PEPY has been working to support the Siem Reap community since 2004, operating first in the city and Kralanh District, and then rapidly expanding throughout the years. We have since narrowed our programs and approach to Youth Development and currently operate in Siem Reap, Kralanh, Srei Snam, Varin, Taing Kork, and Kampong Leaeng Districts.
Why these districts?
Currently, PEPY operates our outreach programs in 5 districts: Kralanh, Srei Snam, Varin, Taing Kork, and Kompong Leaeng. However, it was not always this way. PEPY’s founders, who came to Cambodia with the hope of supporting education development, started with building a school in Kralanh District. Over the years, the organization expanded to initiatives across the country. After localizing, and focusing on increasing the number of youth moving onto higher education and accessing skilled employment, our target communities became much more strategic. With the firmly established connections and history in Kralanh, it was an ideal location to transition into our current programs.
We began the expansion into Srei Snam District in 2017 once we had solidified strong support from our partner Child’s Dream Foundation for our high school Dream Management Program. We selected Srei Snam based on our research of the region:
- the community’s and school’s potential receptiveness to the program
- the statistics of drop-outs versus students moving onto higher education
- our ability to establish local government support
Similarly, our decision to expand to Varin District in 2019 was made by conducting a needs analysis and study. By taking these extra steps, we are operating in areas where the community and local leadership are behind us, making the programs even more successful and sustainable.
In addition to Kralanh, Srei Snam, and Varin, we also operate our Scholarship Program in Taing Kork and Kompong Leaeng Districts. Although our Dream Management Program does not operate there, we are able to provide scholarships to deserving and committed youth in partnership with Go Ahead Organization through the support of iHerb Charitable Foundation. Our Learning Center is in Siem Reap city, where the regions universities are located, and it supports up to 60 first year scholars and additional rural youth in hard and soft skill development so that they can excel professionally after their first year of studies. Lastly, our Youth Innovators and Incubator Program and office is located close to the city center of Siem Reap. This program provides intensive training for young entrepreneurs to develop and execute their business ideas as well as a library, business showcase, and coworking space.
Cambodia is often best known for its troubled past – the atrocity carried out by the Khmer Rouge; a reign of terror that was inflicted from 1975-1979, in which over 1.5 million people were either murdered or died from overwork and starvation . The repercussions of this atrocity, and the subsequent years of civil turmoil, have been far reaching, and, due to the most educated people being targeted first by the Khmer Rouge, Cambodia has since struggled with a lack of trained educators and skilled professionals. Today, Siem Reap Province, compared to national averages of school retention rates, educator-to-student ratios and high school graduation rates, is one of the lowest ranking provinces in terms of the quality of education.
Most families are remote and depend on agriculture for their livelihoods. Families generally do not value education because they do not have the means to send their children to higher education and are often not aware of the impact that a higher education can have. With the promise of opportunities outside of the city, many Cambodians, including those as young as 12, migrate illegally to Thailand in search of work to support their families or enter into dangerous construction work. As a result, income is sporadic and limited, perpetuating a continued cycle of poverty which has lead Siem Reap to be one of the poorest provinces in Cambodia despite the booming tourist industry.
We see working with local high school teachers, providing pathways to higher education, and connecting rural youth to sustainable employment opportunities as the most effective ways to improve communities, increase safety, and break the cycle of poverty.