Dear PLF Family

We hope this message finds you well. 

The safety of children, of communities, team members, volunteers and supporters is very important to us. While COVID19 continues to impact us all, we wanted to take a moment and share how we are facing the current set of challenges in Cambodia.

Effective March 16, all Cambodian schools public and private at every level are closed until further notice. This effectively means all PLF operations at all schools cease, officially. But it most certainly does not mean our work ends. It just changes and we’re ready to meet every challenge. 

March 17 we all had our final gathering as a team (for a while) at PLF HQ and agreed on the following:

THE DORMITORY AT SRAYANG
Tomorrow the students will begin a quarantine and then return home to their families in the village.  There are a couple of students who have “nowhere to return to” and they will be welcome to stay under quarantine at the Dorm, along with PLF Field Directors Sothea and Sieng Ry.

THE SIEM REAP BOYS AND GIRLS DORMITORIES
Tomorrow the residents of both dorms will begin a 10 day quarantine then students in grades 10 and 11 will be taken by private PLF transport to their homes. Grade 12 students (8 of them) have opted to stay at the Dormitory under quarantine for the duration. We are installing internet at the house tomorrow and setting up online classes provided by the Ministry to help them prepare for the exam.  The one grade 12 boy will move into the girl’s dormitory with Ravuth, the Boys Dorm House Father.. The boys’ house will be closed. This is their choice; at any time any of them may depart for home but then they will have to repeat grade 12. Unless there is some miracle, dorm students in grades 10 and 11 will have to repeat next year.

 

SCHOOLS AT PREAH VIHEAR PROVINCE
Romchek and Koh Ker Primary Schools are closed until further notice. All food programs at both schools are halted suddenly, and this gives us a bit of a worry. We will, after the dust settles a little bit, think of a way to do “no contact” food drops for the kids up there maybe twice a week. There is a team committee working now on logistics and budgets.

KNAR VILLAGE LEARNING CENTER
The center is closed for the duration. All workshops and classes are suspended. The teachers live in the village and will come to the center part time to work on lesson plans and keep an eye on things as long as that is feasible. The team that is working on logistics for “no contact” food drops at Preah Vihear will include KVLC in those plans.

URBAN FOOD BANK will continue. Sellers will bring food to the office, put it in a cooler out front; there will be no contact with the students but we’ll keep the food bank rolling. Staff will come to the office on Fridays and prepare pantry kits for the people who come to “shop” randomly. Those will also be outside with their names on them.

RURAL FOOD BANK AT KNAR will continue. Food will be put in labeled bags at KVLC once per month by the PLF Team and families will come to take it from the school.

UNIVERSITY STUDENTS have no classes now and there’s been no mention of online classes for any of them. They will miss a term at least. We are currently contacting all of them individually to see if they want to come home or stay in Phnom Penh.  If they want to come home, they must self-quarantine for 1 week then travel in PLF transport (not the buses, which are heaving with people making a mass exodus from Phnom Penh). They will surrender their living stipends but can resume their scholarships when schools reopen.

 

All PLF teachers, cooks, librarians, and auxiliary field staff will keep their salaries 100% until the end of April and then we will re-evaluate the situation. A lot can change between now and then but it’s imperative that we stand by our field staff during what will be a very difficult time for them.

PLF office staff will start to work from home on Thursday. We are lucky all of our admin work exists in a cloud, we are already dedicated to an online project management system and Christin is setting up some better conferencing tools. We will have 8 members of staff who will come into the office on an ad hoc basis for as long as we can safely do that, to pay people, set out food, etc but otherwise we will all work from home as much as possible.  Everyone has been sent home with soap, hand sanitizer, thermometers and information. Our morale is very high, we’re very highly connected, we have a plan, know what our roles are and we feel ready. 

In an effort to protect our matriarch (Ponheary’s mother, whose health is frail) and also to keep the office environment clear of tourists and just people in general, Seven Candles Guesthouse will close for the duration. We are also suspending volunteers and all other visitors until further notice. We will miss you, but it’s time for everyone to get somewhere and stay put!

We are committed to working together to support one another through this rapidly evolving situation. We appreciate everyone in our PLF family and your continued encouragement means more to us now than it ever has before. We have been warmed by your emails and kind thoughts. Thank you, we feel strong with you at our backs.

If you are already helping us with food and wellness projects, thank you. There will be a ramp-up in both of those quadrants so if you’d like to contribute to the effort to keep our 2800 students and their families well through this crisis, we’d be grateful. Our priorities are to keep children fed and keep communities supplied with the basics of soap, clean water, solid information and a way to access medical care if required. We could use your help.

Now, let’s all promise to be champion hand washers and put on our bravest faces!  When this is over, let’s be proud of the way we held ourselves and each other

With gratitude,

Ponheary & Lori
And the PLF Team