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  • What is our plan during this pandemic?

    To our wonderful community,

    In March I wrote to you to announce Human and Hope Association’s temporary closure, as directed by the Ministry of Youth, Education and Sport (MoEYS).

    MoEYS have now decided to extend the suspension of education services in Cambodia until the new public school year, which is in October. This is in order to stop the spread of COVID-19. We support this decision, as we know our country cannot handle the impact of this pandemic.

    However, we are deeply concerned for our community members. Many have lost their jobs and are struggling to survive. With our students not able to attend public school or their supplementary classes at Human and Hope Association, their learning will be affected. We are worried that many won’t be returning to school come October, and their futures will be devastatingly impacted.

    Our students don’t have access to computers to undertake online learning. Their public school classes will be broadcast via television, but not everyone has a television or can afford to keep their electricity on, if they have electricity in the first place.

    We need to take care of everyone’s safety whilst also protecting our future. That’s why our team has developed a plan to get us through this.

    Our Team

    After working from home for five weeks or in some cases, taking paid annual leave, our staff are going to head back to our community centre on the 27th of April. We will practice physical distancing and provide face masks, hand sanitizer and soap. The temperatures of our staff will be checked upon arrival.

    As our team have been running hygiene workshops in the community for eight years, we are confident they will take the appropriate measures to stay safe.

    Sewing Classes

    Our sewing classes for adults will resume on the 27th of April. There are only six students in each class, so we are able to move our equipment around to ensure there is 1.5 metres between each student. We will provide personal protective equipment for our students, in addition to temperature checks.

    Due to a drop in funding, we are unable to continue providing our sewing students with a stipend of rice, but they will still receive nutritious vegetables that are grown in our on-site garden.

    Our seamstresses will begin producing 1,000 face masks at their homes with funds raised from our COVID-19 workshop crowdfunding campaign. These will be distributed to the students who currently study in our programs and the general community.

    Our seamstresses’ income has dropped substantially as we are unable to provide them with work due to the temporary and permanent closure of many of our buyers in Siem Reap. We are currently trying to source grants so we can produce at least 5,000 face masks for distribution to the poorest families in our community.

    Education Programs

    For our older English-language students who can currently access the internet on their parents’ phones, we will teach daily classes via Facebook live.

    For our English and Khmer language students and preschool students who do not have access to the internet (approximately 40% of our students), we will provide them with homework twice a week. This will be undertaken by having them visit our community centre at different times each fortnight so they can talk with their teacher, hand in their homework and receive new homework.

    Our Khmer-language students can attend a drop-in session at our library once a fortnight whereby they borrow our Khmer library books, read them at home, and return them the next week.

    We are going to phone the parents of our 250 students, or conduct home visits taking the appropriate safety precautions, to inform them about our plans to help their children whilst we are closed.

    It is important that our students continue learning in any shape, way or form. This will increase the likelihood of them returning to school in October, ensuring they have the necessary knowledge to earn a stable income and move out of poverty in the future. We won’t just be helping them with accessing our classes, we will also work with them to access their online classes from MoEYS as well. Our teachers will follow up with the students once a fortnight through their homework feedback and talking with their parents. This individualised approach will be time-consuming, but it is the best option we can currently determine.

    Our Community

    We are committed to helping our community during this tough time. Once our staff are back at our community centre next week, we are going to work with the community members and commune leaders to identify the issues they are facing and work with them on solutions. Our community members are hard workers who, through no fault of their own, are slipping back into poverty due to the impact this pandemic has had on our economy. We want to make sure they get through this. We don’t know yet what our support will look like; will it be food production, counselling, or emergency supplies? Only time will tell, because like with everything we do, we need to make sure we are doing what is best for our community members, in consultation with them.

    Our Future

    Our funding has taken a hit because we can no longer generate an income from our handicraft sales or hold the local fundraisers we had planned for this year. Our partners in Australia, Human and Hope Association Inc, are working hard to get us the financial support we need, but with their economy taking a dive, and the exchange rate worsening, we are in a very volatile position. That’s why all our staff have taken a 20% salary cut, and we have cut our costs where possible. As we were already a very lean organisation, this was challenging to do. We are committed to coming through the other end with our team and community in tack.

    With all of this going on, there is a positive. Because all of our staff are local, we have been able to respond in a timely manner to the constantly changing situation on the ground. We have always said that a local approach to development is the best approach, because we are the subject-matter experts, we know our community and culture well, and we are here for the long-term. Now we are able to lead the way, and hope other organisations will begin to follow our model.

    Thank you for your ongoing support. If you are in a position to help our community get through this, please make a donation. There are many options for donating across the globe. You can do so here: https://www.humanandhopeassociation.org/donate/

    Take care and stay safe.

    Yours in solidarity,

    Thai San

    Managing Director

    Human and Hope Association

  • A nice success story of Heang

    Heang has eight members in her family. She stopped studying in grade 11 as her parents couldn’t support her. Then she worked as a housekeeper. Heang liked sewing since she was young. One day, she had a chance to learn a free sewing class, but due to a short training period, she couldn’t use her skill to run her dream sewing business at home. Then she got a job as a seamstress, making bags and some other handmade items. Heang didn’t like the job as she wanted to run her own sewing business at home, but she still worked there for the money.

    One day, Heang was arranged by her parents to marry a man in her village who she didn’t love, so Heang refused to that as she already had a loved one. Her parents got angry with her and kept forcing her, but she still disagreed and asked them to marry a man she loved. Although her parents didn’t happy with that, she finally decided to leave her family to live with a man she loves at the age of 21. She did not feel happy to do that with her parents, but that was only one of her best choice. Heang is one of the amazing women who dare to fight with her family on the marriage arrangement.

    After living with her partner for a year, she had a daughter, so she stopped working as a seamstress. She just stayed home, looked after her daughter and did housework. So the family expenses relied on her husband who works as a housekeeper and earns less income. They started to have a bad financial situation. However, after her daughter was 1 year old, Heang went to work again as a housekeeper to help her husband. Two years later, she had another daughter, so she needed to stop working again. Her family expenses had increased, but she couldn’t go to work as she needed to take care of her two daughters, so her family had a more big problem with financial.

    One day, through our staff outreach, we met Heang at her small house and asked her if she was interested in our sewing program. Heang was happy to hear that because she wanted to improve her sewing skill, so she can set up her business at home. However, at first Heang hesitated to join the program because she was concerned that her husband disagreed and she didn’t understand like the old school, but after we talked about our sewing program and we let Sampheas, one of our seamstresses shared about her experience, so she stopped worrying about that. And her husband is a good man, he supported his wife’s decision.

    Heang was very happy to learn sewing again, even though she traveled around 30 minutes to study every day, she had never felt tired with a goal of setting up her dream sewing shop at home.

    After just three months, through her talent and a great attitude, she was chosen to become our seamstress, making products for us. She was very happy to start earning income. After completing our sewing course, Heang was fully confident to set up her dream sewing shop at home. And a few months later, with support from her husband, she could also set up a laundry shop at home.

    Through attending our sewing program, Heang has achieved her dream. She is currently working with us as a seamstress, running her own sewing business and laundry at home. She is very proud of herself now as she can help herself and more importantly, she can prove to her parents that what she had decided to choose a man she loves is right because she is now living in a happy family with her two daughters.

    “When I attended a sewing class at HHA, I have improved my sewing skill a lot. I meet new good people. Also, I gained a lot of knowledge, especially about parenting and money management.”

    JOIN US TO EMPOWER MORE WOMEN LIKE HEANG TODAY!

    DONATE!

    BECOME OUR SEWING MONTHLY CHAMPIONS!

  • Pchum Ben Festival

    Pchum Ben or Ancestors’ festival is one of the longest festivals in Cambodia, lasting for 15 days. It is the Buddhism religious festival, which is celebrated every year on the 10th month, Pheaktrobot of the Khmer calendar (which is in September or October). It is also one of the very special festivals for Cambodians as they get three days off from work and this year the national holiday fell on 27, 28, and 29 of September. It is very special because it is the time for someone who works far away from home go back to meet and enjoy with their families and relatives at their hometowns.

    What are the meanings of Pchum Ben Festival?

    The word ‘Pchum or Brochum’ mean a meeting or gathering, and the word ‘Ben’ means the ball of rice, so Pchum Ben means that large numbers of people gather together at the pagoda to offer food including the ball of rice to the monks. The 15 days celebration is actually divided into two, from the 1st day to the 14th day, is called “Kan Ben Day”, means that the villagers from each village take turn to offer food to the monks”, and the last day is called “Ben Thom or Pchum Ben Day”, a huge crowded day, that all villagers from surrounded pagoda come together to offer food to the monks.

    All Cambodians always remember and understand that Pchum Ben is the festival that they offer food to the monks at the pagoda and dedicate their good deeds and food to their parents, and their relatives who might be born in the bad places, especially, if they are born at the Beta place, one of the bad places, where the Beta ghost are suffered from starvation or many other conditions. But according to the article of Mr. Song Siv, there are three meanings of celebrating Pchum Ben Festival:

    1. To dedicate the good deeds/food to the Beta ghosts who they might be their parents or relatives, so they can reborn to a good place or have food to eat.
    2. To do good deeds for themselves, so this will bring them in return as living in happiness and prosperity in the present life and next life (after they died).
    3. To make good unity between people and people in the community as well as the whole country

    Why they celebrate Pchum Ben Festival?

    In the ancient time, this festival is specially celebrated to offer food to the monks who just stayed in the pagoda during the rainy season for three months because this season the monks could not go asking for alms due to difficulties of walking on the flooded, slippery and bad roads. Later on, the festival is celebrated for only 15 days due to a busy work of people, which they celebrate this festival for offering food to the monks, to dedicate their merits to their parents, their relatives, and ancestors, and doing a good deed for themselves. Buddhists really believe in Karma, they believe in the word “If they do good deed, good things will be returned, if they do bad deed, bad things will be returned”, which is not only in present but also for their next life as well, so celebrating Pchum Ben is a must-do for most of Cambodians.

    How people celebrate Pchum Ben Festival?

    During the first 14 days, villagers in each village, or individuals or groups take a turn to offer food to the monks at their pagoda. Each day, they buy food from the market and cook at the pagoda and some villagers bring from homes. Also, they also make the ball of rice (made with sticky rice and sesame), which called Bay Ben. People get up in the very early morning around 4 pm, bring their Bay Ben to the pagoda to get the bless from the monks and then take their Bay Ben to spread on the ground to offer to the starvation Beta ghosts who they believe they can eat that rice. Then they prepare breakfast and lunch for the monks, listen to the monk chant, monk Dharma speaking, and monk blessing. At the end, they dedicate their merits to their parents, relatives and their ancestors who have passed away.

    The 15th day, the last day of the festival which is called Ben Thom or Pchum Ben is the special day because all families, parents, and children bring food, a bunch of flowers, Bay Ben to the pagoda and offer to the monks.

  • Staff development workshops

    We feel strongly about continuously providing our staff with new knowledge and skills to perform better in their jobs. Each Saturday, we hold workshops so we can have open communication with our staff and also consistently increase their skills.

    Our staff learns about topics such as teaching methodology, child protection, teamwork, management, leadership, and other general knowledge to assist them to better their jobs, keep them motivated, and their professional lives. All our workshops are held by our staff, governing board members or professional Khmer volunteers.

    This year, our staff has attended 18 development workshops as follows:

    1.     Managing Performance

    2.     Sales and Fundraising Essential

    3.     3-Day Bootcamp for managers and senior leader

    4.     Networked Leadership

    5.     Leadership Summit

    6.     Starting, growing and scaling a social enterprise

    7.     Money Management

    8.     Environment

    9.     Goal setting

    10.  Cambodian Culture

    11.  Smart Parenting

    12.  Teacher Training

    13.   Road Traffic Law

    14.  Labor Law

    15.  Taxation law

    16.  The benefits of eating fruits

    17.  The Food of the mind

    18.  Physical health

    These workshops have seen the quality work at Human and Hope Association improve greatly, and we strive to continue to improve on this.

    “It is new to me as my previous workplaces, never have a regular staff development workshop like this. There are many benefits for me through attending the workshops. I have gained new general knowledge and skills to better my job. It reminds me of what I have learned. Also, I feel great with my teamwork as we learn and share from each other.” Mon – our new Education and Community Assistant.

    “The staff development is very important for me because I gained new general knowledge that I have never learned, which I call it soft-skill that improve my thought and professional behavior at work and my personal life.” Lida – our new Accountant