Monday, August 15, 2016

Vantha's Scholarship 101: How does the JWOC Scholarship Program really work?

Hello, my name is Vantha Kuon. I’m the Scholarship Program and Office Manager and I’ve been working with JWOC since 2009; It has been more than 7 years now, but it still seems like yesterday to me. In 2009 I started with JWOC serving as a Bookkeeper and project assistant. At that time, I assisted in all JWOC project activities when they required my help, working in and outside the office with the local community. It was my first experience working within an organization; it was my dream job when I was studying at high school!
I am extremely excited to be a part of all of JWOC’s programs, especially scholarship program; I am lucky enough to see how the program can change the students’ life for the better. From working with them when they start their scholarship as they enter the big wide world, to helping them face life’s many problems, to understanding the value of working and giving back to their community before graduating.
What each student can learn, what they can share and what they can do for their community through JWOC’s programs makes them feel the words “Learning today, Leading tomorrow” in their hearts. They not only support their community but also their nation.

I would like to share with you the scholarship recruitment process so all of you can see how JWOC is taking on new students who need help from us to achieve their future dreams. The JWOC scholarship program is open for all students from both in Siem Reap and other Cambodian provinces. 

We make announcements to the local high schools, NGOs, in different districts of Siem Reap, through our social media and old and new JWOC operating areas. The students who wish to apply will come and collect the application forms for themselves and for their friends and relatives. We also put the application form online so it can reach those students who may face difficulty in travelling to JWOC as they live far from Siem Reap city. The application form includes questions that give us information about their family, education, career experience and their dreams.

The application forms and subsequent interviews are the first opportunity for JWOC to get to know the student’s ambitions in depth and to see which applicants require a scholarship to help them grow and have the willingness to give back to our local community. To just see their application would not be enough for us to decide which students are suitable and need help from us, so we meet face to face and understand their real motives and ambition to further their education and careers. We then talk to their references; these can include their village chief (who knows/understands their family background and current situation), their teacher and/or their employer to gain an understanding of their attitude and characteristics towards working. The final step of the process is visiting the student’s family in their home town; this ensures we are definitely handing the opportunity to the right students and families.

You can see photos from our scholarship program recruitment process below:
Scholarships are advertised in local villages
Interviewing an applicant at JWOC
On the way to a home visit
Meeting with the student's family
Another family visit
Being a JWOC scholarship student means not just the chance to study at university but also to receive support and capacity building to develop knowledge and skills as well; examples of training we conduct include: personal goal setting, using the internet efficiently, career training (how to find a job, CV writing and interview techniques, stress management).We also work one on one with each student to provide personal problem consulting, helping them to stand up and deal with any problems (whether in university or elsewhere) and make sure they do not give up! 

This extra support really helps them to become stronger and stronger from day to day, molding them into adults and helping them to fit into the job market. Everything that we do in our scholarship program tries to make our students feel as though JWOC is their second home and family; we always stand behind them and support them.  

Over the past 10 years we have had 123 students graduate from our scholarship program, these students have gone on to all manners of success in their life. Some students continue to give back to their community through their personal careers and businesses, others are working in the education sector as teachers and school directors to share their skills and knowledge with the next generation, and some are working in different types of NGO, helping their community through their programs and others are working in the different sectors.

JWOC’s Local Advisory Board was formed in 2015 and is made up of our scholarship alumni; they meet with us every quarter to spend their valuable time to work with and connect JWOC and our scholarship students with real opportunities for growth throughout the Siem Reap community.

I, myself really don’t have the words to describe the value that our Scholarship program is giving to the community and the amazing support of each and every sponsor. This approach is really a transformative opportunity that teaches people how to support themselves, their family and their community, not just a handout for them to live. This really inspires me to continue working hard with scholarship program so I can see my people and my community develop and grow.
On behalf of current and graduated scholarship students, I really appreciate all the support from our sponsors; it means so much to all Cambodian students and communities. All of this would not be possible without your support.

Saturday, July 16, 2016

The Riel Deal - Trymore comes to Cambodia!

“Each one of us is able to help another”, I believe these words to be true and that explains my passion for volunteer work. I am Trymore, I’m from Zimbabwe and I’m currently volunteering at JWOC as a Financial Literacy Advisor. Volunteering at JWOC has been special as it has allowed me to use my knowledge and experience in reaching out to local communities in Siem Reap.
This is my second long term volunteer experience in South East Asia. It has been almost four years since my last experience and I had been craving for this opportunity. Through volunteering I have discovered a lot about the world, it’s more than what the media shows. Cambodia has been a beautiful story of how human we all are. Very few people understand and speak English, nevertheless I have been able to get directions from these very same people, interact in sign language conversations over meals and communicate thousands of emotions with a smile.

So how did I end up here?
I’m still young, full of vigor and fully aware that I have to make the most of my prime years. Taking a break from work I was exploring which places to go and it dawned on me that I could do some voluntary work. I spent a long time searching for what I wanted, but from the moment that I came across JWOC there was a connection. Their volunteer opportunities were attractive, this made me curious and as I got to know the work they do – I was sure this is the place I wanted to be. My idea of an adventure took on a new meaning; it became an adventure with purpose.  
The work I do at JWOC includes the development of Financial Literacy workshops for the rural communities in Siem Reap. These workshops are designed for the villagers who are mostly illiterate. As a young finance professional, I agree that financial literacy is important for the alleviation of debt, creation of wealth and improved living standards. JWOC’s mandate to educate these people is admirable. Through the development stages I engage in discussions with the JWOC scholarship students who willingly share their stories and information on the town that I find very helpful.
Working with the staff at JWOC is a delight; they are committed individuals who tirelessly serve the community. I was fortunate to have volunteered around the time they have their staff capacity building training day. The trip was a good experience for me and I believe the same for the staff, it was well organized, met the objective of the day and was so much fun!
The results this team delivers is unbelievable considering the number of projects and programs they have running. From the Free Classes program I have had good English conversations with kids as young as nine whose command of the language is exceptional thanks to these classes. I have managed to have a tour of the villages were JWOC worked under their Clean Water program and visited a house which was still being supported by one of the wells 5 years after installation. I have bumped into people who have been assisted by JWOC in a restaurant or at a gas station and the stories they share are amazing. One scholarship alumni I met is now employed in a reputable international organization.

During my time here I have assisted in other areas, reading a book on Father’s Day for the children at Sunday art class is one of my most memorable experiences. I enjoy photography and occasionally join the community support team when they go to the field on weekends to conduct training's. The training is done in Khmer, but while capturing moments during these training's I know that each image will convey a story to the world of what JWOC is doing.

Siem Reap is a melting pot of cultures, a place where anyone can belong. Indeed I was shocked to find a lively international community of expats and tourists in this small town that I only got to know from my flight booking. As a volunteer I’ve had days off which has allowed me to explore and also visit the historic Ankgor Wat temples which are breathtaking to see at sunrise! The diversity this town displays encompasses the whole world within 2km, various restaurants serve cuisines from all parts of the world and some operate 24 hours. The integration between the locals and foreigners is well orchestrated unlike most places I have been. Life here is generally relaxed - something I have appreciated while being on a break.

My desired outcome from this volunteer experience is to have these people understand financial management in a functional way. They are illiterate but from the workshops they will develop sound financial practices that will allow them to pay off their debt, start saving and improve their livelihood. After the workshops I will be involved in the analysis of the results and assessment to see the positive or negative impact, this might involve me visiting Siem Reap after my volunteer period is over. Otherwise I will be in communication with the Community Support Manager as I make every effort to have the workshops successful.

I would like to thank JWOC for the work they are doing, I have only managed to work for the few months that I’ve been here but their good work has been going on for more than a decade. Sometimes the best job in the world does not give you status or salary but allows you to contribute towards other people’s lives. Would I advise any professional to volunteer with JWOC? Yes! Take the leap!

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Now and Then: JWOC's Community Center and Art Class!

JWOC's Community Center is the home of JWOC and has been since 2008, each week hundreds of enthusiastic students in our Free Classes program are given the chance to learn and gain an education at no cost. The Center has four teaching classrooms, library, IT suite and safe and engaging outdoor area for students to play and learn. It is also home to our Scholarship program and office, which is the center of all JWOC operations throughout Cambodia. 

Without the Community Center JWOC would not have been able to reach nearly half of those within our Community to give them the educational opportunities and hope for them and their family for a better and more prosperous future. As we look back at our achievements in our 10th year of serving the community, we want to share some pictures taken when the Community Center was first commissioned in 2008 just to show you how far we have come thanks to your support.

We invite you to continue your support and generosity as we continue to work with Cambodia’s poorest to give them and their families a brighter future.

Top: Land before construction  starts, looking out from JWOC's office entrance.
Bottom: Children are given the option to play with outdoor equipment and sports after class.

Top: Land was cleared for construction you can see the current office (original building) in the background.
Bottom: A small playground provides shade from the heat. Classroom A & B (to the left) are the largest in JWOC, and can accommodate 25 students per class. 
Top: Seen from JWOC's entrance, digging has started for the foundations of the building.
Bottom: Hundreds come to learn in our Free Classes program each day, but they must leave their bike at the entrance. They are watched over by our Caretaker Sokha, who has worked with us since the opening of the Center.
Top: Work begins on building classrooms A and B. Foundations are being dug and prepared.
Bottom: As well as classroom A and B, students have access to a toilet and wash facility (center) and hand-wash station (left). Each student must wash their hands before class and receives Hygiene training each term. 
Top: Foundations are set for classroom A and B.
Bottom: Students wait for their English class outside classroom B; they must wait outside until the teacher is ready and in lines of boys and girls.

Top: A group participates in the first ever Art class at JWOC! They were read books in English and Khmer.
Bottom: The same space in JWOC is now used regularly for students (Scholarship and Free Classes) to study and socialize.
Top: Children from the first Art Class are read a book in story-time.
Bottom: JWOC offers regular Library and Art classes now held in our library, students are creative and make many wonderful things.
Top: The first ever circle time takes place at JWOC's Community Center!
Bottom: JWOC now offers a monthly Art in the Community that offers all children in the local community the chance to get creative at a local pagoda.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

JWOC & Monkey Junior: Utilizing Technology in the Classroom!

In the wake of our recent project with volunteers from Box as arranged by Team4Tech, the JWOC teachers have been making the most of the new tools and resources available to them, such as the learn-to-read program Monkey Junior created by a company named Early Start. Equipped with a new repertoire of tablet-based apps they are now able to deliver much more engaging lessons for the students attending our Free Classes at JWOC. These students generally come from households which are unlikely to have any computers or smart phones in their possession. Providing them with the opportunity to develop not just their language learning skills but also their kinesthetic capabilities and collaborative abilities.

Teachers Kimchhay and Dany have been especially active in using Monkey Junior with their younger students. As well as reinforcing the students understanding of key vocabulary it also allows students to hear words pronounced correctly by native speakers. Speaking to Kimchhay after his class he was especially enthusiastic about the way in which the app brings together vocabulary flashcards and pronunciation with sentence construction and developing phonetic awareness.

Dany used the wireless connection to the projector to demonstrate to the students how to work their way through each stage of the course and then distributed tablets among the students so as they could work in pairs to complete two levels of the colors section. She explained that after playing with the app herself for a while it was easy for her to identify which level would be suitable for her class. She also explained that she preferred it to several other apps we have piloted as its user interface makes it easy for students to learn independently, allowing her to spend more time with those students in need of extra support.

The smooth integration of educational apps into existing educational environments is never a straightforward process but with Monkey Junior we are happy to report that teachers and students alike have integrated it into their classes within days of discovering it. While such apps can never replace our invaluable teachers they can be great resources for supplementing and building on what students already know so we certainly hope to be able to make full use of the range of courses in apps such as Monkey Junior over the next few months.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Meet Narla Phay - JWOC's First Scholarship Graduate

Can you please introduce yourself?
Jum Reap Suor. My name is Narla Phay, I am 32 years old and I was the first scholarship student to graduate from JWOC’s Scholarship program.
What was your life like before you got JWOC Scholarship?
Well, I moved to Siem Reap 13 years ago to continue my education and degree at university. For the first two years my parents paid for my school tuition, but at the end of the second year they ran out of money which threatened my place, I was ready to drop out. 'My parents had borrowed money from their neighbors at 120% interest rate to pay for my education, in the countryside you have no choice'; we were struggling to repay! Looking back, I was very lucky as I was such an awful farmer, my parents saw no potential for me helping in the rice fields! However, my family earned a really small amount of money so if you send one kid to college then the other family members will have no education or medical care – they really sacrificed a lot for me!

How did you get your JWOC Scholarship?
At the time, I was working for the tourist police in the Siem Reap to help cover my everyday expenses and one day JWOC co-founder Brandon Ross came to my office as one of his guests needed a police report to claim a new airline ticket. We got talking and I told him about my situation and how I was struggling, so we exchanged numbers, and then two weeks later I came to interview for a job at Journeys Within Boutique and for the first class of scholarship students! I started my new job at the hotel front desk on April 20, 2006.

Can you describe what it was like when you first started at JWOC?
At the beginning it was just the three of us (Managing Director, John Walsh; Narla and Brandon Ross) working together on the projects, it was tough! At that time I was attending school and as JWOC was only a few months old at the time the projects were just being set up and we were learning the community’s needs.
My first volunteering project was the Clean Water program (the original JWOC project), but I soon became involved in the Microfinance program as one of the co-founders, working with Brandon Ross we were one of the first organisations in Siem Reap to offer loans to poorer people. We didn’t have our own office or the Community Center at that time either so we had to share an office with the tour company inside the hotel.
The first JWOC Scholarship Students; Narla is second on the left
What was it like volunteering for the Microfinance project?
We gave out small loans to borrowers that wanted to create a business or expand their current one. At the beginning we would go out and interview future borrowers in the local village near JWOC to find out what they would do with the money, how the business would work and discuss the risks involved. This was all new to me and Brandon, but we’d spoken to the community and they had told us that this is what they needed to help them and their families. Every Friday I was in charge of going out to collect the loans, everyone always paid back on time!
Narla collecting loans for the Microfinance program
What is your most significant memory whilst being a Scholarship student?
Narla with a newly installed well and family
I remember one woman, she had HIV, she had three children and her husband had died; she sold drinks on the street and never expected anyone to give her a loan – in Cambodia if you don’t have any collateral then you won’t get anything. But I remember her crying when we decided to give her a loan and 'it was that opportunity that totally changed her life. It made the volunteering all worth it – knowing you were really helping your community.'

What has your life been like after graduating from JWOC?
JWOC’s Scholarship program has totally changed my life; I was about to drop out of school and my parents were in a lot of debt. After graduating I now work full time with Journeys Within Tour Company as Tour Concierge and Customer Service Director after being promoted. I was also able to repay my mum’s loans that helped to pay for my early education and then help my brother move from my hometown to Siem Reap. On top of this I’ve managed to now save to buy a piece of land and to have my own car – all of this because of the opportunities given to me by JWOC.

What's your connection with JWOC today?
Narla attends JWOC's 10th Anniversary Party
Even after I graduated I still want to be a part of it all so I am now on the JWOC board as an ‘in-country’ advisor. I work closely with staff in Cambodia as well as the board in the states to make sure that decisions made will benefit the local community. I now use my position within the tour company to tell people about my story and introduce them to JWOC. It’s my hope that through this story guests will see the impact that JWOC has had on my community and want to support others that were in my position. I also use my position to help inspire other young Cambodians to fulfill their potential, as Brandon and Andrea allowed me to.

I would like to say thank you to JWOC and its supporters for giving me the opportunity, which means so much to me – without JWOC I wouldn’t be sat here talking to you. I would most likely be working in a rice field in my home province without an education and the knowledge to pass down to my children and their children. I think I will have a bright future; in fact, I know I will. Thank you!


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