"The classes taught me life skills ….. and encouraged me to want more in my life.”

The Get Ready Program is an intensive six month program that targets teenage boys and girls who have dropped out of school. These teenagers are at risk for and highly vulnerable to exploitation. Through the program, we aim to encourage them to return to school, find a suitable job placement or provide them with vocational training. We follow up on these cases for one to two years until they have completed their training. We are now in our 13th cycle of the program for girls and 8th cycle for boys.

Full day classes are held five days a week, with the curriculum comprising of Khmer Literacy and Maths (50%), Life Skills (30%), English (15%) and Community Learning (5%). Meaningful lessons are imparted via Khmer Literacy lessons, including how to attain successful goals and the importance of working from the heart. These lessons help to build self-mastery and are complemented by the life skills component which educates the students about trafficking, personal development and how to become a good member of the community and family.

We have had seven girls graduate from cycle 12 and we are pleased to see our graduates take the lessons of the Get Ready program to heart. Our program has helped to usher our graduates to the next phase of their lives: three graduates have decided to go back to school to receive an education, with two returning to primary school and one returning to secondary school; the other four graduates will be moving on to vocational training with Friends International, specialising in either hairdressing or cooking and sewing. The success of these graduates can be attributed to a 90-100% attendance rate at classes.

Boys are equally in need of intervention by the Get Ready Program. Without the program, male drop-outs run the risk of joining gangs and becoming a menace to the community, or they could end up dealing in drugs or selling sex on the street to earn money. The classes that the boys go through are similar to girls’, with important tweaks: for instance, the Life Skills module focuses more on education about the dangers of gambling, drugs and gangs. Like the girls, male graduates from the program are encouraged to move on to vocational training and we have placed graduates in a variety of apprenticeships dealing with motor repair, air-conditioning, phone repairs and tailoring.

Our teens are supported with snacks and income whilst on the program and for three additional months if they choose vocational training. As a family frequently justify pulling their children out of school by citing the need for children to work or do chores to supplement family income, families are supported with Direct Cash Aid to partially replace lost income from the children. This helps to convince families to invest fully in the program and encourage their children to stay in it.

Our program policy highlights our commitment to build stronger ties between Riverkids and the communities whilst providing monthly support to these communities. Consequently, the Get Ready Program is constantly striving for deeper, more meaningful engagement with the families of its beneficiaries. Regular meetings with the students’ families are held to engage parents in their child’s studies and consult them in the child’s chosen pathways.

This month alone, we met with 24 student families individually to obtain feedback regarding students’ decisions and their education. It is our hope that by building consensus with the family on where the students’ futures lie, students will granted greater familial support and thus a greater likelihood of success in their chosen paths. The stronger the support network, the lower the rate of absenteeism from classes or students who choose to drop out of their vocational training midway.

The Get Ready Program believes that we can continue to grow from strength to strength. Currently, we are working on developing a policy and life skills book for women that will hopefully be a resource that can be used for years to come. Our program continues to grow with the addition of new participants, with the enrolment of two boys in the Cycle Eight program and five girls in the Cycle 13 program. We are also continually engaging with NGO partners to find meaningful job placements for our graduates.

“I used to play and not talk about useful things, now I talk about work and the future.” Get Ready student

Please refer to the detailed report here: Get Ready Report Feb 2015

Photographer: Bernadette Vincent

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