In 2009, a group of Team Leaders from EYC’s Lakeside school, seeing both the opportunity and the need in a nearby community, created a new school named Youth School. Over the years, it has developed into a vibrant school filled with the cheerful chatter of students and decorated with colorful murals and a beautiful walled garden. It has also been a refuge for children and youth growing up in a challenging environment where drug consumption, roadside gambling, poor housing and living conditions put their education and safety at risk.
Like EYC’s other schools, Youth School has always been about more than providing supplemental education to students. Its team of dedicated teachers and staff has been a pillar in the community, offering much-needed humanitarian support and crisis assistance during challenges posed by repeated community fires and loss of homes, as well as the lockdowns of the Covid pandemic.
Unfortunately, in October Youth School and numerous nearby families received a notice of eviction due to a road development project. While the news was unwelcome, it wasn’t unexpected, as the push to modernize Phnom Penh threatens the livelihoods and destinies of the children and families living in these informal communities. Since we choose to embed our programs within the vulnerable communities we serve, the threat of eviction is part of our operational reality. As we saw in 2017, EYC’s first school, Aziza, was forced to close and relocate due to the demolition of the White Building where the school had been housed since its inception in 2006.
Similar to the process with Aziza, upon receiving the news of the eviction, the EYC team quickly mobilized to assess the situation, consulting with the local authorities and conducting an assessment of the number of EYC families impacted, including their needs and plans for relocation. In total, 45 EYC students (representing 35 families) faced eviction due to the road development project.
The community assessment determined that despite the potential impact of future developments in the area, most families wish to stay near their existing community rather than move to a relocation site provided by the government. Accordingly, to best serve the majority of Youth School students, EYC has secured a new location about 600 meters from our original Youth School. We continue to assess how best to support those students moving outside the community.
Today we reopened Youth School in its new location. While the walls of the new center are currently unadorned, we are confident that with time the students and team will recreate the energy, vibrancy, and sense of community that made our original location so special.