Students Implement Community Payback Projects
Once a year, the new intake of Scholarship students do community payback projects in PEPY’s target communities focused on issues that they determine to be key obstacles to development. The experience also helps the students to build their communications, program management, analytical thinking, problem-solving, and research skills. They learned about project management in Youth Empowerment class, did pre-assessments of their assigned communities, designed their projects, and implemented their projects. There were 6 groups of 5 members who targeted different areas. Three groups went to Srei Snam district, two groups to Kralanh district, and one group to Baray district (in Kampong Thom Province).
The main issues of focus were education, environment, and health, which students chose after doing research in their areas. During this stage, they met with commune chiefs, village chiefs, school principals, students and teachers to conduct interviews and find out the main problems in their target communities. After doing the interviews, each group had a meeting to analyze the problems. Sipou, a team leader, wrote in their report: “Through the interviews and observations, my team found that young students in Sen Sok commune are not inspired to go to school. This is because many people who go to work in Thailand come back and have a bit of money to build houses, buy new motorbikes, etc., so it looks attractive to them. They are not aware of the long-term benefits of education. Additionally, there are also many gangsters, lots of family violence and high dropout rates.”
Four groups implemented their projects in different primary schools in Kralanh District. In total, 221 primary students received lessons about the importance of continuing education, how it can impact people’s lives, and setting goals. One more group implemented a health and hygiene project, in which they introduced 35 students how to clean their teeth and wash their hands properly. The last group, who worked with 60 primary students, discussed the positive impacts of reading, and taught them basic reading skills. They also taught the primary students goal-setting and presentation skills, then had a lesson on environmentalism. The final activity consisted of collecting waste around the school property.
PEPY students expect that the primary students they worked with now understand the value of education, will continue to get inspiration from PEPY students, and will be motivated to stay in school to reach better futures. PEPY students themselves gained knowledge of how to analyze community problems and design solutions to address them. After implementing their projects, Ten (one of the teams leaders) said, “I now understand the value of community payback projects. I know how to make budget plans, activity plans, and how to write project reports.” PEPY expects that they will apply the skills they learned in their own initiatives to develop their communities. Through this, they not only give back, but they also gain volunteer and leadership experience which helps them in applying for jobs.