The Ponheary Ly Foundation (PLF) is a non-profit organization registered in the USA whose goal is to locate and serve the many children in remote northern Cambodia who live in the poorest rural villages and do not have access to equitable educational opportunities. It started small in 2006 with one child and has grown to an independent charity harnessing support worldwide to assist almost 2800 children and young people a year. Over half of Cambodia’s population is under 18 and half the population living in rural villages is illiterate. PLF takes a holistic approach to the communities they work with, helping to support better health care, nutrition, & transport alongside access to education. It supports the established government schools that already exist in their villages, and provides an opportunity for all children to attend.
In 2013 PAWA funded the start-up cost for a girls’ media class. Each girl got to access computers and the internet and made documentary videos of their lives. Their first video, The Sunflowers of Strayang, tells the story of the struggle girls undergo in Cambodia to finish school. Girls education is a priority for the PLF and the project identified a gap in access to secondary education particularly for girls in rural areas. This led to them setting up a Girls Dormitory to enable a group of 15 to 18 year old academically and socially motivated girls from outlying villages to go to Secondary school in Siem Riep. In 2014 PAWA switched funding to supporting evening classes and activities for the girls at the Dormitory including computer classes, English classes with English native speaker and at the weekends, life skills workshops preparing for life at university in Phnom Penh. 100% of the graduating Dorm girls have received scholarships to attend University or other tertiary education in the capital and PLF believe these girls will be among the change-makers the country needs to move forward.
Covid 19 and a terrible drought caused lots of hardship in the community. The younger girls in the Dorm went back to their villages but five of the older girls decided to stay at the Dorm and moved to online study. PAWA graduate Channy, now in her 3rd year at University (first ever in her village), went back to village when her University closed and volunteered to teach children about hygiene in her free time. Ponheary Ly has radically transformed its online delivery of education, using the girls who stayed at the Dorm during Covid to pilot approaches. In 2021 PAWA will fund after-school English classes at the dormitory, life skill workshops and Koompi Chromebook laptops for access to online resources including Khmer language, advanced Maths and Science.