Due to the pandemic, PeopleStories hasn’t been able to send any volunteers to our work in rural Cambodia for close to 2 years. Having said that, we are thrilled to welcome part of our international team returning!
Victoria (our Founder) and Geoff (who started virtually volunteering with us since mid 2021) packed their bags, masked up and took a flight back to visit the school and children. Amidst messages of “safe flights”, we are sure that they couldn’t be more thrilled to return to see our children, teachers and the rural community. We can’t wait to hear all about their the adventures!
Geoff continued, “My plans are to see family and friends which I’ve started to do. I also intend to learn more about PeopleStories on the ground.” Seeing is believing! There is no better way to appreciate PeopleStories’ purpose and mission but to experience it at our local schools.
Victoria also shared, “One of the things I miss so much is to spend time with the children at their schools. Seeing them running around in the school ground and hearing their laughter are just awesome!.”
There is much happening in the month of February for the children, Geoff and Victoria are in a for a big dose of Cambodian culture and real life experience. With our annual School for Life Ceremony taking place in mid February and our Mobile School of Smart School Anywhere (SSA) project getting ready to launch in late Februray, we can’t wait to hear directly from Geoff and Victoria about their direct encounter
We believe that this is the main project that the two will be focussing on for this particular trip. Last year, there had been many discussions and planning regarding this initiative and we are beyond ecstatic that the fruits of our labour are blossoming!
“I have met with our local team online and now in person! I believe we’re very fortunate to have them supporting our work here in rural Cambodia. Personally, I’m involved in helping out the council with funding efforts and I think we will be having huge progress with that this year.” Geoff shared.
When Victoria was asked about her return trip, she couldn’t hide any of her emotions and said, “I met a boy as part of our home visits and I cried. I cried…But I am glad to return to rural Cambodia. I am glad to meet this boy today. Even more grateful that PeopleStories is able to offer him a much needed scholarship - a fighting chance to a brighter future.”
The first week of 2022 is off and running and so is the work at PeopleStories. A Team Development Program has been created and it is the time now to learn, create, and work together to find the best possible ways to be of service to the children and their education.
We checked in with teacher Sarith to see how his week went and he was eager to express how great the trip was. The team learned a lot of new and different topics. Although Sarith was candid in saying how tiring the days were, the team had fun with all of their facilitators. He shared, “This is a very important program and it is the way to build up a team to be strong and progressive together. We’re lucky to be members of the PeopleStories team, especially being right here in Cambodia.”
This first week in January no doubt is a very rewarding one. What an exciting way to begin a new year! Brushing up on existing skills and learning brand new ones. All to best help the children in rural Cambodia complete school.
Have you thought about what you’d like to do, new, in 2022?
Story written by: Volunteer Kathy Aunkst
The 2022 school year has begun! Thanks to everyone's hard work and generous support of PeopleStories, our scholarships have increased from 120 to 150!! Isn't that amazing news?
We're thrilled to introduce a new (and creative) campaign recently created by our supporters, as to help the children in rural Cambodia to gain greater access to the education. A group of PeopleStories volunteers did some brainstorming to see what added efforts they could come up with to help raise awareness and funds for School for Life and working with Charity Ambassador Matt Le Nevez was something we all excitedly agreed upon.
Reflecting on his year as ambassador, Matt shared, “The past year has been exciting for me. I’ve loved getting to know the charity, it's amazing volunteers as well as the children. The selflessness of everyone involved is inspiring and there are so many life lessons I am learning every time I jump on a zoom call or a chat with our amazing group of people.”
Roberta Thomson, Volunteer of PeopleStories and member of Matt's Angel, is a super fan of Matt (thanks to the Australian TV show Offspring) and she was so excited to hear about him becoming the Ambassador for PeopleStories. Roberta said, “PeopleStories was just embarking on a move to e-learning for children in rural Cambodia and the purpose aligned with my professional interests and led me to attend a Storytelling workshop for PeopleStories hosted by Matt. One thing led to another.”
Do you want to be Matt’s Angel too?
We know that Matt has a vast, passionate fan base around the world and we would love for his fans to unite in this very special way and join Matt's Angels. Head over to Matt’s Angels and there you can make a donation or join Matt's Angels or both; and be an angel for the children in rural Cambodia.
Story written by: Volunteer Kathy Aunkst
If you have ever thought about donating to a charity, you would have surely wondered about the different ways to get involved. Donation can be in the form of time, skill, hands-on (local), monetary, and the growing, popular virtual volunteering, just to name a few.
Coaching for Good! Puay Eng’s energy and passion are contagious. She isn’t wasting any time and says, “In 2022, I’m donating coaching hours to raise funds for more STEM scholarships, to help girls who aspire to advance their study (and life!).”
Would you like to watch the children from the villages transform into confident, driven young adults is a gift in itself!
Join us: https://ps-schoolforlife2022.raisely.com/
Story written by: Volunteer Kathy Aunkst
We have come to the end of the year! Cliché as it may sound to say this: How has it come so fast? It is as though time is a whirlwind and we are in the centre of it all.
December is the month for celebration, love, joy, gathering and…giving! So, for this month, we have decided to reflect on the year of 2021 and on 8 highlights of giving by PeopleStories and with PeopleStories.
Despite the school closures in Cambodia and changes to how our charity is operating, PeopleStories still holds steadfast in our mission to enable the children in Cambodia to complete school.
Here is what our founder and CEO Victoria mused, “The pandemic certainly is a good test on many things including our operations. PeopleStories is a young and fast-growing charity and it relies on volunteers (in and outside of Cambodia) 100%. The pandemic brought much uncertainty, which I honestly wasn’t sure how to continue with our much-needed work for the children right in the beginning of 2020. However, there is always a way when you have a shared purpose.” And we so agree with her last sentence!
Without further ado, here are 8 highlights of giving by and with PeopleStories and our supporters in the year of 2021!
2)Reduce, Reuse, Recycle
Next up is our Zero Waste Competition! We wanted to promote learning amongst children especially because of school closures and children who have limited access to online learning. Hence, the idea of the Zero Waste competition was born! We roped in Teacher Sarith and 2 of our scholarship students – Pokim and Bunsao to help us spread the idea and the message of this competition. They did an amazing job with that, creating educational videos and posters that they then disseminated to their classmates.
PeopleStories collected so many wonderful entries from our participants – students, teachers, and family members. Apart from educating our children, we wanted to give them the opportunity to express their creativity and do something good for their community and their environment. We are so glad to see the enthusiastic responses from our participants and cannot wait to organize something similar again soon!
3)120 New Scholarship to 120 Children
In 2021, we broke our record by giving 120 scholarships as part of our School for Life scholarship program! We are so grateful to our supporters - YOU for helping us to break the record and giving to more children than ever.
120 children’s lives have been changed, 120 children no longer need to worry about their school expenses day in and day out. They do not need to fret over whether they will have to drop out of school to help their family with finances. They get to learn, to focus on their studies, to design and work towards their dreams and goals in school and for their future. So, thank you, thank you, thank you!
4)Matt Le Nevez Cooks with Crickets
Of course, we can’t miss out our charity ambassador with actor Matt Le Nevez. We announced early this year that Matt Le Nevez has become the official ambassador of PeopleStories! No rest for the wicked and Matt immediately held several interactive workshops with as “The Art of Storytelling”. Did you witness this special event?
Did you also see Matt on Australia Celebrity MasterChef on tv? He even cooked one of the dishes with crickets! Matt has elevated our brand awareness and we could not be more grateful for having him as our ambassador. Look out for the upcoming events we will be having with him!
6)Rain or Shine, Riding to School
Next up, our Bike for Life has made a return! Bike for Life is the project through which PeopleStories gives bikes to children for greater mobility to and from school. On November 6, on the exact day 4 years after our first B4L, we returned to Phum Ou Primary School and gave 40 bikes out! We believe these bikes give children not only mobility, greater access to school but most importantly confidence in life to pursue their dreams.
7)COVID19 Relief in Rural Cambodia
We could not miss out our COVID19 Relief program. With the pandemic, PeopleStories decided to provide rice to our scholarship students and their families in April, June, October, and December. We hope that with the provision of food, our families do not have to worry about having enough food to tide them through the difficult economic times caused bythe pandemic.
When asked, here is our Founder & CEO, Victoria’s motive behind this initiative, “With 95% loss of tourists coming to Siem Reap, many people were hit extremely hard by the pandemic. Although our purpose is to help children complete school, but with an empty stomach what good can education be?”
“First thing first, we wanted to relieve some of the pressure from the families by giving them food to put on the table. So far, we have provided the families more than 8.5 tons of rice!”.
Relieving families of this worry can also enable our students to be able to focus on their studies without having to worry about helping their family financially. We are thankful for our teachers and volunteers in Cambodia for helping to roll this out smoothly and successfully with us.
8) STEM for Girls
Last but not least, we’ve got our STEM4Girls scholarship program! Our 2 girls studying in Phnom Penh just returned for their next school year after a short break back for their school holidays! Sreymey and KongNov, who are studying on the scholarship are setting a wonderful example for the rest of their peers and especially girls for what is possible when they study hard for their dreams and their future!
Just recently, a new group of girls embarked on their road trip to Phnom Penh. A trip not only to sit an entry exam to a STEM school, but a journey to get one step closer to their dreams. Go girls!!
Here is a personal and touching story that we have asked our founder, Victoria to share! “While I was living in the village, I saw a very young girl with a serious burnt (fresh wound) on her chest. I didn’t have a chance to respond to the situation, or perhaps I should say I didn’t have the courage to step up and offer help.
But that night, I could not sleep. The next morning, I asked one of the neighbours to take me to the chemist for some ointment for burnt. Then again asked him to drive me around to look for that girl. I was on the back of his motor bike for a good half a day looking around and asking the community if they had seen a girl with a burnt wound. Eventually we found her!
Seeing her living environment made me realise how the accident took place, which was a fall onto a cooking stove with hot coals at the ground while playing. I gave the ointment to the mother and saw deep in her eyes: It is about hope and gratitude. This experience gave me a long-lasting impression and how a small act of giving can light up someone’s life.”
This story is truly touching and there’s more giving to come! Victoria continued to share, “For the first 4 years of PeopleStories journey, we have been focusing on the physical access to school including giving bikes for mobility, school supplies for learning efficiency. Starting from 2022, we will be transforming rural education from “chalk & talk” to “flick & click” stepping up to bring digital access to quality education. I can’t wait to see our mobile classroom tuk-tuking around and brining digital learning to our children in the villages.” We can’t wait too and you bet we will be sharing with you all the events and plans for the coming year!
Want to join PeopleStories to give the gift? Head on over to our fundraising website to donate to our cause! Next year, we are aiming to provide 150 scholarships to the children in rural Cambodia!
We need your help! Visit our fundraising webpage here!
Sending you all so much love and joy for this month and for the coming year!
Story written by: Volunteer Zeleen Thum
It was Matt Le Nevez and his storytelling zoom workshop that paved the way for my vritual volunteering involvement with PeopleStories. What an incredible journey so far in the past 7 months and I have so much (warning: teary eyes coming…) to thank Matt for this ‘once in a life time’ experience… making a difference to our world!
You may recognize Matt Le Nevez from Offspring, Love Child, Brock, The Widow, and Absentia, to name just a few. Mastering the silver screen is not Matt's only passion and we are grateful to have him as our Charity Ambassador bringing greater awareness to the pressing needs of the children in rural Cambodia.
Mastering philanthropy seems to come naturally to Matt. When the opportunity to team up with PeopleStories arose, it was serendipity for Matt and he shared, “Cambodia was one of the first places I ever visited as a young kid and I just think it's a magical place. If you've been there, the people are exceptional, they're the most generous, kind-hearted people that you could possibly meet."
Storytelling is a powerful gift and one of the most useful skills in the corporate world! Earlier this year, Matt and our founder Victoria hosted a series of Zoom workshops - The Art of Storytelling, to bring awareness to our purpose of empowering the rural Cambodian children complete school. And I was lucky enough to be one of the many participants (still pitching myself!).
Greg McKenna, CEO of Police Bank, once shared after attended the workshop together with his executive team, "When we met Victoria, Matt and the team at PeopleStories, we were blown away by the work they do in Cambodia with the children and the opportunities they were creating."
Join us to follow Matt on his MasterChef journey Sunday and Monday evenings (7:30pm) on Channel 10 (or 10play.com.au)
You, too, can make a difference by donating your time and talents with PeopleStories, helping children in rural Cambodia transform their lives through quality education. We would love to hear from you! Email today: Team@PeopleStoriesCharity.org
Written by: Volunteer Kathy Aunkst
While Covid continues to threaten our safety and causes prolonged lockdowns in Cambodia, a progressive vaccination plan is being implemented in the country including for children aged 12 to under 18. It’s good news to hear that vaccination clinics are popping up including the district where our work is – Bakong, allowing children to receive their vaccine, helping stop the spread of the deadly virus.
Sopheak would like to share these thoughts with those that may be dealing with Covid right now, "please take care of your health, wear a mask, use sanitizer, keep a distance, and stay safe. Remember to stay home, love yourself and others. Thank you so much."
It’s important to talk and share our stories. It’s comforting to know we’re not alone, in whatever we may be going through. Many thanks to student Sopheak and volunteer Hannah for sharing their Covid experiences. Wishing you both good health and continue to build your strength.
Are you or have friends or families suffering from Covid? We are here to listen just like a friend. Please feel free to drop us a note at Team@PeopleStoriesCharity.org.
Story written by: Volunteer Kathy Aunkst
On a quiet Saturday afternoon, I found myself sitting down and having a good read of a moving story from our writer / volunteer Bok Hoon. Without me knowing it, tears are running down like mad… is it because we share a similar background? Is it because of her single parenting story that touched my heart? I realised… and totally agreed with her reflection, ”Things that seem impossible can become possible if you persist in walking in that direction long enough.”
Let’s start with Bok Hoon’s story with her single parenting journey:
I was fortunate to be staying near my parents and was blessed with many wonderful friends and colleagues. I was in a profession that required me to help people every moment on the job. I think that is how helping becomes second nature for me.
We had to live frugally because the ex was always in need of financial aid and we had to survive on my meagre single income. It turned out to be a blessing in disguise, my kids survive with having little wants and work during the school holidays to finance their tertiary education.
During a trip to the Tree top walk, I noticed my 4-year-old girl squatting and peering at something. It turned out that she has learnt that the web a spider spins is for trapping insects. She wondered if the insect could escape after being trapped. She put an ant into the web and found that the ant was stuck and did not move at all. She tried with a second ant, it moved a little for a while and stopped moving. She went on with two more. The fourth struggled and struggled and was freed from the trap.
We talked about it and after that, I shared this story with my students with the following learning points. 1. When you don’t put in any efforts, nothing will happen, like the first ant. 2. If you don’t give up, you can be saved, like the fourth ant. 3. Teamwork works! I think the second and third ant have laid the foundation to make it easier for the fourth ant to be freed. The second and third ants left the web too.
The most memorable moment for me will be digging up my grandpa’s story, which is my first contribution to the newsletter. Vic has the knack of drawing out stories from just one or two sentences of a conversation. I have since interviewed some of our students, teachers and volunteers. Each encounter is a learning experience for me.
Having spent much time in the nature, I have signed up to be a volunteer with NParks. I have participated in the butterfly watch, dragonfly watch, garden bird watch, Invasive species management session, beach patrol and seed picking session.
She didn’t have any break, like I do. I have time to read, hike and meet up with friends. I didn’t realise how tired I was until I found myself literally dozing off while walking home through the park. In fact, once a lady cyclist stopped in her track to check that I was alright. I am amazed that my mom could get so many things organised. She would have been a very efficient employee if she had the chance to receive education.
Bok Hoon has been part of our PeopleStories Family more than a year now and my friendship with her has grown so much. I have lots of respect for Bok Hoon especially to her ‘Sleep and Walk’ unique talent!
When she was asked, “What is the one advice you would have for other mums doing tough out there?”…she said, “Whenever you are faced with a difficult situation, ask yourself which course of action you wish your child would take if he or she were to be in the same situation. Then, choose to do that yourself. Every mother wants the best for her child. When you put your child in that same situation, you will definitely reach the best decision for yourself too.”
I so look forward to my next meet up with Bok Hoon. Perhaps she will take me for a hike this time, literally!
Let’s hear from Zeleen, our youngest volunteer on board. In 2018, she has applied to join our team as a volunteer when she saw our advertisement as a 16-year-old. Though she was underaged, PeopleStories decided to take her in as embracing ‘inclusiveness’ means we include people who are underaged but share the same belief. Of course, Zeleen’s parents were involved in the initial journey.
Recently, PeopleStories has produced 2 scholars who passed the exam to attend a STEM school. Zeleen is very proud of them. She gushed, “I think that they are awesome! Whether they know it or not, they have become possibility-models to other students who are dreaming of achieving the same for themselves. I sincerely hope that they will be happy studying in their new schools, making close friends and special memories!”
She believes that to have a meaningful learning experience, one should enjoy the process and not the destination. She revealed, “I have been single-mindedly pursuing as for most of my school years that I’ve let the other more meaningful things slip me by, such as spending more time cultivating close friendships, taking up leadership opportunities and having the courage to be myself. Instead of focusing on what I was doing in my school years, I wished I had focused more on who I am and who I can be in the future.”
Other than that, she has also been listening to audiobooks as she knits. These days she is listening to the Conversations with God series.
Since this is the month of the International Women’s Day, who is the most inspiring woman for Zeleen? She replied, “It has to be my mom! She has gone through her own set of struggles bringing the three of us sisters up. Her family is all in China, so she had few people she could rely on when we were all so young and she had so much to do. Also, she gave me life, what could be more inspiring than that?”
What is Zeleen’s vision of being ‘inclusive’ for the students in rural schools? In her words, “I would like to work with them to dream up the type of education that they would like to receive, and make it happen. These include the subjects they would like to learn, the experiences that they would want to have in school, whether they want school uniforms and how they would want it to look like and also how they want their schools to look like, I want them to have a strong say in what they want their education to be like. I guess, in other words, I would like us to reform the entire education system together.”
We hope that we would soon get a chance to visit the schools in rural Cambodia to make these happen. In the meantime, here’s her message for them, “I want them to believe so strongly that they totally deserve to have quality education and the ability to achieve whatever dreams they may have. I would also like to wish them so much love and strength in their lives.”
On 2 February 2021, our Founder, Victoria, proudly announced our new ambassador, celebrated Australian actor Matt Le Nevez, joining our PeopleStories Family.
Victoria shared, “We are thrilled to welcome Matt to the PeopleStories team! His love for children and his connection with Cambodia represent a strong alignment of purpose. We both similarly built wonderful careers that are purpose driven. What unites us is our drive to make a difference in the lives of the people who need it the most.”
There’s no time to lose, Matt has already jumped on board and delivered our first ever Storytelling Workshop with a group of business leaders and passionate supporters. His sharing of the secrets on film sets and also as a communication guru in some developing countries (like Africa) was overwhelmingly and positively received by the group. Have a read of what people have to say:
“Just had the most amazing hour with Matt hearing his story, sharing with others, and learning about this wonderful charity PeopleStories and the work they do.” - Greg McKenna, CEO at the Police Bank
“It’s 3.30am in the U.K. and I’m wide awake! I’ve just spent a wonderful hour with some amazing folk and Matt at your workshop. The work you’re all doing is incredible and I’m so pleased to be a tiny part of it.” - Jean Davis
The support of Matt as an ambassador will strengthen PeopleStories’ mission to break the cycle of poverty through empowering children with greater access to quality education. We believe his unique skills and experiences will bring new perspectives and opportunities to our family.
Matt is setting himself a target of $18K donation by June 30, 2021 and you can give him a helping hand via his campaign: http://bit.ly/MattLeNevez_Donate
Interested to attend the newly-added storytelling workshop? Here is the link: https://bit.ly/PSStorytelling_P
Watch Matt’s TV interview: https://bit.ly/PS_ON_TV
Read Matt’s press release: https://bit.ly/PSAmbassador_Matt