by its success and is now facing some challenges with its local branches.

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In the Siem Reap branch, where there are around 10 full-time employees (social team and operational support), PSE currently helps 414 children who are enrolled in local state schools and accompanies 200 families with financial support. It also has a “reception centre” with various buildings on a large plot of land close to the town centre, but this is not currently being optimised, Under the terms of our agreement, the Bayon School will take on the management of these activities in Siem Reap through synergies of both associative models and the local teams.

Right now, the first project on this plot will be the setting up of an experimental farm of permaculture – or “integrated agriculture” – which will be the basis of a future vocational training programme. More news and photos of this project in the next newsletter!

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Des travaux pour aménager un jardin potager

 

Another school year comes to an end at the Bayon School…

Another school year comes to an end at the Bayon School… and before we know it, another group of students has joined the pastry school whilst nineteen new little ones fill the empty benches in the Kindergarten class. Such is the life of a school: some move on, leaving the space open for others to integrate our classes. There is always a lot happening, which is how it should be! Initiatives come to light, ideas abound, things take shape, the teams get on board and new projects come to life…

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The 2018/2019 school year started at the primary school with an overhaul of the teaching system, following recommendations made by Rodrigo and Anaïs, after their audit of our pedagogical set-up.• A new primary head has been recruited and the teaching team has been renewed, giving preference to full-time contracts, which allows us to put in place extra support classes for children who may be struggling.
• Two new buildings have opened their doors; a computer classroom for the pupils of Grades 5 & 6, as well as a library with over 400 books in Khmer.
• A brand-new canteen and water management system have been inaugurated.

These investments have only been made possible through the generous support of our sponsors and donators. Without them, we would not be able to achieve so much. An enormous THANK YOU!

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Our secondary students participated in the monthly careers events with professionals who came to present their jobs. A jewelry designer, HR in a travel agency, accountant in an NGO, manager of a hotel: very diverse worlds come together to talk to our students, allowing them to project themselves into a professional future which is not really that far away after all. This year, they were also lucky to be able to participate in an intercultural exchange with students from the Lycée Français of Singapore, which was rich in emotion.
The vegetable gardens have never produced as much as this year; it really was a bumper crop! 80% of the canteen’s vegetables were grown locally and ecologically in the plots of the 8 families involved in the Green Project. Every day at daybreak, 25 Kg of vegetables arrive by motorbike, tuktuk or even bicycle to allow our cooks to prepare the meals for our 250 pupils, who start lunch at 11 o’clock for the youngest amongst them. It is quite a marathon to keep the families motivated as market gardening really is a daily enterprise with no time for rest. This year, we have been able to equip each family with an automatic irrigation system, allowing them time for other activities such as weeding, harvesting, pest control, etc.

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At the pastry school, 21 young women graduated at the end of August. With their diploma under their arm, they set off towards a secure professional future in the hotels in Siem Reap or Phnom Penh and/or in the bakeries looking for qualified labour. These students, who joined us in September 2018, were unrecognisable when they left; shy, reserved and unsure of themselves at the beginning, they left us brimming with self-confidence and armed with a trade that they can and must promote. We are astounded by their capacity to learn and absorb so much in only 12 months.

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The new students who arrived in August 2019 have already taken their first steps in the pristine Bakery Lab, which we have just inaugurated and which will enable us to train more students in better conditions.

The Bayon School is moving forward – thanks to its teams and numerous loyal donators who believe in its project. Let’s continue together!

Please find attached the Activity Report for the year 2018/2019 for further details on what we do.

School uniforms made by Bayon’s mums

School uniforms made by Bayon’s mums

WEB-IMG_1008Normally purchased from an external provider, we have, many times, been disappointed by the quality of the uniforms we bought: issues with delivery, bad quality… Aside from these problems, we also felt it was the opportunity that represented this project that helped us set it up.
On the same model as the green gardens project that was installed in the families to provide food for the school canteen, the main idea was to give an extra salary to the family, and therefore improve their quality of living.
For this launch year, we decided to produce only the uniforms of the primary school and to buy the ones for the secondary school and pastry school from an external provider. The objective is, for next year, to produce all the uniforms.

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The first step for this project was to recruit the “sewer” mothers. In order to accomplish this, I asked for help from the person who knows the families best: Soky, our social officer at the primary school. She helped me identify families who most needed this extra income and amongst these, 3 mothers had sewing skills: Sokheng, Mom and Mai.
Sokheng lives in a small house made of metal in a village opposite Angkor Wat with her husband and her two children. Her daughter Panha, is 6 years old and will be entering Grade 2 in October. Her son is only 4 months old, and it is very difficult for her to feed him correctly as she has no income.

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Mom lives in a big house on the side of the river that goes through the temples’ enclosure. She lives with her four nephews and nieces. They are enrolled in Bayon. She is the only person in the household to have a form of income. She is therefore in charge of buying the food and to provide for the needs of her family.
Mai has 3 children: her two daughters are enrolled in Bayon primary school, Sopheak in Grade 5 and Sreyka in Grade 4, and her son, Kvan, aged 3 is for now too young to join the benches of school.
These three women all live in very precarious conditions and did not hesitate to seize the opportunity of an income. When we visited their homes to offer the chance to participate in the production of the uniforms, they all accepted without hesitation. However, their skills were insufficient, we had to ask help from Lan, a professional sewer.

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The purchase of the fabric and accessories was done at the market, the cut of the fabric to the right size and especially the training of the mothers for the sewing of the pieces, Lan is an essential member of this chain of production for this first year. Also living in precarious conditions, she also benefitted from this project. Next year, we will make sure the mothers take charge of the whole chain of production.
To start the conception, we needed to invest in new equipment: a sewing machine, 3 irons, a special machine to sew the buttons… Luckily, the donators supported us!
At this date in early September, the production continues: we are finishing the uniforms for Grades 3, 4, 5, and 6 and we are going to start soon the uniforms for Kindergarten, Grades 1 and 2. Objective: 490 uniforms for the 1rst of October!
Phorn, the director of the primary school and Jeanne, our fundraising officer, bring me essential help for the tracking of the production. We visit the 4 women invested in the project 2 times a week to make sure they are not missing anything and to collect the uniforms that have been produced already. It is very encouraging!
We are impatient to see the students in their uniforms produced by the mothers of Bayon.

SOKY & CHHEIN : 2 women engaged for the education of disadvantaged youths

SOKY & CHHEIN : 2 women engaged for the education of disadvantaged youths

Chhein joined Bayon School in January 2018. She comes from Banteay Mean Chey, at the north east of Cambodia and grew up in a family of 7 children. Like many Khmer children, she took care of her younger siblings when she was still very young. This is probably what drove her towards working with the youth.

After high school, she completed a course to become a primary school teacher and taught in her home province for a year. Even though she enjoyed the role, she decided to go back to university to become a social worker, job that she found more stimulating and that offers a better wage.
After graduating with a management bachelor from Siem Reap University, she worked with Enfants du Mékong for 3 years, then for Japanese charity Kimonos. Her role with Kimonos consisted of empowering young women to become independent and responsible, through a social and personal development programme.
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When she joined Bayon School, Chhein had an induction with her predecessor Tep, who had been social manager for the pastry school for a year and a half. He introduced her to her job description, which includes:
– Recruiting students;
– Assessing applicants’ families situation;
– Provide personal development sessions (job interview, resumes, etc.)
– Support the students with their life at the school and health;
– Seeking internships in restaurants and hotels;
– Seeking permanent roles after the training.

Chhein fast integrated into the team and was given a nickname – “Chhein Chhein”. What she most enjoys about her role is her relationship with the students. She works with them every day by providing essential information and support across many areas. She deeply wants to encourage them to become strong and independent women. She would like each of them to succeed in building a career that matches their interests.

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When she was younger, Chhein would have loved to receive such support, but her family encouraged her to end her studies to help with farming work and get married. Despite the pressure, she stood for her values and worked in a primary school to fund her studies.
Today, Chhein is very proud of her background and how far she has come. She just gave birth to a beautiful little girl. Before going on maternity leave, she told us she would like to support her daughter in her education to become an independent woman.
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Big thanks to Chhein for her involvement within the school and congratulations on her happy event!