From Scavengers to Students — Prospects are brighter for Cambodian kids living at a former garbage dump

 In Case Study

For Sokry, a Cambodian teenager living in extreme poverty, college felt unimaginable. Just getting through the day was challenging enough. 

Sokry’s community outside Phnom Penh survived by scavenging at a garbage dump, collecting scraps to earn around $1 a day. The Steung Meanchey garbage dump in Phnom Penh is now closed, but its impoverished residents remain, many still living in makeshift shelters with tarp roofs. 

The Cambodian Children’s Fund (CCF) believes education is the only way to lift a child like Sokry out of poverty. Since 2004, the non-profit has provided education, healthcare, and vocational training for over 2,200 children and their families living near the former garbage dump.

Opened in 2016, the Neeson Cripps Academy (NCA) is the flagship of CCF’s education program. In Cambodia, fewer than 6% of university graduates hold degrees in science and technology. CCF hopes to increase that number by focusing its curriculum on STEAM (science, technology, engineering, art, and mathematics). 

Team4Tech and Adobe Bring Digital Design to CCF’s Classrooms

In 2019, CCF partnered with Team4Tech to bring Adobe corporate volunteers to train teachers and students in Creative Cloud software. Sokry was one of those students. With the support of Adobe’s Team4Tech fellows, Sokry developed digital design skills and even trained other students. Six months later, Sokry landed three part-time design jobs and is now on the path to university. 

Virtual Volunteering Continues Partnership

The pandemic did not slow Team4Tech’s partnership with CCF. In 2020, Adobe volunteers remotely trained CCF’s staff to become Adobe Certified Associates, Cambodia’s first. Team4Tech’s technology grant funded new tablets for students who are now digitally designing a mural for a girls’ community center, animating announcements to address community issues, and filming public health videos shared by the local government during the pandemic.

These new digital media skills unlock opportunities for students with limited prospects.  Upon graduation, students are landing jobs as graphic designers, video producers and animators, making 3x the salary they would have otherwise.   

Future Projects

To keep the momentum going, Team4Tech Fellows will level up students’ skills including web design, data analytics, video and print production. Students will solve community-based issues through human-centered design, project management, and maker skills.

To scale the impact, Team4Tech will assist CCF in publishing an open source Education Toolkit, providing STEAM resources for classrooms across Cambodia. The Ministry of Education is already sharing these resources with public schools. With the help of Team4Tech Fellows, CCF is  becoming a STEAM education leader for all of Cambodia.

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