What ELSE? — Leadership Camp Abroad
This is the sixth post in a series about what ELSE PEPY does. Click here for the first post.
PEPY was offered the opportunity to take four students and two local staff to camp in the USA this summer, and we spent nearly a month deliberating on the topic. SHOULD we take two boys and two girls from rural Siem Reap Province to the USA and expose them to things which they might never get the chance to see again? Is the return on investment in these four children equal to the costs or would investing in more local programs be more appropriate? How would we choose? The PEPY staff and local teachers debated these topics. We brought in the director of the camp (who is the great-grandson of the founder and now resides six months of the year in Siem Reap with his Cambodian wife), and after much debate, we decided that it was indeed a good idea for both the students/staff and PEPY in general to take this opportunity. The general consensus was that the students would be exposed to new ideas which might help them solve problems in their own communities upon return and, if students were chosen from the local child-clubs, they would be able to bring ideas back into a network already designed for that purpose. For our staff, being exposed to new ideas and new ways of educating would be invaluable, and by bringing one of our English teachers, we would be investing in increasing his skills as well. We decided the costs were worth it as we would look for funds outside of our normal donations.
Awatd, a new staff member at PEPY, created the interview process which was designed to identify leaders and students who would not only be brave enough to thrive in the new environment, but would also bring ideas back to those in their community. Over 30 students applied for the 4 spots. Students were interviewed in the first round where they worked together to solve problems. From there 10 boys and 10 girls were chosen for a second interview and according to the interview team, the most confident students stood out right away. The team was looking for brave students who demonstrated that they were eager to embrace this opportunity and who had already demonstrated active leadership in their communities. The second round interview team consisted of Maryann our Managing Director, junior high school teachers, Awatd our Education Program Officer, and Jason, a visiting donor who served as the outside view to help us insure our favoritism was not getting in the way of identifying the kids with the most potential to succeed in this program. These four students were chosen and the next day all four, and their families, were rushed to Phnom Penh to begin the process of getting passports and visas in time to travel to the USA at the end of July.
Traveling to Phnom Penh with these students and their families, none of whom had been to their country’s capital before, was an experience. Most, besides the students, had never even been to Siem Reap, which is only 1.5 hours away and we were about to head 7.5 hours to Phnom Penh. There was a lot of car sickness for the first time being in a non-open vehicle as most had traveled by pickup truck or motorbike but never a car or a bus. The students began to recognize just how brave they will need to be when going to the US.
There is still an opportunity to support these students and we hope some of you will be interested in giving one student or teacher the chance to gain more leadership skills and experience in the US. The cost per child/staff will come out to about $2,800 including flights, passports, visa and visa interview travel costs, local transportation and costs in the US. Please help if you are interested or if you live in the Vermont or NY area and would like to donate some warmer clothing for the first-time travelers, please get in touch with us. More information about the camp is available in the archives of PEPY’s online journal.