PEPY Newsletter Highlight Reel
Here are some featured newsletters from our 55 months of writing the PEPY Newsletter:
November 2005: This newsletter marked the 1 year anniversary of naming PEPY and beginning the journey of turning a bike trip into an effort to fund the construction of a new building for Chanleas Dai Primary School.
It was also the first time we introduced Peppi, who has been a big part of PEPY ever since (name similarity is purely coincidence…. amazing, huh?!). It is so fun to read this to see people and groups who have been with us since the start. SystemsGo first joined our sponsorship team that month, and Mattias Thim, the first person to donate to PEPY who none of us knew personally, continues to be a part of our team and support system. (Greta and Daniela, who were the first of 6 to organize the first PEPY Ride, actually danced around the room when they realized that someone had donated who was not somehow related to one of the original team of riders!)
“How does reading this newsletter make us feel,” you ask?: Shocked. Shocked that this was written nearly five years ago, when it seems like we just started, and shocked that this was written only five years ago, when that newsletter seems so distant from what we are doing now! It also makes us laugh at how we clearly did not know what we were getting ourselves into, smile at how $40,000 seemed like such a huge goal a the time, and cringe a bit at how cheesy our writing is (oh, and at Harry Potter!). Not that we are not cheesy now, but we like to think of our cheesiness as slightly more sophisticated 😉
February 2006: We just finished the first PEPY Ride. This newsletter featured our reflections and some pictures from the end of our first bike tour. Our highlights were all personal –there didn’t seem to be much of a long-term vision for future “PEPY” goals. The foundation for such was growing, though, with more people onboard who have beenwith us for years, like Mt. Borah. We featured our upcoming events, including a contest to design a new logo for PEPY. (FYI: Maria Perez, who ended up designing that new logo, is in fact here with us in Cambodia right now, helping to teach our staff more design skills and helping us make even more beautiful things: this time, Khmer Early Literacy books!)
“How does reading this newsletter make us feel,” you ask?: It’s like a roller coaster. Smile one line, blush the next. We are smiling thinking about this first ride, the impact this trip had on all of our lives, and just how much FUN the first team had. We are blushing at our naivety in thinking we could “teach” about the environment in Cambodia when we knew little about the environment or Cambodia, a lesson which has taken a long time to sink in. We smile at having finally learned that these one-off school visits are ineffective and have changed our tours to be about learning rather than creating volunteer projects for the sake of our guests. We blush at visiting Phnom Penh’s dump area (Stoeng Meanchey) when we soon after began to realize that, even if we are funding partner organizations working to improve the area, going to a place like this garbage dump just to look is still poverty voyeurism and that leads to many negative impacts. Then we’re smiling again thinking about the PEPY team going on to win that triathlon. (…Don’t tell anyone there were only three girls’ teams registered!)
March 2007: We had just (FINALLY!) signed our our Memorandum of Understanding with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to be officially registered in Cambodia. This newsletter was perhaps the first one where we used the words “capacity building”, and that in reference to hiring two new staff, including Srey Toh (who is now our longest standing employee). With 35 Cambodian staff, it’s amazing to think that only three years ago we had fewer than five! In March 2007 we were announcing the sale of our first PEPY calendar, our first university tour, and the start of our relationship with Anthony Travel and the fabulous family that shares their name (and their many friends). The people and projects in this newsletter were beginning to lay the framework of how our current programs would look.
“How does reading this newsletter make us feel,” you ask?: Proud that we finally focused on programs that put capacity building above buildings and things. Looking at the article about The PEPY Friends School reminds us that PEOPLE are what make projects work. Building that second school brought the first junior high school building into an area that needed it, but we did not grow the relationship due to lack of commitment and leadership from the local board of directors and administrative staff. It makes us feel grateful for the positive working relationship we now have with our PSDP schools and some other partners, and makes us jump for joy that when we signed a renewal of our MOU with the Ministry this month (as the initial contract was only for three years) it was a MUCH easier process than it was the first time!
February 2008: Here we start to reach out a little more. We realized that, just like us, you don’t want to talk only about PEPY all the time. Techrosette Leng wrote an article about E-Waste (watch the video – it’s SHOCKING), and Michael Woodard completed his introduction of partner RDIC. This was also the newsletter where we announced the first class of Cambodian students heading off to the Asian University for Women (AUW). It’s crazy to think they have since completed their 1.5 year prepatory course and are well into their first full year of school.
“How does reading this newsletter make us feel,” you ask?: It makes us miss some of the many fabulous Khmer and foreign interns who have crossed our path and graced us with their passion, their writing skills, and their hard work. It makes us wonder what the AUW girls will be doing in five years, and makes us carry on hoping that this experience will continue to lead them to be inspiring change makers when they return home. (The first class will be returning home again soon and we are excited to learn that some of them will be doing an extensive research project on education here in Cambodia this summer! Plus, one will be interning at PEPY!). Re-reading this still makes us cringe at the amount of computers we have and use, makes us question our own personal and global greed for the newest and coolest products, and makes us fear for the future if we continue to pollute our water sources and our earth with even more E-Waste.
December 2008: No one reads our December newsletters. Everyone is too busy taking their New Years vacations, baking cookies, or reading the 1000 other newsletters they get in December to open yet another end-of-year mailing. So, this pretty little thing didn’t get read too much her first time around — here’s your second chance! We’ve got poetry, we’ve got videos, we’ve got the start of our “Lessons Learned” series, and the most important thing you won’t want to miss is an informative piece on arsenic poisoning in Cambodia through NGO wells. Read up. (The same goes for this past year’s December Newsletter. If you were too busy drinking eggnog, then you missed our year in review and year in numbers, as well as the chance to learn about PEPY’s 18 staff members who are enrolled in school!)
“How does reading this newsletter make us feel,” you ask?: It makes us grateful for the chance to go back and read through these newsletters, for the chance to reflect on our progress, and to re-learn things we forgot. You all HAVE to read this arsenic piece. It makes us happy to see that our newsletters are finally starting to have some real content and to see how much we are not only learning, but now able to share through these mailings.
March 2009 : Last March, one year ago, we dedicated our newsletter to Mickey Sampson, who for many of us at PEPY was one of our heroes. He continues to inspire us daily, and we continue to spread his messages. Here is a link to Daniela’s TEDx talk (which is still not officially online yet, but here is a video recording from Rithy). This talk is largely based on lessons we learned from Mickey.
“How does reading this newsletter make us feel,” you ask?: Devastated. The recognition that we have lost someone who has taught and inspired us,and so many others, is still a devastating feeling. Countless times this year we have said, “What would Mickey do?” and tried to imagine what his council would have been. Seeing the comments from this newsletter makes us thankful that we had the opportunity to bring a number of people to meet Mickey and spread his inspiring messages. It also rekindles in us a commitment and dedication to live our lives and do our work with a passion modeled after Mickey’s. Re-reading our most commented on entry reminds us that by incorporating the aspects of Mickey we hold so highly into our own lives, we too can achieve great things for the world.
October 2009 : And here we were, just a few months ago, flooded. It’s strange to think that the dry, burnt, rice fields around us were only recently covered by the worst floods this area has seen in many years. If you know what you are looking for, you can still see the damage in the rice fields and water marks on the walls. In this newsletter we talked the “sustainability” of our programs, which has been a driving force for change this year. Last October we introduced PSDP, hopefully our most “sustainable” program to date. (Read our latest PSDP updates here.) We also got to highlight the superstars who help us throw our annual NYC fundraiser and KEEN, whom we have watched grow at an exponential rate since beginning our partnership in 2005.
“How does reading this newsletter make us feel,” you ask?: It makes us wonder, if so much can change since October’s floods, what will PEPY be like in 6 months? With so much change since our first newsletter in 2005, what will PEPY be like in 2015? Will we still be here? What will Chanleas Dai’s education system be like? Will we be needed? We hope not. . . . Will we have developed models or systems that can be adapted for new areas? Perhaps.
We’ll check back in on our 110th newsletter (or maybe a bit before!) and see… that is, if YOU are still here (and if we still write these things!).
In the meantime, thanks for taking this journey with us and for being a part of making PEPY more responsible, “sustainable”, and hopefully a bit more professional. The humor, we can do nothing about. It seems that, on that front, you are stuck with us just how we are J
All the best, and here’s to number 55!
The PEPY Team