Learning Center Students: Change-makers and Innovators during challenging times
In light of the declining economy as a result of COVID-19, the PEPY team is not just preparing students to leave our Learning Center as job seekers, but building their skills and confidence in being job creators. Our students are eager to be role models in their communities and find ways for people to fight food insecurity and increase their ingenuity. Since March, PEPY Learning Center students have been working in teams to design and implement community-based or small business concepts. Groups worked on a proposal and pitch to compete for funding in late June/early July, and PEPY gave successful groups up to $500 in start-up funds.
There were ten different projects and business concepts proposed, including an online souvenir shop, agriculture middle man project, scholar library, and high school soft skills training. The youth groups researched their local communities to determine what initiatives were needed and wanted by their potential beneficiaries. From there, the youth groups conducted web-based and peer to peer-based research. Then they outlined their concepts. Unfortunately, not all groups were able to receive funding based on our criteria. However, all groups were given training on proposal writing and resource mobilization so they can choose to pursue funding opportunities for their concept even if it did not receive funding from us.
Although all of the groups are at the early implementation stages, several of the project leaders reported some exciting updates and news.
Chhorvy is the Project Leader for the Khmer Product, Fresh Vegetable business group. After interviewing community members, they learned there are many barriers for rural families hoping to sell their vegetables commercially. In addition, it is hard for them to navigate the market and establish fair prices. After learning about this, the group decided to be the main price negotiators and transport to bring the vegetables into the city. Their idea was also a great investment opportunity as the current lack of foreign trade is leaving a considerable gap in the market.
Chhorvy says, “What I have learned so far is very important for my business. Because before I got the money to do this business project, I learned how to make a summary report, and how to make a proposal. We interviewed market vendors and local growers. To make sure we got clear information we also created a questionnaire and conducted in-person interviews. So far, our team has been involved in the first pitching and received a $500 fund. My team is now running our business. We bought 6 boxes for keeping vegetables and are looking for more buyers. Aside from our supplier, they are already vegetables to sell from my group. Our team will start selling vegetables on September 20, 2020.”
Another project is called the Jungle Book Store and is led by Project Leader Nalin. Their group found during their research that people report limited access to books, so they are working to bring more to the market. Nalin told us their business has contacted some organizations in Siem Reap and said that they do not need books yet because of Covid-19. Most places are shut down or shutting down, so they are looking at sourcing books in the meantime. Nalin says, “once they need [the books], they will contact us again. We have contacted to one group and know that they need 200 books, and we are ready to book them soon. Our team has created a Facebook page, and we created our own logo.”
We know they were not able to start their project as planned due to economic challenges as a result of COVID-19 but we are so impressed they are using this time to elevate their marketability by developing a strong online presence and a logo. You can check out their Facebook page and support their work here
Our last group update is from Dalis, who is from the group planning to engage locals in outdoor excursions and Siem Reap based tourism. She says, “I am from the tourism business group. From my team’s side, we learned to do business and how to work in a team. For us, this means to have careful discussions and to listen to the opinions of each member so that the business plan can work well. My team’s biggest achievement was getting the fund from PEPY. Right now, we are working on getting the equipment for our business and have created a page for our business.” You can look at their page and support them here.
We are so thrilled to see these groups starting so well so fast and incredibly proud of how confident the students feel about their business ideas. Our team thinks that if this group is indicative of Khmer youth when they receive resources and an opportunity, then the Siem Reap community has a great chance of diversifying industries and surviving this crisis. We could not be proud of our students and look forward to sharing future project updates with you!