Americans Daniela Papi and Greta Arnquist plan a cycling adventure across Cambodia to learn about and aid to the country’s education development efforts. The team they formed was dubbed “The PEPY Ride” and PEPY stood for 'Protect the Earth, Protect Yourself.'
The team raised enough funds to cover a school building project to support 500 students in Chanleas Dai in partnership with a Phnom Penh based organization, American Assistance for Cambodia. The group also made connections with several local environmental education organizations. The environmental groups were enlisted for contributing education classes throughout the ‘PEPY’ ride.
Several months before the bike ride, Daniela visits Cambodia to plan out the trip. She discovers that in Chanleas Dai, the school that they had worked to build was empty. The group learned a valuable lesson in development:
"Buildings do not teach people, people do." If they want to raise funds to support the development of education in Cambodia, effort to invest in people is key.
Daniela decided to stay in Cambodia longer and employed an English teacher to work in the school and started a computer literacy project.
PEPY is officially registered as an International NGO in Cambodia and Mrs. Vanna Aline Meas, a local director, was appointed. The organization’s first programs were implemented and local staff were brought in.
There were English classes, Computer classes, and the Library First project for cultivating resources and books in the school. The Teacher Awards Program was also implemented to start teacher evaluations and awards/bonuses for exemplary teaching and work ethic. Last, the Bike to School project was started to give the school’s Grade 6 graduates a bike so they are able to commute and continue their studies
In addition to the school projects that started in 2007, community wide programs were also started. One was the Child to Child Program, where students in primary school participated in a course to conduct research to identify issues in their community. They would then work on projects to solve that community problem.
The second program was the Literacy Camp where teachers from across the country were invited to teacher training to develop their skills in interacting with students.
More programs were added and the organization continued to expand! The Classroom Library project was also started in partnership with Room to Read and provided books to children and training for teachers to utilize books as teaching tools in over 10 schools in 3 communes.
During this time, over 4 more schools were built by PEPY and the decision was made to move the English classes to lower secondary school. The computer classes at Chanleas Dai School were developed into a Creative Learning Class for teaching research skills and was moved from primary school to secondary.
PEPY’s founder Daniela steps in be an Interim Director.
Ting Layheng steps in as Director for a short period, and then PEPY was ran by an Executive Committee headed by Chairperson Ms. Nuch Kimline. There were 70 team members in Siem Reap and Kralanh District. Managers were called to a retreat to consider if the programs should be scaled back to increase PEPY’s effectiveness as an organization and everyone agreed the organizations main area of focus and the regions greatest needs is Youth Development.
“A community will only invest in education when there are sustainable and financial benefits to youth moving onto higher education.”
The team focused efforts at the high school level to work on decreasing the number of drops out and increasing the number of students moving onto higher education in Kralanh District. Staff size was decreased to 30 and the PEPY office in Kralanh was closed.
Board Chairman Kimline becomes the Director and the higher education Scholarship Program was pioneered with 2 students. At the time, very few Kralanh High School graduates passed the national exams that would qualify them to continue their education. We realized that merely offering scholarships was not enough, and that students needed support throughout high school to achieve their education ambitions.
We piloted our Dream Management Program and Scholarship Program for high school students. In Dream, students are given an elective course in goal setting and career preparation to continue their studies beyond high school. Two students from Kralanh were given a PEPY scholarship.
The scholarship program quickly expands to 20 students from Kralanh District and the Dream Program was formally started. In 2012, the National Employment Agency in Cambodia conducted a survey with businesses in Siem Reap to identify issues within the labor market. They found that there was a chronic skills shortage in high school and university graduates in English, technology, and soft skills.
PEPY wanted to ensure that scholars would be successful in finding jobs and show our target rural communities that investing in education creates meaningful opportunities for youth. After planning and developing a team, PEPY starting the Learning Center, a career preparatory training center for 60 high school graduates a year (PEPY scholarship and non-scholarship) focused on English, ICT, soft skills development.
Community payback project for scholars were also started so that the students could gain project management experience while studying at the Learning Center and so the impact of their education would be felt more widely in their local communities. These projects included hygiene, education, and environmental efforts often in the scholars’ villages.
2014The Scholarship, Dream, and Learning Center programs were evaluated and Dream Management was changed to focus on Grades 10, 11, 12 as we found that younger students struggled to understand the concepts of the class. Irish teachers come to Cambodia exchange teaching techniques with staff and provide support in the English Project at the Learning Center. The friendship blossoms between PEPY and the Irish teachers leading to an annual exchange where Irish Teachers come to PEPY for several weeks and PEPY students travel to Ireland to participate in a home stay and culture exchanges at DPETNS school.
PEPY made the official transition from a US-registered 501c3 organization into being a solely Cambodian-registered local NGO (LNGO). The name was changed to PEPY Empowering Youth to be run by Cambodians, for Cambodians. The establishment of a local board of directors also came along with this transition.
We believe that while empowering youth in Cambodia, we should also empowering each other and the Siem Reap community. As that transition was completed, the Executive Director position was handed over by Nuch Kimline to Rith Sarakk in September 2015.
The Dream Management Program gained full support from Child’s Dream Organization, allowing it to expand to Srei Snam District’s 28 January High School. 443 students registered for the Program and 129 of them were from 28 January High School. The program officers focused on building relationships with the school principals and teachers to help build a sense of partnerships and sustainability for the program’s classes in the future.
PEPY’s started a partnership with iHerb Charitable Foundation and GoAhead Foundation allowing us to expand our Scholarship Program to two additional districts: Kompong Leaeng and Taing Kork.
PEPY made a new partnership and expanded the Scholarship Program and Dream Management Program to Varin High School in Varin District. In total, PEPY accepted 40 new scholars from five districts. The number of team members also grew to 17!
For the first time, PEPY was able to hire a Monitoring and Evaluation Officer, elevating the data management of our programs and improving our ability to evaluate our programs internally.