It’s official, REACH will be opening the gates and greeting our students for their first day of school on 3rd March 2020… and we couldn’t be more excited!
This past month we have been extremely busy; completing construction, painting, preparing medical resources and fitting out the classrooms to name a few. But the finalisation of our program structure has been of paramount importance before opening.
Through our various program offerings, our core focus is to provide disadvantaged families from Thlok Andoung with the basic necessities of Education, Nutrition and Healthcare. Through our well thought out integrated program structure, we will be able to support children from the age of 5 right through until they graduate University or Vocational training. REACH students will ultimately end up in fair paying employment, so that they can earn a good wage, support their families, and live a life free from exploitation.
Our planned programs are:
- Education (English, Maths, Morality, Art & Sport)
- Nutrition (daily school meals)
- Outreach (medical, family counseling, educational community seminars)
- Bicycle Club (bicycle distribution, monthly repairs & community cycles)
- Computer Literacy (basic I.T courses)
- Kindergarten (early learning program)
- Rice Rewards (rice rations to promote good attendance at Khmer School & REACH)
- Youth Pathways (sponsorship of Public High School studies)
- G.C.W Scholarship Fund (further education scholarship fund)
As we are just starting out, and funds are limited, our school will open only with our Education, Nutrition, Outreach & Bicycle Club program in action. The remaining programs will be rolled out as and when we have sufficient funds to launch and maintain them.
OUR INITIAL PROGRAMS EXPLAINED
On paper, public school education is free for all Cambodian children and youth. However, there are many unavoidable informal costs that occur such as uniform, stationery, books, teachers’ fees and exam fees. Sadly, these additional costs are often impossible for poor families to manage.
Furthermore, to enroll in public school, every child must have legal documentation such as a family book & birth certificate which both cost money. In many cases poor children are born without papers or their documentation is lost, and as a result parents are unable to enroll their children into Public school.
Often illiterate and not having access to education themselves, some parents do not understand the value of education. Those that do, simply do not have the means necessary to sustain their children’s formal education.
With day to day survival a priority, children are often left with no choice but to begin laboring to support the family.
Our Outreach team will work alongside families to explain the long-term benefits of their children completing formal education. We will work directly with local authorities to provide legal registration and birth certificates to undocumented families & children, allowing them the basic human right to an education.
We are initially beginning with four classrooms which will serve approximately 240 underprivileged children and youths. These classes will provide free additional English, Maths and Morality lessons outside of public-school hours. Upon completion of each level of our English courses, students will receive certificates accredited by the Governmental Ministry of Education.
Alongside educational classes, we will provide a free Physical Education Program and Art Classes. The classes will be 3 times a week and consist of one hour of recreational sport at our partner sports centre, or creative drawing/painting in our classrooms. Participating in sports is known to promote psychological well-being and self-esteem, in addition to positive health benefits. Sport is not taught in the Public Primary schools, and Art supplies are limited, therefore, we believe these electives will be a hugely popular with our kids.
Our Education Program will be led by our local team of dedicated Cambodian teachers, we also warmly welcome international volunteers to assist teaching English in the classroom or participating in our Sport or Art classes.
Volunteer teaching in Cambodia is an incredible way to make a difference, it is of huge importance that our students are introduced to new experiences and practice listening to English in different accents. Another advantage of hosting international volunteers is the variety of skills that they can bring and share with our students, who would have otherwise never had exposure to. There are many Cambodia volunteer programs, but volunteers at REACH will have the additional opportunity to provide daily workshops for our students, and depending on their skills, can get involved with a variety of activities across our programs.
Malnutrition is prevalent in children in Cambodia, commonly at the most developmentally crucial stage in their lives. Reports state that 34% of children in Cambodia are stunted, 24% are underweight, and 10% are wasted. Stunting is the result of chronic or recurrent undernutrition, usually associated with poor socioeconomic conditions, poor maternal health and nutrition, frequent illness, and/or inappropriate infant and young child feeding and care in early life.
Malnutrition has lifelong and irreversible impacts on the physical and cognitive development of children, reducing future productivity and resulting in health implications. Alongside devastating poverty, another huge contributor to malnourishment is diarrhea. This is as a result of poor personal hygiene and home sanitation, in addition to no access to clean drinking water. It is clear that in Thlok Andoung, this is a problem that urgently needs to be addressed.
Our nutrition program is committed to providing a variety of free, nutritious meals on 2 times daily, Monday-Friday and access to clean drinking water. Meals will be served on rotation, with different nutritious ingredients so that our students get a wide range of food types. We will be sourcing all fresh ingredients from our local market, providing consistent income to the sellers. Every one of the students enrolled into our education program will have access to free healthy meals and clean drinking water to provide a strong foundation for good future health.
In conjunction to these daily meals, our children will be taught the importance of a balanced diet, they will receive regular anti-parasite tablets, and will wash their hands and brush their teeth every day at school.
It is estimated that while 13.5% of Cambodians are living under the poverty line, a huge 4.5 million sit only just above this line and according to the World Bank “The loss of just 1,200 riel (about $0.30) per day in income would throw an estimated 3 million Cambodians back into poverty, doubling the poverty rate to 40 percent,” Neak Samsen, a Bank analyst, wrote in 2014.
Cambodia has no free public health care system for adults and unfortunately, adults living in poverty are more prone to recurring health problems. Some of the most commonly identified major health problems include diarrheal diseases, acute respiratory infection, malaria and dengue fever, war injuries, dysentery, typhoid, hepatitis, venereal diseases and intestinal worms. Recurring treatment for these health problems can end up becoming an expensive necessity; often one that poor families cannot afford.
Further to this, many families are dealing with challenging repercussions of post-traumatic stress disorder from the genocide, and with the history of war being so recent, there are a myriad of societal issues yet to be addressed.
Our Outreach program will provide emergency medical services and healthcare for community members so that they can continue to earn a wage and to prevent their health from further deteriorating due to lack of personal funds. We will also be providing regular medical and dental health checks to all of our students and supporting them with treatment needed (within our budget). UNICEF reports that approximately 2,000 Cambodian children die from diarrhea diseases annually. This is a preventable issue and is one of the many reasons that our team will be regularly monitoring our students. On the education side, our Morality Counsellor will teach moral values to our children and youths, topics covered will include but are not limited to health & hygiene, conflict resolution and sex education etc. All of our programs will strictly follow our Child Protection Policy which is implemented and closely monitored by all staff.
In addition to observing the physical health of our students and families, we will be providing social services through outreach to concentrate on the emotional health of our beneficiaries. There is very limited funding for social services in Cambodia and we believe that this program is imperative for the success of our integrated programs. It is thought that more than one in five people in conflict/post conflict affected areas live with a mental health condition ranging from depression and anxiety to post-traumatic stress; three times more than the general population worldwide.
Most parents of the students that attend REACH will have themselves, been children of the war. Our team of social workers will provide free drop in counselling sessions for all students and family members during our opening hours. To coincide with these sessions, we will be hosting free community educational workshops & training sessions e.g. Health & Hygiene, Financial Literacy, Human Trafficking Prevention, Conflict Resolution, Nutrition & Family Planning.
We aim to stand by families to support their medical and emotional needs so that they can encourage their children to study and can earn an income while also living a healthy life.
In Cambodia, having a bicycle can mean the difference between a child attending school and reaching their dreams, or dropping out of school and engaging in exploitative labour. Also, for many poor parents or grandparents, having a bicycle is crucial to their income. Without a bike they cannot travel to and from their workplace, many also use their bicycles to collect rubbish or transport goods to sell.
Sadly, many impoverished families do not have access to transportation and consequently, children do not have the means to travel to school and guardians struggle to earn a wage. Those that do have bicycles, often cannot afford the small maintenance costs to fix the chains or flat tyres. This leads to them becoming discarded or rendered useless. Transportation is another huge factor in the battle children face to simply attend school.
Our bicycle club, with the support of our donors, is seeking to provide much needed bicycles as necessary to the children, youth and guardians in our programs who are in the most urgent need. With each bicycle that is gifted, we will also include a lock and helmet to promote safety on the roads. Furthermore, in-line with our annual charity bike ride fundraiser, we aim to make cycling a regular team building experience for our youths and teachers.
Each month, our teachers and Head of Education will select 5-10 of the highest academic achieving youths from our evening classes. These selected youths will participate in a monthly countryside cycle (30km’s) with staff hosted by our partners at Grasshopper Adventures on the first Sunday of every month. This program will encourage youths to work harder in class, as well as help us to monitor those most eligible for University/Vocational Training scholarships. While our monthly Sunday Cycle is on, we will also have a 4-hour window for children, parents and families of REACH to bring their bicycles to our school for free maintenance and cleaning.
Upon opening in March, these four programs will be actively engaged, and we are already looking into the future. When the time is right, we will go on to introduce our Kindergarten, Rice Rewards, Computer Literacy, Youth Pathways and G.C.W Scholarship fund. We are eager to share these programs in more detail with you when we are confident that they can be launched and will be financially sustainable.
Ultimately, we aim to provide the physical, emotional and educational support needed to break the cycle of poverty and we will be with our students and their families every step of the way.
If you would like to support us in these fundamental early stages, we ask that you support all of our programs by joining our Running Costs Club. For as less than a dollar a day, you can join the group of special people who keep our gates open each month, and who will ensure the longevity of our cause…
Click here to find out more.
Thanks for following our journey and for keeping up with all things REACH!