Permalink to Update: Social Work Program

Update: Social Work Program

In April, EYC launched a Social Work program to formalize and expand work to support the many students struggling with challenges at home that negatively impact their ability to learn, hindering them from reaching their full potential and transcending the cycle of poverty.  Between April andJune, EYC’s social work staff (pictured below) performed outreach with 99 students who had either dropped out of EYC, were at risk of dropping out, or were facing circumstances undermining their ability to pursue their education.

Common issues faced by these at-risk students included:  difficult living conditions; issues within the home/family; needing to stay home to care for relatives or younger siblings; needing to go to work to help support the family; conflicts with Khmer school schedules; lack of understanding of the importance of education; and fear regarding the environment around the schools – proximity of drugs, gambling, etc.

Once the teachers and school managers identify a student as being at-risk, the school’s social work staff member works directly with the student and family to identify underlying issues.  One-on-one counseling support, regular home visits to asses the family situation, and a plan to re-engage the students in their learning are some of the activities conducted by the social work staff.  The vast majority of families and students involved have been appreciative of the intervention, education, and support provided through this program.

Permalink to Thoughts From the Team: Delphine discusses the importance of EYC’s Sports Program

Thoughts From the Team: Delphine discusses the importance of EYC’s Sports Program

What makes the Sports Program so important for EYC and what life lessons are the kids learning through sports?  

“I love our sports program and dream of seeing it grow because sports are essential for physical and mental wellbeing.  Not so long ago, when Cambodia was recovering from the war and people were still in survival mode, sports were not common amongst Cambodians as participation was considered a luxury. However, over the last five to six years, Cambodians have begun to realize the benefits of physical activity and sports for improved health…and physique!

Although many parents of EYC students continue to believe that their children should focus on activities that generate an income, some are beginning to understand that their children can also advance their lives through sports, not only generating a good income but also improving their health and self-confidence.

For me, playing sports is a tool through which children and youth can uncover their potential, see how far they can push themselves, and explore their limits.  Sports help kids learn more about themselves, and once they have a better sense of themselves, they are more likely to make “better choices.”  Another great aspect is the ripple effect: students who get involved in sports and physical activity become role models for other students.  Additionally, team sports provide the chance to practice cooperation, learn how to respect others and work together to achieve a common goal. Finally, some of our students come from very difficult family situations and being part of a sports team provides an opportunity to get away, feel joy, and find a sense of personal accomplishment.

Currently, we have a core group of teenage girls from Lakeside and Youth school who have persevered in their Jiu-Jitsu practice and are showing themselves to be very talented.  One of them, who is only 13 years old, has been nominated to receive individual training in order to to participate in the next Southeast Asian Games.  We are thrilled to see this new EYC sports champion emerging 🙂

Yoga is also gaining popularity amongst our students who feel the benefit of the practice on their overall wellbeing. My next goal will be to introduce mindfulness in our classrooms as a simple step towards a more personal practice, and perhaps, meditation.

For me, it does not matter which sport a student chooses as one kid may thrive in team sports while another might be more inclined to individual sports.  The important thing is to let them pick the activity they want to try and then provide them with the opportunities to practice and develop to the level they want.

It is rewarding and inspiring to watch as a student finds and develops their passion in ways they might not have imagined.  I have seen some of the EYC bike team members discover a passion for competition, and to me, this passion is less about the desire to “beat others” than it is about the willpower and self-confidence they have developed since starting cycling.  What I find even more profound are the ways they have brought this confidence and determination to other aspects of their lives.

Permalink to Featured Student Profile: Dyno

Featured Student Profile: Dyno

Dyno, now 25 years old, first heard about EYC when he was 16. Team Leaders from Lakeside were opening Youth School in his community, and as two of the Team Leaders were hauling in school materials, they noticed Dyno outside the school. They asked for his help, proceeding to tell him about EYC and explaining that he could come study there for free.  That meeting would prove very fortuitous for the future trajectory of Dyno’s life.

At 16, Dyno, the 5thchild of six siblings, had lost his father and was heading down a dangerous path. Dyno shared that kids in his slum community would follow each other – if one of them did something, often the “wrong thing,” the others would follow. As they grew older, most of the kids in the community joined gangs and became involved in drugs and violence. Before that day outside Youth School, Dyno was heading down that very same path.

After meeting the EYC Team Leaders, Dyno started studying English at Youth School, and his life began to change. He no longer hung out with his old friends as much, having come to recognize the difference between their behaviors and activities and those of his Youth School peers.

Along with the teaching he received in English and computers, Dyno also took advantage of EYC’s dental program.  With EYC’s financial support, he was able to get two badly damaged front teeth fixed.  To have people care about him in this way meant a lot to him, and Dyno committed himself to giving back to the organization.

Dyno became a Team Leader of the football program at Youth School and began to understand he was just that – a leader. When he was with the young kids he coached in the community, he saw he was a role model for them.  Dyno realized he needed to learn not only how to control himself and be more thoughtful about what he did and said, but also how best to motivate and inspire the younger kids. Dyno came to understand that if he stayed in the gang and mistreated people, others would think that type of behavior was ok. He credits the leadership training he received from EYC along with the opportunities EYC provided him to put that training into practice as pivotal to changing the trajectory of his life.

In addition to football, Dyno became involved in the Ultimate Frisbee program offered at EYC.  He continues to participate in the program to this day, acquiring additional valuable life lessons through the sport. Because there are no external referees in Ultimate Frisbee, Dyno learned that the two players involved in a foul had to come to a decision together as to how it should be handled.  His coaches stressed the importance of acting with integrity. Dyno would go home and think about every foul, asking himself if had he handled things correctly with the opposing player. He began to apply that same thinking to all of his interactions with people, and through that he developed an even greater sense of personal accountability.  For Dyno, “the value of the game is to be responsible and honest to yourself.”

The skills and values Dyno learned through classes, sports, and the Team Leader Program – hard work, personal accountability, problem-solving, teamwork, and helping others – are values that he continues to apply in his life.  Without EYC Dyno says he would “never have realized what is right and what is wrong” and most likely would be addicted to drugs and deep into gang life and violence.

Today Dyno is in his second year at the Royal University of Phnom Penh studying Information Technology.  He receives a scholarship from EYC for his studies. Dyno had to wait two years before being able to go to university because he did not have the money or a clear sense of what he wanted to study.  However, during that time he attended a two-year computer vocational training sponsored by EYC which helped to confirm his interest in IT.

In addition to his studies, Dyno is responsible for his mother and brother.  To help support both his family and his education, Dyno works two jobs – he is a cleaner/receptionist at Rodwell Math Institute during the day and a singer at a restaurant in the evenings. Rodwell, an EYC partner providing math and science tutoring, also leads the Ultimate Frisbee program.  It was through his interest in sports at EYC that Dyno first connected with Rodwell Math Institute, which not only gave him a job but also stepped in to help during a family tragedy.  A few years ago, Dyno’s family house burned down leaving the family homeless. Rodwell organized a fundraiser for the family helping them get back on their feet.

Dyno’s life is busy and challenges persist, but with his innate talent and the opportunities, support, and learnings provided by EYC and its partners, Dyno is committed to his future and to being a role model for others.

When asked what Khmer word best describes EYC to him, Dyno chose the word  – Torsu –  “hard work overcomes the struggles.”

Permalink to EYC Student Heads to the US to Study

EYC Student Heads to the US to Study

We are delighted to announce that Pagna, a 19 year-old scholarship student from EYC, recently started a yearlong exchange program at Bridgewater State University (BSU) in Massachusetts where he is studying Political Science.  He follows in the footsteps of Synoeun, an EYC alumni and our current Program Director, who studied at BSU in 2014-15.

Pagna is a charismatic, curious, and intelligent young man, and any trepidation he might have felt at the thought of leaving Cambodia for the first time faded in comparison to the prospect of meeting new people, being exposed to a different educational system, and broadening his understanding and knowledge of the world.  All that being said, Pagna did admit that he is a little nervous about the weather!

Pagna arrived in the US in late August and is settling in well to his new life.  We would like to offer big thank-you to members of the BSU community and friends of EYC who gave Pagna a warm welcome upon his arrival.  We look forward to keeping you apprised of his adventures in the US through our blog and Facebook page.

This transformational opportunity was made possible through the partnership of EYC, Pannasastra University in Phnom Penh, and BSU. Click here to read more about Pagna’s story.

Permalink to EYC Student Heads to University in the US

EYC Student Heads to University in the US

Imagine leaving home to study in another country in a language that is not your native tongue.  What thoughts would be going through your head?

For Pagna, a 19-year-old scholarship student from EYC, any trepidation he might feel fades in comparison to the prospect of meeting new people, being exposed to a different educational system, and broadening his understanding and knowledge of the world.  All that being said, he admits to being a little nervous about the weather!

Following in the footsteps of Synoeun an EYC alumni and our current Program Director, Pagna was recently accepted into an exchange program at Bridgewater State University (BSU) in Massachusetts where he will study International Relations/Political Science.  He will embark on this once in a lifetime opportunity when he heads to the US at the end of August.

Pagna has been a part of the EYC family since 2011 when he first started taking English classes at Aziza.  Like the majority of our students, he has experienced loss and hardship throughout his young life, including his mother’s passing when he was two years old and the demolition of his home at the White Building when he was 18. Yet, through it all, Pagna has utilized his curiosity and positive attitude to forge ahead.

Over the years, Pagna has taken advantage of the classes at EYC to improve his English language abilities and computer skills resulting in a scholarship from EYC.  In turn, he has given back to EYC by working as a computer tutor, soccer coach, and a community volunteer helping to organize a clean-up at the White Building among other activities.

The scholarship Pagna received from EYC covered additional classes he needed to prepare for the national exam required for university entrance.  After passing the national exam last year, Pagna enrolled this year in his foundation year at Pannasastra University where he is studying International Relations.

Pagna is very committed to the EYC community, having found a family of friends amongst the other students and teachers.  In addition to the relationships he has formed, he credits EYC with opening up his world helping him to think more deeply and better understand his potential.

Excerpts from Pagna’s Bridgewater State University application:

“To me, continuing my education in an American University is very significant because I will be able to enlarge my worldview by understanding another culture, and experiencing the American way of life, while of course, improving my English skills. On a personal level, I will also surely become more independent and more confident in life as well as in my studies.

Academically, I am passionate about the subjects related to Political Science and keen to learn those that are relevant with my major, such as education and government, American government. I also wish to learn and improve specific soft skills in the areas of critical thinking, effective communication, creative problem solving and civic engagement: Such practical skills, in addition to political science subjects, will enable me to apply for jobs in Cambodia that would fulfill my desire to contribute to the development of the country.

Currently, I have been volunteering as a youth and football coach in the community of kids where the NGO-Empowering Youth in Cambodia (EYC) works.  Being myself a child from a similar community and a student of EYC, I feel the urge to help the other students at EYC, to gain a better life and have a better future.”

While Pagna is only at the start of his adventure at BSU, he is already thinking about how he can use his experience to inspire other EYC students. Pagna says, “This opportunity is like a diamond.  Not everyone gets a chance like this.” He is grateful and proud to have been accepted into this program, and as he did with EYC, he will make the most of this opportunity.

Permalink to Postcard From Phnom Penh: Meet Nara

Postcard From Phnom Penh: Meet Nara

Hello Friends of EYC!

My name is Sovanara, but people usually call me Nara.  I am 23 years old and live with my mom in a house near Lakeside School. In January 2018, I became the EYC Sports Coordinator. 

When I was young my life was relatively normal, and I went to school regularly.  However, my father left us to start a new family when I was ten years old.  We had a number of problems which made concentrating on school challenging.  I started hanging out with a gang and skipping school.  Many of my friends from that time went on to only reach Grades 5, 6 or 7.  

It was my love of sports and the support of EYC that helped me turn my life around.  I started at EYC when I was about 12 years old and participated in the computer and football programs.  Indochina Starfish Foundation (ISF), an EYC partner, led the football program.  I tried out to be a coach with ISF but was turned down because I was too small.  I was very sad about this, and because I was feeling bad I stopped going to EYC.  Luckily for me, EYC didn’t give up on me.  Vandeth, a Team Leader, came to my house to check on me and invited me to join the cycling program and play football again.

Back then my friends would call me “Rubbish Boy” because I scavenged through the garbage looking for recycling to sell.  From that, I was able to save enough money to buy a football and football shoes.  Perhaps one day I will start a recycling company!

Thanks to EYC, I finished high school.  They told me that if I wanted to be on the football team, I needed to stay in school.  While I wasn’t interested in school, I was so desperate to play sports at EYC that I stuck with my studies!   

Some years ago, I was given a pair of biking shorts by EYC.  At that time the shorts were much too big for me, but I was proud to have them so I saved them for when I would grow into them. I now wear them when I coach the young EYC students.

If I did not play sports, I do not know where I would be now. Through sports, I made friends and learned that you can change your life and also help change the lives of others.  I am very excited to be able to share my passion and bring sports to more kids through EYC.  


P.S.  កីឡាបានផ្លាស់ប្តូរជីវិតរបស់ខ្ញុំ(Kiela phlasa btaurchivit robsaknhom), which means “Sport changed my life” is the word I would use to describe EYC’s impact on me.


Permalink to What’s Happening at EYC: Spring 2018

What’s Happening at EYC: Spring 2018

The second quarter of 2018 proved to be a busy one for us. We celebrated the Khmer New Year, distributed computer tablets to every school, increased the number of violin, guitar and piano classes, and started Jujitsu classes each Sunday.  A few additional highlights from the last three months include:

Skype Pen Pal Program :
Towards the end of 2017, we kicked off our first ever Skype Pen Pal program in partnership with university students at Whitman College.  Eight female EYC high school and university scholarship students were paired with US partners for bimonthly Skype calls.  The program’s objective is for the EYC students to further develop their English language skills through regular communication with native English speakers and for the Skype pen pals to develop a better understanding of each other’s lives, cultures, and values. While time zones and nervousness created some challenges, the chance for our students to practice their English and increase their confidence is an amazing opportunity, and we plan to continue it next Fall, hopefully expanding the program.

Lice & Deworming Program:
This spring, we hosted our annual deworming and lice removal program at all EYC schools.  Many of our children have lice, and some students’ scalps are too irritated for them to concentrate on their studies.  In addition, a number of our students have worms, which impact their overall health.  During the program, we provide deworming pills, clean their hair and provide training. This is an important yearly program designed to equip students with a knowledge of hygiene as well as ways to prevent worms and lice.

All School Bike Race Event:
On May 20th, 30 kids (ages 7-12) from all schools participated in a bike event with the goal of creating the next generation of EYC bikers!  The event consisted of four races – three categories for boys and one for girls – and medals were given out for the top three competitors in each category. Chhenghour, Nara, the Team Leaders, as well as EYC’s bike team helped organize the event and offered encouragement to the kids throughout the day.  Our wonderful partner, Flying Bikes, was invaluable in helping to make this event a reality.

Team Leader Monthly Development Opportunities:
Team Leaders are an integral part of EYC. They are responsible for making many EYC programs a reality including sports and library activities. This volunteer position allows the Team Leaders to develop leadership and personal skills and also helps keep EYC costs lower.  Monthly development programs included a “sound healing” workshop in March, a First Aid training in April, and a pizza party in May with EYC graduate, Simouy, who shared her story of inspiration and what the Team Leaders could achieve through hard work and perseverance.

Permalink to Featured Student Profile: Sreyroth

Featured Student Profile: Sreyroth

When Sreyroth was a young girl, she believed her life held little opportunity.  At best, she would finish high school and become a vegetable seller like her mum or a construction worker like her sister who had dropped out of school in Grade 8. However, when she was 12 years old, she learned about EYC, and her future started to unfold in a new and unimaginable way.

Today, at 22, Sreyroth is studying Hospitality and Tourism at Norton University in Phnom Penh with the help of a tuition scholarship from EYC. She dreams of owning a resort where people can come to relax, enjoy time with others, and connect with nature.

Sreyroth’s family lived in a slum community near the White Building, the former location of Aziza school where Sreyroth started learning English with EYC at age 12.   Unfortunately, the community was forced out, and Sreyroth’s family lost their home due to eviction. The families from the community were resettled 20 kilometers outside the city where there was no school. For many kids, that was the end of their education, but not for Sreyroth.  Although it took her 1.5 hours on the back of her dad’s motorbike or in a “tuk-tuk” supplied by EYC, or even longer if she rode a bicycle, Sreyroth went to school each day and was able to continue her involvement with EYC.

Through EYC, Sreyroth has improved her English proficiency and developed her leadership potential and creative talents through community service, volunteer jobs, and participation in art and music opportunities.  Sreyroth has also received EYC scholarships including those for high school math and science; housing and food assistance, and university tuition.

When she was 14, EYC provided housing to Sreyroth at Aziza in the White Building so that she would not have to commute 3-4 hours a day. When the White Building was demolished, she lost her second home to eviction, but she now lives at Aziza Thmey where she is the Assistant School Manager.

Between this role, her schoolwork, and her job as a receptionist at EYC’s partner NGO, Music Arts School, Sreyroth’s life is hectic.  That, however, doesn’t stop her from investing her time in creative and community projects like the “White Band.”  This band was formed by a group of Aziza students who, on learning that the White Building was to be demolished, decided to write a song capturing what the White Building community had meant to them.  This moving song was performed during EYC’s “Celebrating The Journey” event in November and brought tears to the eyes of all who watched it.

Sreyroth’s story is emblematic of the tenacity and resilience of our EYC students.  Experiencing eviction twice, only seeing her family sporadically, and surmounting the seemingly endless hurdles in a quest for a better life – Sreyroth is why we do the work we do.

Sreyroth says “I had a new life once I got to know EYC.  It changed me so much.  Before I was a silent girl – I didn’t say anything and felt nervous and shy, but after leadership training at Jambok Has, social work, and volunteer activities, that all changed.  EYC built my confidence.  I can now dream for myself, and I feel like I have hope in my life. EYC is my family, giving me hope and always motivating me to try something new.”

There are two words that Sreyroth believes best describe what EYC means to her.  They are “Kroursa” which means family and “Sangkhum” which means hope.

Permalink to Seizing The Opportunity: Meet Ratha

Seizing The Opportunity: Meet Ratha

In 1987, Ratha’s family moved to the neighborhood of Toul Sangke.  At that time, the neighborhood sat alongside a lake filled with hyacinths, and people in the community would fish the lake and farm the surrounding land.  Over time, the lake was filled in to make way for land development.  A once fertile area now “grows” condominium projects.

Ratha and six members of his family live in a one-room “house” behind the home of another family in Toul Sangke.  Ratha’s father is a moto-taxi driver, while his mother, who is unable to work due to diabetes and lung disease, stays at home.  Two of his three older brothers are construction workers, and one is a mechanic.

While it has numerous social issues including drug and alcohol abuse, domestic violence, theft, and gambling, the community of Toul Sangke is the only home many, including Ratha, have ever known.  Unfortunately, the place of development in the area threatens the community’s survival, and the future of its residents remains uncertain.   Rather than being at the mercy of these external forces, however, Ratha is better able to direct his future thanks to the educational and extracurricular opportunities offered by EYC.

When he was 16 years old, Ratha’s mother brought home a flyer announcing that a school (EYC’s Youth School) had opened where local children could study English for free.  Since he had never studied English before, Ratha was very nervous to attend EYC at first. Thankfully he did.

For Ratha, EYC has been life-changing.  Not only did he receive free English and Computer training, but EYC also provided him with opportunities for self-development, confidence building, and the chance to continue his education – something that was not an option before. Ratha was very active as a student at EYC and became a Team Leader in EYC’s volunteer program as well as a volunteer computer teacher.  As an alumnus, his commitment to EYC continues with his desire to share his knowledge and experience with the next generation of EYC students.

Currently, Ratha studies visual communications (design) at Phnom Penh International Institute of the Arts, one of the best private art schools in Phnom Penh. Because he did so well in his entrance exam, Ratha receives a 70% scholarship from the school.  In addition, he receives a partial scholarship from EYC.

Ratha works hard.  He goes to school all day, and in the evening he works as a cleaner from 7-11pm. On the weekends he catches up on his studies and plays on the EYC Frisbee Team.

Ratha’s background is similar to that of so many of the young people in the slum communities of Phnom Penh.  What makes his story and his future different is the flyer his mother brought home for free English classes.  From educational classes to sports to leadership development, the opportunities provided by EYC have helped Ratha change the trajectory of his life.  His future will not be determined by the circumstances of his birth but by his desire, drive, and determination.


Permalink to May Postcard from Phnom Penh: Meet Moyura

May Postcard from Phnom Penh: Meet Moyura

Hello Friends of EYC!

My name is Dinamoyura although most people call me Moyura.  I am 18 years old and am attending BELTEI International University in Phnom Penh where I study International Relations.

My parents are divorced, and my father, who is a “moto taxi” driver, is not around much. I live with my mother, who is a social worker at an NGO called Kung Future, and my sister in a house in a poor community on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.

Growing up, I remember many times when we didn’t have clean water or enough to eat.  Neighbors would invite us to share meals with them and because of this we became very close.

My father didn’t allow me to study much when I was younger as he thought girls should stay home.  My mom, however, believes in education and has always encouraged me and my sister to study.  In 2013, I began English and Computer classes at EYC’s Impact School.  In addition to studying, I race for the EYC cycling team, and am one of the only two girls who have achieved good rankings in every bike race this year!

The challenges I have faced in life and the lessons I’ve learned through sports have trained me to be a strong woman and leader.  I am determined, brave, extroverted, patient and have a strong commitment to achieving my goals.

One day I would like to an ambassador in a Khmer Embassy.  I would like to travel around the world getting to know other cultures, lifestyles, habits, and sports as well as understand better the foreign perspective in order to attract foreigners to Cambodia to help with education.  After that I would like to be the CEO of an NGO focused on education so that I can share my knowledge and experience with the kids in the poorer communities.


PS.  មជ្ឈមណ្ឌលផ្តល់ឪកាស(mochchhomondal phtal au kas), which means “Opportunity Center”, is the word I would use to describe EYC.  I chose this word because I feel that everyone who really needs help can participate with EYC, and that EYC will always help their students find solutions to any challenge they may face.

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