Since its beginning 20 years ago, the Bayon School has made tremendous progress, recruiting many talented people, achieving well-deserved success & continually launching new initiatives. It is still hugely rewarding to participate actively in the education of so many underprivileged children from Siem Reap, from signing them up for their primary school years and following them through their secondary years, to developing the Pastry School & Coffee Shop and now by providing the necessary know-how to help families participate in the Green Project.
However, at the same time, we have made some observations;
With the primary school located within the temples, we are no longer able to expand. This forces us to make very difficult decisions when selecting new pupils as we cannot satisfy all the requests, of which there are far too many. Furthermore, our primary school pupils from twenty years ago are now grown-up; we have supported them throughout their studies, but many of them are now looking for jobs. Finally, whilst our “small is beautiful” set-up allows us to be creative, flexible and reactive as well as “entrepreneurial”, it also suffers from the fragility of a small structure.
With all this in mind, we set out on a search for a partner, who would allow us to keep our values, our DNA, our “footwork”, but who would also open doors to new initiatives and professional opportunities for the children, giving the Bayon School long term security, from both an organisational and a societal point of view.
PSE “Pour un Sourire d’Enfant”, (For a Child’s Smile) an association set up in 1996 by Christian and Marie-France des Pallières, quickly emerged as the ideal association for this partnership.
PSE is a charity registered in Cambodia where it currently takes care of over 6500 children and their families through financial support. PSE also has a number of vocational schools where students can learn a skilled trade in hospitality, management or sales & technical.
PSE has developed its activities mainly in Phnom Penh with some branches outside the capital, but the association has also been overwhelmed by its success and is now facing some challenges with its local branches.
In the Siem Reap branch, where there are around 10 full-time employees (social team and operational support), PSE currently helps 414 children who are enrolled in local state schools and accompanies 200 families with financial support. It also has a “reception centre” with various buildings on a large plot of land close to the town centre, but this is not currently being optimised, Under the terms of our agreement, the Bayon School will take on the management of these activities in Siem Reap through synergies of both associative models and the local teams.
Right now, the first project on this plot will be the setting up of an experimental farm of permaculture – or “integrated agriculture” – which will be the basis of a future vocational training programme. More news and photos of this project in the next newsletter!