Targeted Education Strategies for Pro-poor Community Development

We continue to work with our collaborators SIPAR on a pro-poor project to promote reading and education for all. This three year project began in 2011. International solidarity development organization, Aid et Action, another partner of ours, received funding from the European Union to improve educational strategies for pro-poor community development. The aims of the project are to build the capacity of commune councils in designing, implementing, and managing education development plans and projects and to propose tailored educational services based on their needs and constraints.

Youth Star is implementing the project in four keys ways, in the provinces Prey Veng and Kratie:

1. Promoting reading at the Center of Education for All (CEFA) reading libraries.

Youth Star is focusing on promoting reading in the provinces Prey Veng and Kratie. SIPAR has trained our Youth Star volunteers to create libraries in the communes. Our volunteers have been responsible for preparing the books in the libraries and reading to local children, as well as creating youth clubs to help run these centers. Our volunteers and the youth club members have also created mobile libraries and taken the books out into the villages far from the CEFA in order to engage even the most marginalized in the community in reading activities.

2. Development of youth volunteering: encouraging youth clubs and volunteer activities in local youth aged 6 to 17.

Our volunteers have set up youth clubs that assist with the CEFA. They also are responsible for carrying out many other projects, according to the needs of the community. The youth clubs have been responsible for setting up many campaigns and raising awareness on issues such as sanitation, work migration, and domestic violence. This work will continue to be carried out by the youth in these communities long after our volunteers leave.

3. Working with children (grades 1 to 9) with learning difficulties.

Our volunteers are working with five communes in Prey Veng to organize tutoring for children that they conduct.

4. Working in with children that are no longer at school to encourage re-entry to grades 1 to 9.

Our volunteers are working with four communes in Prey Veng and two in Kratie to provide intensive tutoring for drop-out and migrant children during summer holidays.


The Good Men Project

Raising Awareness about Violence Against Women and Girls (VAW/G)

The Good Men campaign is chaired by the Ministry of Women’s Affairs (MoWA) and coordinated by Spanish based NGO Paz y Desarrollo. Its goals and objectives are to challenge the gender norms that perpetuate violence against women, promote understanding of different ways of ‘being a man’ and encourage changes in attitudes and behavior towards gender equality.

The campaign is primarily targeted at men 15 to 49 who live in rural areas. The campaign has been launched via a manner of mediums such as mass media and branded materials, social mobilization interventions in the fields of art, sports, and social media, interpersonal communication, and advocacy at grassroots and national levels.

Youth Star has been working in collaboration with PyD, since July 2012 on a one year pilot project.

Youth Star volunteers aim to:

  • Empower and develop youths to make a positive change in underserved communities, promote gender equality, and raise awareness on causes of violence against women and girls (VAW/G).
  • Start community conversations about VAW/G and empower young people and other community members to take steps to prevent gender-based violence in their communities by changing their attitudes and behavior.
  • Create a space for young people in rural communities to have meaningful peer discussions on values, sexual rights, and gender relationships.
  • Set up a network of men and boys working to address gender-based violence issues long term and exchange information.

Our volunteers are doing this by:

  • Setting up youth groups at the community level.
  • Helping the youth groups (run by men, as agents of change) to organize campaigns directed at other men.


The Prevention of Gender-based Violence Project

The Prevention of Gender-Based Violence Project, funded by the UN Trust Fund, is a one year pilot project designed to learn what contributions young people can make towards reducing gender-based violence in rural communities. Becoming operational in March 2010, the project focused on peer education for youth to create a space for dialogue on values, sexual rights, and gender relationships. Our volunteers and the youth in the community then engaged the wider community members in conversations and action to prevent gender-based violence. Twenty communities and 21 Youth Star volunteers – five in Prey Veng, four in Kampong Thom, eight in Kratie, and four in Kampong Cham, were involved in the project.

The following three main strategies are identified in this project implementation:

  1. Focus on education
  2. Healthy relationships among youths in the community
  3. Domestic violence prevention

Please see the video below which features an interview with previous Youth Star volunteer Mrs. CHEA Samphors and demonstrates how our volunteers helped communities with this pressing issue.

Highlights of the Project

Youth Volunteers: Catalysts for Positive Change

There is much anecdotal evidence that Youth Volunteers are influencing change to an unprecedented degree. Their impact is huge due to the fact that they are near peers to the local youth in age, ethnicity, gender, interests and experiences. This allows them to be very easily accepted, yet different enough for them to have great positive influence as a living presence of the possibilities of making different choices. They are more than just role models; they are inspiring catalysts for change. There is even evidence to suggest that their example has reintroduced the concept of helping one another and volunteering.

Mobilization of Youth for Social Development

Youth in a number of villages have changed from previous negative social behavior (fighting, disrespecting older people, not attending school) to very positive behaviors. They are learning from and getting to know other youth rather than fighting with them. The young people in the community are now meeting regularly, displaying willingness to contribute to community events and help vulnerable families.

Relevance of Program

Communities have reported that about 40% of their youth are sexually active and satisfy their sexual needs in negative ways or because of negative factors (i.e. rape, exploitation, alcohol and drug abuse, peer pressure, pornography usage). This greatly influences how sexual relationships are experienced and sets them up for relationship challenges later in life. They further indicate that domestic violence occurs in about 45% of households throughout these communities.

Interconnectedness of Program Components

Engagement with one of the program components often indicates a correlation with one or both of the other components. For instance, unstable family relationships, prevalence of domestic violence, and unhealthy boy/girl relationships are all named as reasons for children to drop out of school.

View our report on Engaging Cambodian Youth in the Prevention of Gender Based Violence


The Community Led Total Sanitation Project

The Community Led Total Sanitation Project (CLTS) was implemented in cooperation with the Rural Health Department of the Ministry for Rural Development over a period of ten months.

The project was completed at the end of June 2010. As a result of the project, 112 families built latrines and another 34 were in the process of being built at the end of the project timeframe. 62 of the latrines built were built by the families of youth club members.

12 volunteers and 12 villages participated in the project. The volunteers involved received training on conducting evaluations and carrying out the 11 steps of the project. Four Youth Star staff members also received this training.

The volunteers, their community partners, and youth clubs assembled a broad range of community members (over 1,400 persons) including village chiefs, school directors, commune councilors, parents, and youth to participate in sanitation campaigns focused on hand washing and building and using locally made, affordable latrines.

Other Youth Star volunteers who were not formally part of the project were still able to motivate their own communities to build another 100 latrines. The end of project evaluation showed that 80% of families who built latrines were using them properly. Due to the short time frame of the project and delays beyond Youth Star’s control, we did not reach our full target, but we learned many valuable lessons for future project implementation. Over 200 community youth club members also gained valuable skills in community mobilization, hygiene, latrine building, and evaluation.


One Laptop Per Child

The One Laptop Per Child project (OLPC) was implemented in two communities with high dropout rates – one school in Svay Chreas Commune, Kratie, and another in Po Peus commune, Prey Veng. Four volunteers and three teachers from Kratie and Prey Veng received on-the-job training in teaching with the laptops at the very school in Preah Vihear that originally launched the OLPC program in 2002.

The project is contributing to reducing school dropout students as children are very interested in computers. In total, 240 primary school children (148 female) in grades 4-6 are learning to use computers for different purposes.

Innovative lessons are used to promote creativity and critical thinking among students. Parents are also impressed with the benefits the children receive to their studies, and thus are happy to participate in and contribute to the project.

Since the project’s implementation in 2009, the number of dropout students decreased significantly, and 90% of students are attending class regularly. School directors have said that the children pay more attention to their studies and that their learning has improved with this new methodology. Many children prefer to be in class playing with the computers rather than going out into the field to play, so even during school breaks a lot of them are still plugging away on the devices.

Progress is slow but steady due to the limited screen time each student has and due to the limited teaching experience of our volunteers. However; there is no doubt that the students are enthusiastic and enjoy learning. We are trying to encourage the school directors to allow students to take the computers home to practice, and we are also exploring ways of giving our volunteers more teacher training.