Designing Dreams & Building Futures

In January 2017, Free To Shine submitted a grant proposal to the Go Philanthropic Foundation to make a 50-60 minute professionally produced film interviewing amazing Cambodian women who have forged successful careers. The rationale behind the project was this: As many of our girls head into their early-teens, they start to feel more responsible for their families financial struggles, and it becomes more difficult to keep them motivated to stay in school.Many of the girls supported by Free To Shine's scholarship program live in difficult, disadvantaged circumstances. Most experience either extreme poverty or complex family problems. Without strong goals and inspiration, we know that some will opt to abandon their government school educations before the State-mandated grade 9 minimum. They will instead seek unskilled employment to subsidize family income, thereby keeping themselves and their families in poverty for a lifetime.

At Free To Shine we know that setting goals and making plans are fundamental to achieving in life. However from our experience, we also know that the girls on our program can only aspire to the professions that they see. Professions such as teaching, or working in construction. Girls who have had medical problems may want to be a nurse or doctor, but then there are those who have seen women leave to work illegally in Thailand and return with money to build a brick house and are inspired to follow in those footsteps.The Future Goals Project was designed broaden girls’ ideas about the types of occupations that exist, and the many pathways that can lead to career success. First, we will screen a Question & Answer-style documentary film of extraordinary Cambodian women talking about their traditional and non-traditional careers to provide exposure to a variety of professions that women can - and do - excel in. We’ll follow with a series of goal-setting workshops. We hope that by inspiring youthful hope and enthusiasm, and channeling it into practical and achievable steps to achieve goals, our girls will have something to hold onto when their challenges become overwhelming.

“I want to be a doctor so I can help people. A few months ago my mother died on the way to the hospital. I dream of opening a hospital in my village, because I think if it hadn’t been so far away from my home, she might have seen a doctor in time. Maybe I will be able save someone else's mum.”- Rai*, 14 years old.

This project will benefit 264 girls in 2017, 90-150 girls in 2018, and annually thereafter it will be introduced to approximately 40-60 girls in Siem Reap province alone. With replication in other provinces, and through sharing the film resource and training materials with other NGO’s, it has the potential to benefit many thousands of Cambodian school students.

In May the Project Team got to work listing all of the Khmer (ethnic Cambodian) women we could think of who work in either male-dominated or non-traditional fields. Some are known personally by members of our team and wider staff cohort, while others are women we had heard of but had not yet met. We asked ourselves what we would want to know from them if we were on the cusp of starting our working lives over again, and devised a list of questions to cover their early years, school days, inspiration for following the career path they’re now on, what they like most about the work that they do, and what advice they’d give to young girls experiencing challenging times.Future Goals Project’s extraordinary women so far include a medical doctor, an esteemed academic, a successful business owner, a psychologist / social worker, a published author, a police woman, an artist, a singer, a tour guide, and an early childhood teacher.

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Social Worker, Kongkea, has a degree in Psychology from The Royal University of Phnom Penh. She and her team of four field staff oversee a case load of over two hundred. Due to Child Protection constraints the crew could not film her out in the field, so they filmed Kongkea and her team in a case conference with their Program Manager.[/caption]

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Small business owner, Lina, designs handicrafts and employs rural Cambodian women to weave and sew in her ethical line “Cambodian Local Crafts”. Lina’s homewares and fashion accessories are stocked in small boutiques internationally.[/caption]