My Summer Vacation: Hospitality Training

29 05 2012

Summer is nearly upon us here in Cambodia, and with it comes cooler weather. Wait, what? Yes, cooler weather, full rain barrels, an end to school, and new projects to prevent hammock-induced bed sores. One of the bigger projects that I’ll be working on over the summer break is an introductory hospitality course for young adults from low income families. Kampong Kdei tends to send its young people off to study or work in the big city (Siem Reap or Phnom Penh) if the families can afford it. With better education, the kids can get better jobs in Kampong Kdei or in the city to provide for the family. Since only some families are able to send their children, the families that can’t are generally left stuck while the other families continue to accumulate education and wealth. At least in our area, this has become a driving force for major inequality: those without the initial capital to allow their kids to study have remained in the countryside with very little money or prospect for making more.

Proper food handling technique? Doubtful.

The project I’m starting will target the youth in these families. Through applications, interviews, meetings with village officials, and home visits, we’ll target the most needy to attend an introductory hospitality course. The students will receive intensive English classes; go on field trips to Siem Reap to see the hospitality industry firsthand; and learn all the basics to cooking, safe food handling, and customer service to qualify for jobs in the tourist industry. Once the class is finished, the students will receive support in applying for one of the two hospitality schools in Siem Reap and may receive scholarships, housing, and a living allowance to study once accepted. Students that have already gone through the program in other areas have landed jobs in the top hotels and restaurants in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

I like the project for a few different reasons. First, I have the backing of a great NGO in Siem Reap, led by a good friend of Katie’s from Pitt. Second, the project targets not only the poorest, but also those wanting vocational training over further formal education. This to me is a totally underserved population in Cambodia. Thirdly, what better industry to train students than the fastest growing industry in the country: tourism. Lastly, teaching about all things cooking and food is one of my favorite things.

Leak, a graduate of the NGO-run program

I have a couple of great counterparts helping me with the project and couldn’t possibly do it without them. They have quickly realized how pivotal the 4-month course could be for those who have fallen years behind in school or dropped out completely. They both have been supportive in all ways, including freely challenging my plans and ideas when they were not the best way to do things. Openly questioning a bad idea is not generally a Khmer character trait, so I was overjoyed to have some heated discussions during a planning session recently.

All in all, I’m excited to shift gears away from school for a while yet retain my counterparts. Promotion for the class is in progress and we’ll start applications rolling soon, with the first class in the beginning of July. Expect a lot more updates on this soon.





One response

29 05 2012

Woooo so excited for you! This is going to be a great secondary project. Also – hammock-induced bed sores? What in the world are you doing in your hammock?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: