Next generation initiative

The Next Generation Initiative is a Children’s Future project that will prepare Cambodian young adults to be successful and compassionate citizens.

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The project will train them to be effective employees, earn a sustainable wage, and address community challenges, ultimately transforming their lives and communities.

Children’s Future Background and Activities

Children’s Future International (CFI) was founded to prevent human rights abuses and uphold the dignity of some of Cambodia’s most at-risk children.Children’s Future incorporated in 2008 and our Learning Center opened in rural Battambang, Cambodia in 2010. Children’s Future exists to first provide for the basic needs and safety of 230+ children (5-21 years old) and their families in rural Cambodia. CFI’s model of service takes a results-driven approach that delivers progress in a community with untreated trauma from the Khmer Rouge genocide, poverty, malnutrition, illegal migration, and underage sex work. 75% of CFI’s students report that one or more family member has worked illegally in Thailand, a trend that displaces children and results in inconsistent education. Prior to enrollment in CFI’s programs, only 18% of local children were attending school. Yet, CFI’s participants become high achievers (58% are above grade level) and work toward higher education. A holistic model drives this success, addressing basic needs (housing, clean water, nutrition, healthcare, and clothing) and providing revolutionary learning options. With the support of two foreign staff members, our 34 Cambodian employees provide many of these services and educational programs.

Children’s Future Theory Change

Children’s Future operates by supporting the most marginalized children and youth to become self-reliant, compassionate, and educated individuals who are able to grow and sustain themselves and their community. Our community-based process begins with Cambodian staff assessing and prioritizing student needs, and then developing learning opportunities that equip our students to sustain the future of the village and eventually, the country.

Explanation of Project Need

Several factors contribute to the necessity of the Next Generation Initiative. The following are the three most urgent issues.

Rote Memorization Learning

With an educational system focused on rote memorization, Cambodian students often lack the ability to think creatively and adapt their knowledge to new situations. Many industries in Cambodia struggle to find domestic employees who can solve problems and prove to be dependable and reliable. The garment industry, for example, has ample unskilled worker applicants that can learn the entry-level position. Yet, the industry struggles to find supervisory level employees who have the skills to manage and organize workers (USAID).

Leadership Gap

In 1976, the Communist Party of Kampuchea published its Four Year Plan, which included eliminated Cambodia’s history and past. To achieve a “blank slate,” the Khmer Rouge identified and murdered intellectuals, experts, civil servants, doctors, teachers, and students. As a result, Cambodia was left without “75% of its teaching force, 96% of its tertiary students, and 67% of all its elementary and secondary pupils” (Cambodian Ministry of Education). Almost 40 years later, thenecessary cultural recovery is far from complete. Cambodia still faces a serious dearth of educated and trained professionals, and its youth need to be trained to fill this void if they have any hope of breaking the ongoing cycle of poverty.

High Poverty Rate

Cambodia is considered one of the poorest countries in the world, ranking 139 of the 187 measured by the UN’s Human Development Index (UNDP, 2011, HDI Report). [MT1] A third of all Cambodians live below the poverty line, with 92% of those living in rural areas (World Bank, 2009, Poverty Profile and Trend in Cambodia). Some type of trauma affects all Cambodians, but those least equipped to defend or advocate for themselves are children and youth. With approximately 39% of the population under the age of 18 years and 10% of the population under five (UNICEF, 2010), children and youth are disproportionately represented in the total population compared to global trends.

Next Generation Initiative Objective

The Next Generation Initiative’s main goal is to improve professional employment opportunities for the most at-risk and vulnerable rural Cambodian youth.

The following three objectives will dramatically help realise this goal:

1.     90% of graduates attain higher education or a salaried job within a year after finishing public or private school education.

2.     75% of graduates obtain employment paying higher than the national average.

3.     75% of graduates have the skills to design a community action plan.

The following final products will result from this project.

1.     Researched and tested Cambodian-based Next Generation curricula and extensive training manual

2.     Plan for scaling the Next Generation Initiative to local schools and NGOs, potentially as a revenue-generating program

3.     Student capstone projects that exhibit their ability to identify community challenges and implement innovative solutions

Next Generation Initiative Description

To accomplish the aforementioned objectives, Children’s Future will recruit a leadership curriculum development consultant and a higher education consultant to devise impactful and effective professional skills development and leadership curricula. The team will collaborate with third-party organizations with similar objectives to develop effective and relevant curricula that can become widespread across Cambodia. The following items may be included in the curricula.

Career Exploration and Preparation: Students will be granted internship opportunities, employer field trips, career inventories, personality assessments, career coaching, and employment readiness training (i.e. how to write a resume and cover letter, prepare for an interview, speak confidently, and workplace norms).

Life Skills: Students will learn how to manage a personal budget, gain basic financial literacy skills, speak publicly with confidence, and identify their own personal values.

Human Rights: Students will participate in human rights trainings that address gender violence, advocacy, and personal safety.

Academics: Students will be given tutoring and academic support, additional courses for national exam preparation, weekly meetings with Children’s Future Next Generation Initiative staff, and knowledge regarding higher education application submission, admissions interviews, and ongoing educational pathways.

Service Learning: Students will learn how to identify community problems and determine solutions. Curricula will teach empathy, a better understanding of broader community needs, problem solving, community organizing, and meeting planning skills.

Community Leadership: Students will learn skills applicable to any area of life. Specifically, students will learn decision-making, peer leadership, mentorship, and positive role model skills and techniques.

Capstone: Graduating students will be tasked to translate Next Generation Initiative leanings into a capstone project. This might be a health and wellness brochure for the community using Adobe Photoshop skills, a video to Children’s Future supporters, or another project that represents knowledge and skills gained.

The consultants will design the aforementioned courses during the first year of this project. The consultants will pilot the materials with a select group of students and will carefully monitor and evaluate the effectiveness of each component. Upon successful creation of materials, Children’s Future will then hire full-time staff to run the Next Generation Initiative. Funds for this hiring will be separate from this grant.

If successful, the rollout of this program will meet the aforementioned objectives and allow Children’s Future to begin an income-generating activity. With the materials created, Children’s Future may then offer fee-for-service trainings for area non-governmental organisations, thereby sustaining the costs associated with the Next Generation Initiative.

Next Generation Initiative Beneficiaries

The activities will be tailored to serve Cambodian youth who are beneficiaries of Children’s Future programs. The students will be male and female secondary and university students who range in age from 14 to 22 years old.

Student Impact

Year 1: 15 students will participate in the pilot phase of the program.

Quarter 1: Recruit Leadership Curricula Consultant and Higher Education Consultant and design first course (with monitoring and evaluation tools).

Quarter 2: Enroll select students in first course and monitor and evaluate. Design second course.

Quarter 3: Enroll students in second course and build two additional courses.

Quarter 4: Run service learning course (third course) and activities. Design remaining courses and build schedule for annual course offerings. Release consultants and hire staff member to run programming.

Year 2: 30 students (15 new and 15 from the prior year) will participate. Next Generation Initiative Timeline
Year 1

Quarter 1-4: Run classes according to the schedule and monitor and evaluate.

Quarter 3-4: Package Next Generation Initiative curricula to offer as a fee- for-service training option for youth-focused Cambodian non- governmental organisations.

Project Contributions: Help for Hope donated a total of CHF5,000 to the project; the rest CHF43,000 was contributed by the Rotary Club Global Grant.