At REACH, we firmly believe in giving our families a hand up, not a hand-out.
As such, our programs are strategically designed to provide our families with the tools they need to make positive, lasting, sustainable change in their own lives. By promoting responsibility, we are confident that in the future, our kids and their families will not have to live by the oppressive constraints of inter-generational poverty cycles.
A hardworking mother and her young baby
It has been 8 months since our direct response to the pandemic prompted the distribution of monthly emergency relief packages; a critical lifeline for so many families. As government schools began to reopen in stages, we made the decision to re-evaluate the distribution protocol to further ensure and monitor that their children’s education is being prioritised by all guardians.
REACH Siem Reap is a supplementary school whereby our staff are equally as passionate about supporting our students’ educational journey at their Cambodian Public School. To monitor their progress at public school, we have now officially switched to our “Rice Rewards” scheme, which does exactly what the name says!
Under this strategically planned program, our students will be rewarded with food provisions as a reward for a high attendance rate at their public school. To reduce plastic waste, each month our students will collect rice and soap provisions in their up-cycled denim bags and will be required to return their eco-friendly egg cases to collect their eggs.
The student’s eco-friendly denim bags are locally made
The attendance criteria will be marked under 3 categories:
Excellent, Good, and Poor.
Each category has a corresponding percentage which equates to the days they have attended both public school and REACH. The provisions will be distributed as follows:
Our students will bring in their student record books between the 20th and the 10th of the following month. These books have their attendance marked by their government school teacher and our social workers will record each student’s individual attendance on our internal spreadsheets. Once open, we will cross check these attendance marks with their attendance at REACH to calculate their overall score. The Rice Rewards will then be distributed on the 15th of every month. This will give our team not only enough time to record the data but to contact students’ families where the attendance rate is extremely low and discuss the issues they are facing. Experience tells us that the issues may not always be black and white, and we will be on hand to investigate and resolve situations as they arise.
Ros Sopheap, director of Gender and Development for Cambodia states, “in reality, when your family needs food, working becomes more urgent than school.” By providing Rice Rewards for our students, we can prevent our students from falling victim to the recorded 10 percent of 7- to 14-year-olds classified as child laborers whilst simultaneously ensuring that this is not at the detriment to the family’s ability to eat.
A beautiful REACH family with their food provisions
Furthermore, by monitoring each of our student’s public school grade books, our staff are also able to record their monthly scores from each of their public-school subjects. This intense level of monitoring will enable us to flag any students whose grades have dropped drastically and provide them with additional support by our social workers and teachers. Through this data collection, we will also be able to quantify the success of our education program over time.
Unfortunately, as our decision to switch to Rice Rewards was finalised and implemented, so was the governments’ decision to close all schools again due to the first reported cases of community transmission. Despite this obvious set back, we will continue moving forward, patiently waiting for schools to reopen and revert back to distributing homework to keep our students engaged in education until schools reopen and we can monitor our students attendance through this new program. This month, a generous donor also sponsored the cost of colouring books and pencils for our younger students, and word search books for our older students to stimulate them during the undetermined length of the schools closure.
One of our younger students showing off her alphabet homework
Although this climate continues to change on a daily basis, and we are constantly being presented with new challenges, the one thing we are certain will not change, is our commitment to support, educate and provide equal opportunity to all of our families.
Big smiles after collecting Rice rewards, colouring books and homework