With school closed and meeting up impossible due to Covid restrictions, things became a bit more challenging for a group of young fundraisers who wanted to help CCF.
The students from East-West International School (EWIS) in Phnom Penh had big plans for raising money for children in need, including designing and making their own products to sell. But when Covid put paid to these ideas, they had to think again.
A bit of imagination and cleverly switching their efforts online saved the day.
Their hard work paid off, raising $587 from a social media campaign and online events such as a movie night and games tournament. And with each dollar matched by a generous school supporter (who wishes to remain anonymous), the grand total currently stands at $1,174.
EWIS teacher Sophie Sinclair said the students involved want the money raised to make a difference for CCF children and families, many of whom are struggling with the impact of Covid.
CCF communities had been placed in Red Zones - the toughest lockdown restrictions in Cambodia - in a bid to halt the spread of infections and many families are still vulnerable, reliant on CCF for food and essentials.
“They [the EWIS students] were really keen for the money raised to be used in a substantial way,” says Sophie Sinclair, a secondary teacher at EWIS.
“Their initial aim had been to create their own packs. They were going to write their own personal little letters and notes to people, to give a heartfelt
‘We see you’, ‘We love you’, ‘We want you to know that we care for you.’
“This is not just about giving something, they wanted to do something personal.”
The fundraising initiative came about through a new elective class at the school, Service Learning, which aims to encourage students to give back to their communities, while learning real life skills.
After investigating issues in their communities, the students settled on helping homeless people.
“They really wanted to help people who were out of a home, out of a job, but in Cambodia it’s quite difficult to target people who are nomadic, who are just wandering around the streets,” said Sophie.
“So we then began to look at organisations that we could partner with who are already working in that area, who are already helping people who might not have a safe and stable home to live in. And that’s when we found out about CCF.
“CCF was the most inspiring for the students, they were very excited at looking at ways they could help.”
It was quite an eye opener for some of the students, who had not been aware that children and families were living in such poverty on their own doorstep in Cambodia.
EWIS, an international school, has around 500 pupils, three quarters of which are Cambodian.
“When we spoke about the fact there are children who have never been to school, who are on their own every day on the streets, I think it opened their eyes,” said teacher Sophie Sinclair.
“In their minds, it was older people who are homeless and not necessarily these children who are forced into adulthood from such a young age.”
At this point, the EWIS students were still on campus and began to look at ways of helping CCF; such as creating ‘Rescue Packs’ for children going to school or a young family with young children, filled with useful items they might need.
Older students, who wanted to show their entrepreneurial flair and creativity, came up with the idea of making their own products to sell at school and local markets, to raise money.
Then schools in Cambodia closed due to Covid and the fundraising student team had to pivot.
First, they focused on raising awareness of CCF in the community and the country and came up with a social media campaign to spread the word about the work CCF does with impoverished communities in Cambodia.
Students from the Middle School, aged 12-14 years old, created social media posts, while the High School students looked at other ways to fundraise under the restrictions of Covid.
Ideas to raise money online included a games tournament, a student/teacher quiz and a movie night for the younger students to watch Disney films and interact with each other.
It wasn’t just CCF the project helped: many of the EWIS students were also having to adjust to a different life.
“Covid was really escalating, and we were all having personal struggles. These are young students who are locked in their bedrooms all day and then they have all the pressure of school,” said Sophie Sinclair.
“They were all really struggling, but it was actually a really good way of teaching them empathy and compassion for other people because we saw how people in Steung Meanchey [where CCF works] can’t even eat, can’t even make $1 a day, so that was a really inspirational thing for the students to learn.”
Donations rolled in, boosted by the dollar matching contribution.
Hopefully the school’s involvement and student support won’t end there.
“In Service Learning, we never want it to be a case of ‘We give you this amount of money and we’ve done our piece.’ It’s much more about creating a sustainable, a longer term solution, but because of Covid, that was very difficult for us to achieve,” said Sophie Sinclair.
“The students and staff at East-West are hugely inspired by CCF and their communities. We can’t wait to continue to support the incredible work that CCF does - hoping to eventually bring our students together to forge lasting connections.”
* A huge thanks to the East-West International School (EWIS) pupils below who took part in the fundraising for CCF:
Kimly, Xioya, Diem, BK, Jin, Gyuyeong, Ryken, Minyoung, Archie, Alex, Vinumi.