As we prepare for the final months of 2022, we wanted to take a moment to share with you some reflections from EYC’s new Managing Director, Raphaël Poutignat, on his first six months with EYC.
What have you learned in your first six months?
It has been an exciting journey so far. I have been amazed by the dedication of EYC’s team. They are always willing to make the extra effort, work the extra hour to improve our programs and provide individual support to EYC students when needed.
They encourage students to participate in sports or music activities, apply for international scholarships, choose career orientation, and find strategies to finance academic studies while promoting the value of education with students’ parents.
Often teenagers and youth struggle to navigate their busy academic schedules, family obligations, and the expectations of teachers and family. This can negatively affect their motivation and ability to focus and stay committed. Our team is always there for them, providing the support and encouragement necessary to achieve their potential and create their futures.
It is also powerful to work in an NGO where many team members are former students and closely identify with the communities with whom we work. There is a great depth of knowledge within the team. I like to ask many questions, and I find there is always someone able to answer them. This is a great feeling.
What additional insights do you have now into the work EYC is doing?
Uncertainty is inherent in the communities we serve. This uncertainty requires that EYC be able to respond to numerous challenges simultaneously while supporting the development of a large number of students – all with limited human and funding resources. What I think we can do better is to understand what partners around us are doing. This can increase our organizational learning, enable us to identify the students’ needs better, and, when necessary, refer students to organizations delivering specific services we can’t provide. In short, we need to help students connect with opportunities to help them plan their academic future and professional paths, cultivate their entrepreneurial spirit, and go beyond what they learn in the classroom.
Where do you see opportunities for growth/development for the organization/programming?
Cambodia is changing rapidly and developing fast. We must keep on top of all these changes and opportunities, remaining flexible at an organizational level. EYC’s model perfectly adapts to the disorganized urbanization happening in Phnom Penh. Being based in communities that live with the constant threat of eviction, we understand that we need to be able to follow children and their families if they have to relocate.
As for programming, I see that we can do even better in empowering children and youth to be actively involved in designing, implementing, and monitoring our activities and programming. Digitization is a perfect tool to increase their participation. With the support of a volunteer, we have started to use an online application in our scholarship program where students can upload all their documents on their own. They are learning while saving us staff time, thereby increasing the quality of interaction between our team members and the students.
In October, some of our students joined the Youth ASEAN conference. They have been listening, discussing, and debating societal issues in Cambodia and the region. We would like them to share what they have learned with other EYC students so they can also get inspired to learn more on these topics. We are also starting a project with the organization Earth Rights, in which children and youth will identify environmental issues in their communities and work out solutions to implement a project on their own in their communities.
Do you have an anecdote or story to share that captures what makes EYC unique?
Recently, I joined the graduation ceremony of Samnang, one of the EYC students who graduated in International Relations from the Pantagon University. He was thrilled to see us at the ceremony and had wonderful words of gratitude for EYC, mentioning that he would have dropped out of school a long time ago without EYC support. He currently works for the Ministry of Defense and will start a master’s degree in Political Science “without asking any support from EYC” as he feels it is his time to give back to EYC. He is extremely dynamic and confident, and while he has already come a long way, we know he will achieve even more in the future. We can’t hope more for our students.
Any final thoughts?
On behalf of EYC community, I would like to send our greetings to all our supporters and overall, to all people interested in the work we are doing; you are part of our community, and we greatly appreciate you.