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