Most charities, unlike their for-profit counterparts, have mission constraints that can sometimes cause a bit of paralysis. Every charity must have a clearly defined mission statement which donors expect us to stay well inside, and rightly so. It provides a level of accountability that donors deserve and helps those who do the work to stay focused.
There are times though, when we need to color waaaay outside the lines and the last 6 months have been that time. Because inside the lines suddenly is no longer where the work is. Because of ethos. Because when the world tips, you need to tip too or you’ll be thrown off.
PLF awards university scholarships every year to students whose employment goals require degrees. Last year we awarded 26 full scholarships. When we say “full” we mean full. Not a year at a time. We’ve always thought that was risky for the recipient. What if the donor goes away or something unforeseen happens? We never wanted to leave any students in a lurch so we don’t do it that way. The scholarship is funded in full (because our donors are rockstars) and goes into escrow. Even if the world ended, the scholarship would live on.
In March the world ended in Cambodia. Tourists, who basically make up the economy in Siem Reap, disappeared overnight. Tens of thousands of hospitality workers, who were always hanging on a thread anyway, lost their jobs post haste. Maybe for a very good while. Workers who were lucky enough to work at the few establishments who care about their staff enough to fund scholarships had their semesters paid out one at a time.
So many young people in Siem Reap who worked in hospitality had their dreams for a better future shattered by their inability to complete their degrees. So many people got left in the very lurch we always worried about. Too many. Actually, pretty much everyone.
We couldn’t solve that problem for everyone, but we can’t ever let the enormity of any problem stop us from doing what we can do. We found 6 people among those we know and love, whose scholarships were lost and we picked up the balance just days before the second semester started and their fees were due.
In a couple of years time, three Accountants, one Banker, one IT Professional , and an English Teacher will hang up their aprons and begin careers that aren’t so dependent on tourist dollars. We feel good about that and so do they!
We appreciate the flexibility of our scholarship donors who were able to tip with us when the world went sideways. We appreciate your innovative approach, your “we’ll get through this” attitude, your decisiveness, and your generosity when it came time to add to what you’re already doing for PLF Uni students.
We also appreciate the local ex-pat community, who came out to support fund-raising events at Miss Wongs and Hok. We appreciate Seekers Gin for funding the events. There has been much camaraderie and community-building among those who remained during the pandemic. It’s been inspiring and we are grateful to be part of it.