In 2019, Women in Travel Retail has chosen to support Friends-International, raising money for its Beauty Vocational Training and Education Support in Siem Reap.
Friends-International is an award-winning international social enterprise that has been operating since 1994. 25 years ago, founder and executive director, Sebastien Marot, landed in Phnom Penh, an unplanned visit with friends while traveling throughout Southeast Asia. Sebastien was overwhelmed and shocked by the sheer volume of children living on the streets. He quickly learned that these children wanted to go to school and get an education – and changed his plans to stay in Phnom Penh and focus his efforts on these children and youth to give them a better chance at life. Fast forward to the present day and Friends-International is now in 23 countries through partner operations and have physical offices in six. Sebastien’s vision has created an organisation focused on ‘Saving Lives and Building Futures’ of the most marginalised children, youth and their families through a number of programs which provide outreach and social services, drug & alcohol rehabilitation, support groups, remedial education, the reintegration of children back to school, as well as training and jobs to their caretakers to ensure they stay in school. And these are just a few examples! Vocational training is one of the key programs to help break the cycle of poverty and improve the lives of the most marginalised children and youth. And the most at risk is always female youth.
Marginalised female youth in Cambodia continually face many barriers to access employment including lack of education and the ability to pay for training. Often living on the streets, they are forced to work in hazardous occupations such as construction, scavenging, sex work or begging – leaving them vulnerable to health risks and abuse.
By supporting the beauty vocational training program, Women in Travel Retail will be actively taking a part in breaking this cycle.
The vocation training programs – offered to youth aged between 15-24 years of age – lead to stable and quality employment. The beauty vocational training is one of seven programs offered by Friends, including hospitality, barber, motor mechanic, electrical, welding and sewing.
The beauty vocational training program runs for eight months with a curriculum which provides market-aligned quality technical skills within a classroom environment and importantly within beauty and nail training salons. Equally important, the programs also offer psycho-social counseling, basic literacy and numeracy, Khmer and English lessons, as well as a significant focus on soft skills: personal development via confidence-building, emotion and stress management, along with collaborative working skills designed to truly empower the youth in the programs.
The program links students to a full range of basic social services such as medical referrals to hospitals, support to obtain legal documents (as many Khmer children and youth born after the Khmer Rouge ruling do not own birth certificates for example), a meal each day, transport to and from training, as well as short-term housing if required.
After graduating, the students then progress to the ‘Futures Office’ where employment experts help the students secure employment or assist them in starting a micro-enterprise. Friends has a growing network of hundreds of local businesses who accept graduates as interns, apprentices or full-time employees. For self-employment, Friends can sponsor the equipment and material needed for start-ups until they become self-sustainable (six to 12 months on average).
Last year, 43 girls studied in the beauty vocational training program:
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