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In late 2021, as Cambodia was going through its darkest era of Covid – we told you about a new initiative, the PLF-Treeline FoodNet. A collaboration with our friends and community partners at Treeline Hotel in Siem Reap, the FoodNet initiative delivered emergency relief to the most at-risk families in our wider community who, already living with drastic food insecurity and loss of income, were facing the direst conditions imposed by the Red Zone lockdowns. 

By this time – 18 months into the Covid nightmare – we were already well-practiced in the mechanics of getting food RAPIDLY to PLF students and their families. As we navigated the waves of restrictions and lockdowns, we were still able to maintain contact with our beneficiaries and know that they were nourished. Then when the most severe of the lockdowns hit – the Red Zones, where people were forced to stay inside their homes – accounts started emerging of families in the wider community being unable to source food. 

Treeline food drops cover image

Working with Treeline was essential. With a large team of staff hailing from different areas around Siem Reap, they quickly identified 81 most at-risk families, and with support from PLF’s food donor, the FoodNet was soon reaching out where it was needed the most. This emergency humanitarian response continued for a year, and saw these families through the most vulnerable times of the pandemic. 

By the end of that first year, the worst of Covid was over – but knowing the recovery would be slow, we wanted to continue to stand by these families. With schools now fully re-opened, and in order to fit the FoodNet initiative within our mission statement, we secured agreement from the families that they would send their children to school. 

G12 exam student

And so now FoodNet continues for a trial year – with well over 100 Grade 1-11 students enrolled in multiple schools across communities in Chreav and Puok areas around Siem Reap. They have received school supplies, uniforms and bikes – and their families continue to receive monthly food drops as well as filters to provide clean drinking water, all contingent on school attendance.

As you’ll see from the above map, these families are scattered across sprawling catchment areas, which represents a very different approach for us. Until now we’ve only ever worked in communities that are particularly and “generally” impoverished – for example in Koh Ker and Romchek in Preah Vihear, where we support every single student at the village primary school. 

For the FoodNet initiative we’ve developed an almost forensic ability to find the very MOST IN NEED across multiple small communities within those catchments.

This poses way more logistics and data management challenges for us, but – as with our food drop game now honed and strengthened during the challenges of Covid – our data measuring and evaluation skills have greatly evolved over the last few years, meaning we can keep our finger on the pulse of WHAT PEOPLE NEED to move forward. 

Another difference is that instead of liaising with schools directly, we are dependent on the FoodNet kids to bring us their grades. But we’re pleased to see that, at mid-year, there is good retention, and we are hopeful we’ll get to the end of the year with the majority of these students still in school.

What began as a humanitarian effort during Covid has transformed and realigned within our mission, bringing more disadvantaged families and their children into the fold by enabling access to education. Stay tuned for updates at the end of the year, where we hope we can announce that FoodNet will continue to bring security and opportunities to these students … because school is the answer!

Want to walk alongside our students in their journeys but not sure how? Here are some of the really useful ways you can support our mission!

Become a Recurring Supporter

For as little as $10 a month, you could contribute to the ongoing education of our students. $120 goes a long way in Cambodia: that’s 5 village children on the road to education, with access to school and clean drinking water for half a year. Or a million other things, all of which coalesce into the tools needed for life to change for the better!

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