THE SOCIAL ENGAGEMENT OF BAYON SCHOOL

Bayon School’s origins go back more than 20 years. Since 2014, “Bayon Education and Development” is a Cambodian association which is supported by a French association called “SEP du Bayon”. We are committed to the education of children and students who live in precarious conditions; we currently support more than 400 young Cambodians from infant school right the way through to university or via a professional training programme in baking and pastry.

Behind this associative picture hides the story of 400 personalities, 400 different paths where each and every one of our students gives meaning to what we do. Let’s put the figures to one side and concentrate on the individual, take a step back from the school itself and go back into the field to get a sense of what is really going on, to understand. Understand what is happening in the life of these young people who live with very little, who move through life thanks to parents who fight or parents who sometimes give up that fight. Listen to them. Allow them to express themselves so that we can adapt our actions to what they need.
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We took the decision to expand our social team which is now made up of four people: Thorth (Manager), Soky, Chhein and Srotom (social assistants).

This team selects the pupils once they are of age to enter primary school (one of the differences with the state schools), based on the following criteria: the family income, their living conditions, the number of working family members and dependent children, the amount of debt, their medical and sanitary conditions. This assessment gives rise to the attribution of social criteria levels: 1, 2 or 3 (1 being awarded to the most fragile families).

These same levels are used for the young people who make up the “Follow-Up” programme (students in middle school and then high school after having followed the primary school programme with Bayon) and for the recruitment of students for the Pastry School.
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Thanks to close monitoring and annual visits, our social team are able to assess any changes in our families’ situation.

At the end of 2019, it came to our attention that some of the families, who were benefitting from the “Follow-Up” programme, had seen their financial situation improve with higher income. We had to make some difficult, but necessary decisions, passing these families, who were previously Level 3, to a newly created Level 4. This change of level meant stopping financial aid for 15 students (12 families), whilst maintaining school and professional support.

As far as we at Bayon are concerned, this decision is, above all, good news, in the sense that the families have become more independent, better armed to face their daily challenges, freer. They give us hope for the future and allow us to help those families who really need it, with the hope that they, when the time comes, will also be able to set off on their own.

, 6 April 2020

COFFEE SHOP : ANOTHER WAY OF GIVING

Bayon Pastry School was created in 2014. Our first intake was composed of ten young women, all from underprivileged backgrounds in Siem Reap province. As the first year of our training ended successfully, it seemed essential to increase our capacity to make it accessible to a greater number of young women and families in need. The idea was to make this vocational training sustainable.
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In 2015, Bayon Pastry School’s Coffee Shop opened its doors. The objective was to self-finance a part of our pastry vocational training. Pastries, viennoiseries and all kinds of breads are produced every day. The recipes are carefully elaborated by our Khmer chef Sokhoeurn Morn, also pastry school director. Her creations are then cooked by the production team mainly composed of former students of the school.

The students, on the other hand, receive daily instruction in our two lab: pastry and bakery. They also learn, through the coffee shop, the basics of waitressing. Since its opening, the coffee shop has grown steadily and can now accommodate 30 people. It is now one of the most famous coffee place in Siem Reap city for its pastries but above all, for its quiet environment. This “corner of heaven” is sheltered from the hubbub of Siem Reap and its famous noisy “pub street”. To allow a good service, the coffee shop now counts 3 waitresses and 3 young girls work in the kitchen.
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The pastry school also receives orders from restaurants, hotels and spas of Siem Reap. With a dozen regular customers, we are currently able to deliver different varieties of breads and pastries every day across the city. Among them are Bodia Spa, hotels Mémoire, Maison Polanka or even Sala Lodges and restaurants Bakong, Georges Rhumerie or Le Bel Air.
In summary, from 3 years, the coffee shop sales has been enabling us to self-finance 47% of the budget of the pastry school. This last year 2018/2019, we even reached a rate of more than 50% of contribution. And 23 students benefit from our baking and pastry training for free thanks to the Coffee Shop incomes!

Another great way to get involved with our association, another way of giving : a good cake for a good cause !
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HEALTH IN CAMBODIA: SURVEY OF THE FAMILIES OF THE PRIMARY PUPILS

In 2020, the Bayon School would like to be even more proactive in helping the families of the primary pupils with their health and hygiene. As a result, the annual social visits of the families have been enriched with a health survey which will give us a more complete view of each individual situation and allow us to identify the priorities to be implemented in order to improve their sanitary conditions. Read on for details and the purpose of these visits, thanks to the account from Romain, our volunteer health advisor.

Up until now, the association’s Health project has been reserved for the children, be it from the primary school, the Bakery school or the follow-ups in secondary school, and was organised around the annual medical visit by Jean-Pierre and MIchèle, our volunteer medical advisors. Based on their recommendations, those children who required treatment received dental and eye care thanks to partnerships with other health organisations. Any complex cases were registered and sent to the appropriate hospitals. The infirmary run by Jean-Pierre and Michèle during their visit was also very crowded. Last but not least, the hygiene kits were distributed every three months to all the pupils. infirmier-ecole-primaire
The Health team this year comprises Jean-Pierre, Michèle, Soky and me, volunteer for a year hoping to consolidate the health actions led by the Bayon School, and we are in the process of recruiting a school nurse.

Our wish is now to reinforce, develop and, more importantly, open this Health project to the families. In order to achieve this target and to identify the priority areas for action, we decided to carry out a thorough analysis of the health and sanitary conditions in the families; we took advantage of the annual social visits to explore the theme of their health. The scope of the study was limited this time to the families of the primary school pupils.

A survey was drafted by both the social and health teams, with a certain number of areas to be explored: housing, access to water, maternal health, medical history, role of local beliefs, health care and care centres, medical costs.

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Between December 2019 and March 2020, each of the 162 families of the primary school received a visit which enabled us to understand their situation and discuss their individual issues with them. Each visit was carried out by Jean-Pierre, our doctor and one of the three Khmer social workers, Soky, Chhein or Srotom. The families all welcomed the survey: they spoke openly about their difficulties and are now waiting for the solutions that we are hoping to provide.

Both the answers received to the survey and the visual observations during the visits are important. The information collected is essential to give us a clearer idea of the sanitary conditions that the primary school pupils return to, once the school day is finished.

The conclusions of this survey will be summarised in a report mid-April, giving us a clear view of the current situation and the strategy we will need to implement to improve it.

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In the meantime, the first results are already available with, on the one hand, a number of common problems:

• Access to drinking water and clean toilets is not widespread;
• There are many miscarriages and induced abortions;
• Addictions (alcohol and cigarettes) are a major problem;
• Dental problems are significant, as are the number of cases of untreated high blood pressure.
• Finally, medication is haphazard and irregular with a failure to seek treatment, which can be linked to education, cost or the family organisation; this merits extremely close medical follow-up.

On the other hand, certain medical issues are particularly complex and will require an individual solution.

, 25 March 2020

TEACHING THROUGH ARTISTIC AWAKENING IN THE PRIMARY SCHOOL

Gilles, our artist with a big heart is back in Bayon School. Thanks to him, and for the 5th year running, 3 weeks have been dedicated to artistic projects with the children in the primary school. This year saw the completion of a mural fresco on the wall of the infirmary, the creation of a green wall and the decoration of the new shoe racks. Read on for more details of these fabulous projects, which have proven very popular with all involved.

Gilles, who has been retired for several years now, is passionate about art; he has been visiting us every year for the last 5 years in order to share his passion with the children and to awaken their curiosity.
This project is very close to our heart at Bayon School as it fits in perfectly with our desire to develop a participative education and learning experience, combining theoretical knowledge with personal development and know-how through various extra-curricular activities which we have recently introduced (PE, Apsara dance, traditional Khmer puppets and arts & crafts). For three weeks, all the pupils from Grade 1 to Grade 6 took turns to express their imagination for a magnificent end result!
Last year, Gilles oversaw three different projects whilst he was here; painting the wall of Elodie’s Canteen, making a toothbrush rack for all the classrooms as well as a fabulous cardboard model of the primary school, which was unfortunately damaged during the month of the monsoon just after he left.

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Gilles and our volunteers had been thinking about new projects which could, this time, be durable over time: this year’s programme includes a striking mural fresco on the wall of the infirmary, customisation of our new shoe cabinets as well as a green wall using only recycled materials. Let’s looks them more closely:

1. Mural fresco for the infirmary
For the first week of this creative workshop, the children gave the walls of the infirmary a complete make-over. The children really enjoyed reproducing the drawings provided by our very talented Sreyleak, former student of the very first intake at the Pastry School, who now works with us in the Coffee Shop. This first stage needed precision and rigour to achieve such a wonderful end result, to the great delight of Jean-Pierre and Michèle, our volunteers in charge of the infirmary and the health projects.

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2. Decoration of the Shoe Racks
With dozens of small shoes discarded in front of the classrooms, the primary school looked a little chaotic and so we thought it was time to install shoe racks in front of each class. These were then brought to life by Gilles and his little helpers!

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3. Green wall with recycled materials:
Last but not least, volunteers and staff joined forces to collect all sorts of recycled materials, producing an interesting mix of bicycle and car tyres, coconuts, plastic bottles and wooden planks. A touch of DIY here and a coat of paint there… and our green wall was born.

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Everybody of all ages took part in the project and enjoyed themselves immensely. It was with emotion and stars in his eyes that Gilles left the school and the children. We have an inkling that, once settled in his seat, he was already thinking about the projects he could organise next year.
Thank you Gilles!

LAUNCH OF A PROFESSIONAL TRAINING PROGRAMME ON AGROECOLOGY

After launching our Green Project at the beginning of 2018, we would like to go further with our mission of sustainable nutrition and develop our professional training programme. This is why we have taken the decision to launch a new programme on agroecology in November 2020. Let’s take a closer look at what this would involve, as well as the short- and medium-term objectives of this innovative project which is a real investment for the future.

Cambodia’s population is essentially rural (76,6% in 2018), with one third of its inhabitants trying to survive with less that 1$ a day; the country is now facing the same problems European agriculture has been facing since the end of the last century.

The conventional, intensive farming that is currently being practised in Cambodia uses many chemical inputs. With the predominance of rice monoculture, the country is obliged to import the large majority of its vegetable produce (estimated at 80%). The combination of monoculture and extensive use of pesticides prevents the regeneration of the soil, causing a drop in the yields of agriculture production.

Today, there are few actors in Cambodia offering concrete solutions to these issues, such as awareness campaigns and training of the population in sustainable, environmentally friendly farming. At the Bayon School, we feel that transmitting the principles in agroecology could be a long-term solution.

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Agroecology is based on applying ecological concepts and principles to optimize interactions between plants, animals, humans and the environment, while taking into consideration the social aspects that need to be addressed for a sustainable and fair food system ((source FAO.org). It is based primarily on enhancing biodiversity, waste recycling and crop rotation, making it possible to diversify crop production and remove the need for chemical input.
Since 2018, the Bayon School has been running a sustainable agricultural project by training some of the families of our pupils in agroecology. By planting vegetable gardens on their plots, they are now able to bring in extra income by supplying the canteen at the primary school with locally grown, pesticide-free vegetables.
This project is currently improving the living conditions of 11 families of the primary school, as they produce close to 30 kg of vegetables each day.

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In order to go further in our mission of raising awareness and educating, we would like to create a new professional training programme in agroecology. We are currently working on setting up this school with the association Vivre de sa Terre, which already has some experience in agro-ecological professional training in Battambang. Vivre de sa Terre is helping us create the pedagogical content of our programme as well as training our future teachers, En and Sreyleak, who are currently learning how to improve their teaching skills and learning techniques, management and entrepreneurship, sales, marketing and accounting.

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After studyingclosely the training experience of Vivre de sa Terre, we have decided to create a short, one-year programme, including several months of internship, the aim of this programme being to allow our students to be rapidly employable. We would like to open this new programme to 10 youths aged 17-20 years living in and around Siem Reap. The programme will allow us to train agro-ecological technicians, who would also be capable of creating projects and putting into practise the values of sustainable development in their future careers.

The teaching content of the programme will need to meet these two criteria, which are essential to the success of the project. In the space of one year, our future students will have gained both technical skills (how to restore the soil’s fertility, protect crops, transform and recycle production, etc.) as well as entrepreneurial know-how (communication, sales and income management, how to work together and innovate, development of soft skills, etc.).

Our medium- and long-term ambition is to promote awareness and the value of more responsible farming practises in Cambodia. To achieve this goal, our first intake of students will need to become the ambassadors of agroecology in Cambodia, where the market for organic produce is still a niche market just waiting to develop. It is a real investment for the future.
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