These are hard line items to fund, yet oh so critical…

by Gemma Marshall, Regional Development Manager SE Asia

Workshops and trainings are oftentimes the hard to fund line items on a program’s budget, yet they are essential to ‘tying the loop’ on an overall investment into the future of their beneficiaries. For example, making sure that the years of sponsoring a student’s education has truly made an impact involves ensuring they can land a good job after they complete their studies, and that they have the skills needed to live independently.

Blue Dragon taking part in a group activity during GoPhil sponsored workshops.

Over the last six months I have been working closely with the New Discovery NGOs that GoPhil identified and partnered with earlier in the year. Our focus for this round of grants was on anti trafficking initiatives and educational programs supporting young adults becoming ‘job ready’ (honing their soft skills, workplace knowledge, and job application skills) to support their formal academic qualifications. At the start of the year we identified four new organizations to work with across Cambodia and Vietnam, and allocated each a small pilot grant for their projects. Three of the four grants involved job readiness and life skill projects we know to be so critical. The pilot grants were all $5000 or less to give both GoPhil and the partner NGO a chance to test the waters in working together, whilst making real impact at the grassroots level.

The three Cambodian organizations are now just over half way through their pilot grant cycle and have recently shared some mid-grant updates with us, which we have the pleasure of summarizing for you below. Their projects will all end in December and we look forward to sharing with you the final impacts and lessons learned.

We are also delighted to share that the organization we are working with in Vietnam, Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation, have completed their pilot grant – a three day workshop that took place in July – and we are able to share the immediate impacts of that with you today.

Inspiring Young Cambodian Women

Free to Shine – Cambodia

Free to Shine interviewing a local business woman as part of their inspirational video series.

Free to Shine is a small, yet impactful NGO providing educational and family support to 700 girls at risk of being trafficked in rural Siem Reap. They requested a pilot grant of $3500 to create the ‘Future Goals Project,’ which combines the use of a video documentary series capturing Q&A interviews with inspirational Cambodian women in exciting careers, and workshops on dreaming big and goal setting.

Free to Shine have been working hard on this project and have identified several women to interview; a medical doctor; an esteemed academic; a successful business owner; a psychologist/social worker; a published author; a police woman; an artist; a world-famous musician and an early childhood teacher – which is a wonderful spread of careers and inspiration for these young Cambodians!

Free to Shine interviewing their social worker and filming their education team as part of the Future Goals Project.

The filming has commenced and alongside this the team are deep into planning 12 workshops to support the girls with goal setting, career inspiration, and dreaming big. There have been some challenges along the way as there is not many resources to use for the workshops that is aimed at Cambodian youth, who are used to rote learning and need some time to be led into a new style of education. In addition, some of those being interviewed – such as the Doctor and Lawyer need permissions from their overseeing bodies. Over the next few weeks the video documentary will roll out in 12 communes across Siem Reap, with workshops soon to follow. Most excitingly, this is just a pilot and it could be possible to scale this concept and roll out over further communes, or even nationally as their work expands. GoPhil loves to fund great ideas that can be replicated!

We are so excited by this project and the inspiration it will bring and look forward to sharing more in a blog at the end of the year once the pilot is complete.

Communication, Team Work & Confidence Building

Community Cares First Organization (CCFO) – Cambodia

CCFO students playing communications games as a means to develop soft skills.

CCFO are leaders in the field of residential care transitions and de-institutionalization for children, teens and young adults. They work with families and children handling reintegration, kinship or foster care and set in place long term care plans. They also run tailored soft skills and job ready workshops and one-on-one advice sessions for young people in order to help them transition into the world of work.

In early 2017 we partnered with CCFO with a small grant of $4,753 to support them with piloting out a series of 8 job ready workshops delivered to vulnerable youth about to enter the job market. The workshop topics include soft skill training such as communication, team work and confidence building as well as information on how working in certain environments truly is and what will be expected of you. The students are instructed on labor law and their rights. They also work with the facilitators on CV’s, cover letters and interview techniques – along with where to find job opportunities.

In May, the work began with the team reaching out to their strong network of NGOs, social workers, government contacts and village leaders to identify potential beneficiaries. Simultaneously, the team developed the curriculum for the 8 week course. Applications were sent in and interviews conducted and in July I was lucky enough to be invited to witness one of the final parts of the recruitment process – a workshop run with around 20 potential students on soft skills.

CCFO students workshop on soft skills.

This workshop was a great way to see how the group interacted together, worked in such an environment and honed in on who might be the best suited to these workshops, and also in the most need of them. The students were narrowed down to 15 (an ideal number to facilitate for the tailored methodology CCFO uses) and workshops have recently commenced, in August. Over the next few months the workshop series will be developed, monitored and evaluated, and if successful it has potential to be scaled and rolled out to other groups in the future.

We are really excited to be involved in these impactful workshops and cannot wait to share more with you at the end of the year as this pilot project is completed.

A Warmer, More Comfortable & Welcoming Atmosphere

Women’s Resource Center (WRC) – Cambodia

To see real change WRC feel it is important to engage both women and men in gender rights issues.

WRC is a local NGO run by Cambodian women for Cambodian women. They provide emotional support, one on one counseling, referral services and informal education workshops for free to local women. The workshops help to empower these women and improve their skills on financial literacy, family care, women’s health and gender issues, social issues such as domestic violence and substance abuse. WRC believes that access to information and support is the most effective method of self-empowerment for women.

As we explored Cambodia for new organizations to work with we felt that WRC added a vital piece to our existing network in the work they do to empower and support women and families. We love that their workshops and approach includes working with men and bringing them into the dialogue in order to create change by engaging all community members.

As we moved forward our partnership WRC requested a grant of $3294 in order to create a warmer, more comfortable, and welcoming atmosphere in their drop in counseling space and workshop space. As they will soon move offices they have only purchased soft furnishings for the space now, such as floor cushions and curtains, so that participants can feel immediately more comfortable, yet these items can move to the new locations with them and there is still some budget left over for renovations if needed.

A refurbished, comfortable, safe space for one on one counseling.

The second part of the funding granted to them was for marketing to make more women aware of the drop in counseling and referral services they offer. WRC have been exploring lots of avenues to reach women in these communities, from leaflets to radio advertising, adverts on the back of tuk tuks, and use of a recorded message played whilst driving through the villages.

WRC has seen an increase in numbers requesting counseling, and are monitoring where people have learned about WRC from in order to further target future marketing. They will complete an assessment on the success of the marketing at the end of the year and we look forward to sharing with you their next steps.

Preparing Students for a Productive & Stable Life

Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation – Vietnam

Blue Dragon delivering a CV and mock interview workshop.

Blue Dragon Children’s Foundation are one of Vietnam’s key players, with a great reputation for their work with street children and victims of trafficking. Blue Dragon actively work with young people by rescuing them from trafficked situations, giving them safe space to live and learn, education and skills support, rehabilitation, advocacy to get justice, and work with policy makers and enforcers to create a safer country for those at risk. In addition, they run a daily drop in center for street children to come together in a safe space for support and their basic needs.

In early 2017 we were delighted to offer a pilot grant of $5095.45 to Blue Dragon for them to organize a three day life skills workshop in July to teach vital skills, otherwise not covered, by the education curriculum. The overarching goal of the workshop event is to provide life skills that will prepare students for a productive and stable life. Ahead of the event the students all completed a survey to inform the NGO team about their needs and desired learning outcomes to inform the curriculum. The students who took part in the workshops are recipients of Blue Dragons scholarship program and are supported with 50% of their course fees (and a loan for the other 50%) and additional opportunities – such as this workshop. Seventy students from tertiary education took part in the workshops and were divided into three groups based on the year of study there are in.

A Blue Dragon staff member trained in financial responsibility by ANZ Bank delivering the workshop and Blue Dragon’s Education Psychologist delivering the workshop on sexual health.

The skills focused on in the workshop included: Financial Literacy (managing personal funds), Sexual Health (on the reproductive system and it’s health, consent and safe sex practices) and Career Preparation (including CV writing and interview practice). In addition, the students attended the Museum of Ethnography as a team building exercise and exploration into Vietnam’s 54 different cultures, it’s heritage and peoples. The feedback from those who took part was overwhelmingly positive, including comments about the dedication and passion of the Blue Dragon team, students being happy to have the chance to learn about topics not covered in academic classes, feeling more confident and prepared for the working world and a desire to attend more workshops.

The only challenge seemed to be that the students would have liked even more time to explore these topics!

Here are some of the student’s comments:

“The highlight for me was the sexual health workshop. These days, the media is swarmed with information about safe sex but it’s all generic. The workshop at Blue Dragon was really useful to me and to all students who participated. […] I learned from the workshop to be responsible for my actions, towards myself as well as others.”

“I received a lot of support from Blue [Dragon] staff. Blue is like my second family. […] Blue helps me improve my life skills and useful knowledge that are indispensable for my life.”

“I really liked the CV writing and interviewing workshop. This training is extremely practical and necessary in seeking a job.”

We would also like to share a ‘Story of Change’ direct from Blue Dragon themselves:

Phuong doing a mock interview, August 2017.

Blue Dragon first met Phuong in 2011 when she was in Grade 8. We surveyed schools in an underdeveloped province to identify children at risk of trafficking. From the following year, we supported Phuong with tuition fee and text books, to make sure that she could continue her education. She actively participated in many Blue Dragon activities, such as cooking classes and hosting visitors. After Grade 12, Phuong took the university entrance exam and passed, qualifying for a spot in Hanoi University of Industry, studying human resources management. Blue Dragon welcomed her into the Tertiary Student Program, supporting Phuong with tuition fee as her family could not provide adequate financial assistance. Seeing her potential, Blue Dragon has been employing her part-time since July 2017 and she has been doing a fantastic job helping to manage our volunteer database.

Phuong also participated in the Tertiary Student Workshop. Overall, Phuong was quite satisfied with the services delivered by Blue Dragon. To her, the event’s particular highlight was the CV writing component. She admitted that prior to the workshop, she had been gathering tips from the Internet and could not match the employer’s hiring needs. Phuong was also impressed with the organization. The schedule was announced well in advance so everyone could make appropriate preparations. The supporting staff was also very caring, friendly and understanding. Phuong doing a mock interview, August 2017. 12 The trainers were reportedly proficient in their own subject, and able to convey their knowledge to the participants in the form of individualized feedback. After the workshop, Phuong has become more confident, outgoing and friendly to others. She has also improved her CV based on the tips she received in the workshop. She made it clear that she very likely would not have learned these skills anywhere else outside the Tertiary Student Workshop. Looking forward, Phuong plans to take a course in Korean and find a job in a Korean company near her hometown. She is determined to build a productive life for herself and we remain committed to helping her achieve her dream.

Going forward, we will be reviewing Blue Dragons final report, and exploring our next steps in deepening the relationship and giving further support for their excellent work.

Our Next Steps

We are so proud to be involved with these organizations and support the impact their projects are having with these initial pilot grants. For the Cambodian organizations, we will continue to monitor their work and receive final impact reports at the end of the year – which we will share with you, and for Blue Dragon in Vietnam we will now assess our next steps in strengthening our work together.

We are pleased to share that we feel very confident in the work of these NGO partners and are already looking for ongoing funding for their inspiring work.

If you would like to learn more, or feel inspired to support any of these organizations please contact me directly on [email protected] or you can support directly through our Family First Campaign.