When Cambodian Children’s Fund opened the doors of our first facility a decade ago, we hoped to provide 45 children from the Steung Meanchey garbage dump with education, shelter and nourishment.
A decade later we are educating thousands of students, operating 6 community schools in the heart of impoverished areas, and providing the support needed to allow more than 1,500 students to live with their families.
It hasn’t been easy. A recent study of 1,300 families that CCF works with revealed an average daily income of just $0.75 per person. That’s not even halfway towards meeting the international poverty line of $2 a day.
Cambodian Children’s Fund has spent much of the last decade building integrated programs for community and family support, along with developing an award-winning community based education program that allows children to receive life-changing education while continuing to live with their families and the results speak for themselves.
Today more than 2,300 students are enrolled in CCF’s education program at one of our 9 facilities. More than 1,500 of these students return to their families at the end of every day, with hundreds more returning home each weekend. 75 students are studying at university, with hundreds more to join them over the next few years.
HOW HAVE WE MADE THIS POSSIBLE?
We believe a mother should not have to choose between food on the table or sending a child to school. We provide extensive support to the community, including subsidised rice, free medical care, debt alleviation and micro loans, clean water, counseling, maternal care, a child protection unit and emergency assistance, so that a child can go to school and the rest of the family doesn’t suffer because of it.
Access to this holistic range of services removes the barriers to education and incentivizes families to send their kids to school.
Our satellite school network wraps community well-being around a comprehensive education program .
Satellite schools provide education into the heart of communities, so that students can study close to home. Instead of bringing children to school, we have brought the school to them, with 6 satellite schools servicing the impoverished communities surrounding the former dump site. Children are now taking classes like english and computer studies, as well as core subjects, often only metres from where they live.
The schools also act as a hub for support services, extending programs like daycare, critical nutrition, food support and clean water throughout the community.
This education program has been internationally recognised, winning a 2012 WISE Award as “one of the world’s best initiatives in innovative education”. Since 2009, only 24 projects have been recognised with a WISE Award from over 1,600 applications, with CCF being their first winner from south-east Asia.
This network of CCF satellite schools is what has resulted in significant growth in student numbers over the past 4 years. These are non-residential students who are supported to live at home and attend a school close to home.
The CCF education program supplements the Cambodian public school system, where children study for a few hours a day. CCF transports children to public school, provides uniforms, bags and books, and works with the local schools to ensure their educational needs are met.
In the past year, we have built more than 200 homes for deserving families with children studying at CCF, through our partnership with World Housing. In fact we’ve built a whole factory for producing these homes, and we won’t be slowing down.
But we are building more than just homes, we are building villages. Small communities with edible gardens, social areas, playgrounds, clean water, toilet blocks, safety and security.
The homes are gifted to deserving families that have made a commitment to prioritising their children’s education, providing a safe environment for their children to grow up in, free from drugs, alcohol and abuse, and keeping their children out of the workforce.
For many of the families we assist, earning a living involves walking the streets of Phnom Penh scavenging for recyclables.
Instead of leaving children alone at home or taking them with them when they go to work, parents or guardians can take their children to daycare and night care programs at CCF’s satellite schools. For a nominal fee, the kids are washed, fed, dressed in clean clothes and given early learning classes.
More than 80% of the families that arrive into the Steung Meanchey communities carry significant debt, with more than two thirds having borrowed for a medical related reason.
The CCF Medical Clinic provides free medical care to the community, with more than 3,000 patients being treated every month.
CCF puts a significant amount of resources into ensuring families stay together - whether it is by providing travel for children, or by assisting with employment for parents and grandmothers so they can remain near their children.
We distribute 25 tonnes of rice every month and provide clean water to more than 10,000 people.
GROWING OUR IMPACT
The growth in student numbers at CCF in recent years is purely due to growth in our satellite school network.
The families living around the old dump site are living in the worst kind of entrenched poverty. The average familiy has 5.3 members living on $4 a day. Many of the families suffer the effects of malnutrition and disease brought on by living in such squalor, without basic hygiene, potable water and basic housing. In these fractured communities, the percentage of alcoholism, drug abuse and domestic abuse, both physical and sexual, is exceptionally high.
Parents often find themselves in desperate circumstances. Often single parents are forced to spend days away from home earning a living, leaving their children at risk.
CCF tries to keep families living under one roof, but it isn’t always possible. Many families apply to enrol their students in CCF’s programs - less than one in ten fit the strict criteria.
Today, around a quarter of our 2,300 students (612 students) reside at least part time CCF - and nearly half of these children return to their homes at least once a week. The children that do reside at CCF facilities remain in close contact with their families.
We provide support to more than 180 students in Cambodian provinces, whose parent’s tried to enrol them in our programs in Phnom Penh. We don’t want families migrating to a hazardous environment to enrol their children in school, so we send them back to their homelands with financial support. This support is contingent on school attendance, which schools provide directly to our staff
Many of the students in residential programs are older studetns from rural areas. Girls from rural areas are typically cut off from higher education in Cambodia, as they are not permitted to move to the city to study. Residential education facilities for older students are a solution to this issue.
We want our students to go to university, or complete vocational training. But this is very difficult when studying in a one-room house with no electricity, or with many siblings
As these students enter the latter years of high school and university, they may move in to one of CCF’s facilities for older students, or even one of our transitional homes.
These homes have 15 to 30 students, and are setup to provide a safe, supportive environment for students, with a cook, cleaner, computers and shared motorbikes.
Our approach is working. In 2014, 75 CCF students were studying at university and, with much larger student numbers in years 10,11 and 12, we expect to see hundreds of CCF students enrolled in university in the next few years. 106 students are currently undertaking vocational training.
In 2014, CCF recorded a dropout rate of less than 1% (compared to the national figure of 16.5%), a daily absentee rate of less than 3%, and a 95% pass rate. 2,295 were enrolled in CCF education programs, with 83% of these students were also attending public high school.
For Cambodian Children’s Fund, the ‘big picture’ is very big. Thousands of students from impoverished backgrounds are receiving our award winning education, headed for university, for vocational training, for meaningful careers that will see them contribute to growing Cambodia’s economy.
When we see CCF’s university graduates in the workforce, as independent, confident young people who are able to support their families, we realise how profound the impact we are having really is.
The final - and most ambitious - piece of this education system will be unveiled soon. A project to ensure that the satellite school students have every opportunity to complete high school and go on to university study.
We are bold in our dream for Cambodia. We are passionate about the communities we work with. And we will continue to invest in developing a world-class education program for Cambodia’s poor.