Letter from Board Chair Regarding the Fire in the Youth School Community
I offer sincere thanks for the outpouring of support EYC received following the devastating fires in the Youth School community, and I would like to provide an update on the team’s response.
As many of you know, a fire broke out early Monday morning, January 6, in the community surrounding Youth School, where EYC has been operating for over ten years. While our school survived the fire, 151 homes burned to the ground leaving approximately 850 people homeless. These people already live on the thin edge of poverty, and this tragedy has the potential to create a downward spiral.
Following the fire, the EYC team immediately began providing emergency support, including food, water, clothes, hygiene supplies, medical care, and shelter to the community members in need. They also undertook a needs assessment of the EYC families and those most vulnerable, including seniors, pregnant women, babies/children. Although numbers are a bit fluid, the initial determination was that 35 EYC student families were affected, nearly all of whom were renters. A few of those families temporarily moved back to the countryside following the fire but are looking to return to Phnom Penh for work.
Currently, EYC is providing the following support for 30 families at the cost of roughly $9,000 ($300/family):
- One month of rent
- School uniforms and school fees for one month
- One month of food
- Other basic household supplies – fans, blankets, hygiene supplies, etc.
The team firmly believes that it is essential to get the affected students back into school and into some sense of normalcy and stability, so we are looking to provide another month’s support for rent and school fees to the EYC families. We are also looking at potentially providing start-up capital to the mothers whose businesses were lost and additional social work services.
The EYC team has set up a control system to manage incoming donations, and they will track to ensure the money is deployed appropriately.
This community is already marginalized, and there no safety nets in place. While the Red Cross has provided some basic assistance, and a women’s NGO is involved in offering support to sex workers impacted, EYC has been the primary support system for the community during this tragedy.
We are so grateful for the tremendous outpouring of support – monetary and in-kind – that we received from our friends in Cambodia as well as internationally – over $16,000. In light of that, we are closing the fundraiser as we feel we have sufficient funds to address the critical needs of the families at this point.
It has also been incredible to see the youth of EYC at work responding to the crisis. EYC Team Leaders have organized fundraisers and clothing/food drives in the other EYC communities, and many of our students, who have little to spare, have made donations.
We are fortunate that our Managing Director, Delphine, has experience in humanitarian response and an understanding that the best of intentions can often have harmful and unintended consequences. Within just five short days, and with Delphine and Synoeun’s leadership, the team has been thoughtful in their approach to addressing the emergency needs and the longer-term ramifications of this fire so that this tragedy does not set these families even further back.
In gratitude for your support,
EYC Board Chair