Our workshop sessions form a key pillar in our program offering, filling the many gaps in the government school learning experience, as well as home and social settings where open discussions are absent around topics that growing children and adolescents require. We peg subjects at the relevant school ages that will equip students as they grow; encounter new situations; and navigate the world around them. For example in primary school, the focus is on Hygiene, Food & Environment. As students move to middle school and into their teenage years, sessions cover Growth & Change, Bullying, Drugs & Alcohol. And then for secondary school, weightier subjects with an eye on the future are introduced such as Career Prep, Goal Setting, and Self-Leadership.
PLF’s workshop program as it is now underwent a significant transition when two things coincided – our powerhouse workshop leader Vannak, above, stepped into the role, and then almost immediately, Covid hit. Despite this massive challenge so early in her leadership, Vannak soon turned it into silver linings that continue to shape the program today. The biggest of these was without doubt being forced to take sessions online, which necessitated networking with students via group chats and Zoom meetings – and ultimately resulted in a far greater participant reach than before. This extended network also included our uni students who began to lead mentorship sessions online, and created a shift towards a more collaborative approach, with high school students being able to give direct feedback and make requests for what they wanted and needed most to get out of the topics. More and more students were galvanized into participation.
With the opening of our Urban Learning Center in March 2022 and the easing of Covid restrictions, we could begin to hold sessions in person again. And with this newly-reached and invigorated student base eager to participate, we’ve seen workshop attendance grow, most noticeably amongst high school students.
With this increased participation, our ability to track data has also grown – assessing attendance and impact with pre & post session surveys. We can glean a deeper understanding of what students are getting out of sessions, and assess any adjustments required.
All this to say that the workshop program continues to go from strength to strength, with the team, offerings and impact growing in the following ways:
Kao Ay steps up:
Kao Ay, who has been assisting Vannak in workshop admin & delivery is now moving into a trainer role. This in turn frees up Vannak to focus on expanding the range of topics, researching and introducing new ones, and making revisions to existing subjects where needed.
In the last few months Kao Ay has delivered sessions on Growth & Change and Drugs & Alcohol to middle school students at SLC. “I am so happy to have led these workshops; it was my first time at Srayang. I was a bit nervous but now I feel confident on these topics after my experiences from the first one. I look forward to hold this workshop again next year.”
This school year, the workshop team completed the two year handover process of primary school topics to field staff, via the I Do, We Do, You Do approach. Training teachers and librarians at primary locations to deliver these sessions boosts their skillsets, and we are very pleased with how they have done. The data so far shows this has been a success, with only a slight dip in student feedback, which is to be anticipated in such a transition. Next year will be the first time the workshop team is not present for the delivery, and they’ll be tracking the ratings again closely for that.
Koh Ker librarian Sareng teaching toothbrushing
Teacher Chenda at Chey teaching Food & Environment
“I love the workshops because they improve my health” (Grade 6 female)
“I learned how to clean my environment and put that into practice at home and it’s gotten so much better” (Grade 6 male)
High school workshops:
We’ve seen attendance grow for high school workshops across all locations through the ever-increasing effectiveness of our student chat groups and group leaders in getting the word out to Chey and Urban students and bringing them over to ULC, as well as providing transport for KVLC students to join.
If we look for example at Self-Leadership, we also see students giving a nearly double increase in knowledge in their pre and post surveys.
“I learned about how to create good habits to improve my knowledge, and how to lead myself to achieve my goals. I was shy at the beginning but now I feel more confident to share about myself. With the cup game we learned how to work in teams which was a bit difficult at first and we argued how to do but then we understood how we had to work together to succeed.” (G10, male)
New & Revised Topics:
Money Management – for Grade 12 & Parents
Lack of financial literacy is a critical issue in Cambodia, with huge chunks of the population falling prey to ‘microfinance’ loans. Rural families are especially vulnerable to these predatory organizations, and without understanding the ramifications for repayment, can face losing their land and homes, and their children dropping out of school.
We already include a section on Money Management in our Career Prep workshop which is focussed on students heading to university. However, after requests from other high school students, we are beginning to run this as a stand alone subject with mostly very positive student turnout, and 100% attendance in SLC – our most remote & rural demographic.
We’re thrilled we can offer this critical skill more broadly and this year, and this has included to parents as well. Money Management is a new parents’ topic for Vannak and Kao Ay, and we collaborated with Women’s Resource Center in the first delivery at KVLC. The team then took what they learned from WRC and added pieces that fit our particular contexts to develop a distinct workshop which they then delivered to parents at Koh Ker and Romchek.
These sessions went exceedingly well, with both groups requesting to learn more on the topic. Another win was Kao Ay’s increasing confidence as she stepped into a part of the Romchek workshop to clarify a point about how to instill values of money management in their children.
We have revived and revised the Gender workshop, with a lot of new content after Vannak and Kao Ay got outside training on gender issues. The sessions they have since developed take a look at gender and sexual identity, as well as gender norms – the latter being especially stereotypical here in Cambodia. The workshop aims to challenge what is deemed pre-destined for boys’ and girls’ futures in terms of work and life aspirations, while also discussing individual gender identity and same sex relationships.
This new content, and their confidence in delivering it, was reflected in students’ ratings and feedback, and as always the team led a fun and engaging session on what can be an unfamiliar subject here.
“What I knew about this before is very traditional (gender roles). But now I understand that man can do housework and woman can go to work and earn income. I feel that I learned more about gender and I can share to others so that people aren’t discriminate against people who identify as different gender, or who love same sex.” (G9, male)
We are thrilled with the way this whole program – and Vannak’s team – continue to grow and deliver meaningful, impactful sessions. And we are confident it will continue to do so! Time and again, students attest that these are among the most significant tools that we provide:
“The workshops are valuable for our education and fill in gaps in our knowledge.” (G12 female)
“They are very important because we can better understand ourselves and learn about things we’ve never heard about before. They’ve helped me set clear goals for myself.” (G11 female)
“I want to thank all PLF members for putting your heart into your work and help us prepare for our future.” (G12 male)
Want to walk alongside PLF and our students in their journeys, but not sure how?
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!
Have some questions?
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