The four community-based schools we operate are at the center of our work and have been set up in partnership with the local communities to offer refuge for like-minded young people looking to improve their lives. Each day, we serve over 1,000 students from primary school to university.
In addition to our schools, EYC also operates the Leadership Academy – a residential program for high school and university students from poor communities in the countryside. Because quality high school and university opportunities do not exist in their hometowns, these students must leave their families behind to pursue their studies in Phnom Penh. The Leadership Academy provides them with a safe living environment and enrichment opportunities. Started by EYC partner, Sustainable Schools International (SSI), the Leadership Academy was integrated into EYC in 2020.
Creating an environment that fosters community, friendship, and support, our schools and the Leadership Academy provide children and adolescents growing up in slum communities access to the same essential opportunities as any other youth, including:
A focus on the individual student and a culture of giving back are two aspects central to the EYC model.
While we work with 1,000 students annually through a variety of programs and services, we always keep the individual student top of mind in our approach. EYC’s motto, “Find Your Talent. Create Your Future,” embodies the concept of truly getting to know the individual student and exposing them to opportunities and experiences that can help them find the things they are passionate about. EYC’s teachers, school managers, and leadership team look for ways to foster that passion and help the student see the possibilities for their future that they might otherwise not have known. Click here to meet Rithy, a student who found his talent through EYC.
Core to EYC is the culture of giving back which is fostered through the Team Leader Program. Older students become volunteer Team Leaders and lead various aspects of the programming at each school. These team leaders organize, assist, and mentor the younger students through different activities and act as role models to inspire the next generation. Student volunteers and Team Leaders provide over 10,000 volunteer hours annually. Through these experiences, the students build empathy, learn about teamwork and collaboration, and develop an understanding of the impact of their actions in helping others. The lessons and skills they learn by giving back to EYC and the other students will assist them as they navigate their futures.
While Cambodia has experienced an increase in wealth over recent years, the disparity between the rich and poor remains stark. Those on the lower end of the socioeconomic spectrum face significant financial, health, and educational challenges. These challenges have been exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic.
The realities of slum life are difficult to fully grasp. EYC students live in vulnerable housing structures surrounded by open sewers, uncollected garbage, harassment, gambling, drug dealing, prostitution, alcoholism, and domestic violence. A constant threat of eviction adds to ongoing anxiety.
Our students live on the thin edge of poverty where they are just an illness, job loss, death, or eviction away from having to drop out of public school. Many young children have to help support their families by working in a garment factory, selling food on the street, scavenging for garbage, or sometimes worse. Often they are exhausted trying to balance school and work to do well in school.
These challenges are even more profound for our girls and young women who face daily inequities because of their gender.
The approach outlined above has been consciously developed to address the inherent challenges faced by youth growing up in the slum communities and the heightened challenges experienced by our female students. We focus heavily on recruiting female students into the overall program as well as into sports which is not a traditional activity for Cambodian women. Over 50% of EYC’s student population is female.