Our vision is a future where all young Cambodians are empowered to achieve their dreams.
Our mission is to invest time and resources in young people in Cambodia, working with them to connect them to the skills, systems, and inspiration necessary to achieve their goals, raise standards of living, and improve the quality of education in their communities
We believe that positive changes are only possible if we invest time in people. The changes we want to see in the world won’t come from giving things away, or focusing on inputs rather than high quality impact. We are just as impatient as others to make these changes, but we have learned through our mistakes and our successes, that only through investing time in a team of passionate, local leaders will be able to reach our vision. Our core values reflect this PEPY belief:
“Everyone thinks of changing the world, but no one thinks of changing himself.” – Leo Tolstoy
We believe that everyday provides new opportunities to learn and the journey to perfect has no finish line. We have found the best way to grow is to start by identifying areas where we are failing to reach our dreams. Investing in the life-long learning of each of our staff and fostering a culture of self-development are the PEPY basics. We place great emphasis for our team, and organization as a whole, on being self-critical. We constantly analyze and reflect on our programs, activities, collaborations, and philosophies and work towards better. When we reflect on our journey as an organization, we identify being flexible to adapt to new learning as key to our growth. We know we can ALWAYS be better, and we’re committed to working towards that!
“There are some people who live in a dream world, and there are some who face reality; and then there are those who turn one into the other.” – Douglas Everett
We celebrate “WOW” ideas: those unusual – and even unreasonable gems that have the power to shift our mindset towards new solutions for old problems. We try to foster an environment where people know that not only is it ok to be a little off the wall – but it’s encouraged and even expected. We want our team to take calculated risks at challenging the conventional, the everyday, the acceptable. We want to push the boundaries of what we can achieve and to do that we need big, powerful dreams that we can work towards.
“If you are planning for one year, grow rice. If you are planning for 20 years grow trees. If you are planning for centuries, grow men.” – Chinese Proverb
When we started PEPY by building a school, we learned something we should have known from the start: schools don’t teach kids. People do. Through our failures and successes we have realized that when we make people our priority, we can have the most positive impact through our work. We believe that we can only achieve the changes we want to see in the world if we invest time in people. With expanded capabilities, we can then put the “things” in the world to better use. When we examine a global issue, it is often easy to think that throwing money or things at the problem can quickly achieve positive changes, but we have seen that things break, money is finite, and solutions coming from the outside can create dependencies. This doesn’t mean we never buy “things” – that would just be silly! But we’ve learned that the most effective use of our funds is in programs that directly educate and train our staff and those living in the communities in which we work. When we do invest in things, the systems to use, maintain, and sustain those things should be already in place. This ensures that our impact will be felt years after our money has been spent.
“You can’t put nine pregnant women in a room and make a baby in a month.” – quote heard from a participant attending a social enterprise discussion
We thought this quote was such a great illustration of a key lesson we have learned, as it was said in reference to aid workers and social entrepreneurs who are rushing to save the world tomorrow. At PEPY, we admit we have had a tendency to rush into things. Our team is made up of highly enthusiastic people who cannot wait to get started. We love the passion and energy this creates but have also learned from experience the problems it can cause – and also how tiring it can be! We understand we can’t improve our plan if we don’t have one. So now, a little older and a little wiser, we prioritize taking time to research, think strategically, and craft plans. While we don’t ever intend to lose the “searcher” style flexibility we admire in others, we know flexibility works best when coupled with strategic planning. We also know that no matter how much we might want to rush it, that baby is going to take time to grow, so we had better be prepared for a long process.
“Individually, we are one drop. Together, we are an ocean.” – Ryunosuke Satoro
In our “PEPY Writing Guidelines” we were told to avoid clichés, but given our bike riding roots, it seems fitting to break the rule to say this: we don’t want to reinvent the wheel. As much as we would love to do everything, we know we can’t, and we relish working with partners who can bring their skills and experience to help us achieve our mission. Many of the lessons we have learned at PEPY have come from partnering with others and seeking out mentorship and guidance from those with more experience in effecting positive change.
Internally, we recognize the importance of teamwork. We ask each team member to take responsibility for the energy they bring into the room and take ownership of the impact they have, not just on our work, but on our team. We embrace the diversity of experiences we have in our group and encourage debate and discuss.
It’s not personal, it’s PEPY.
It’s important that we both give, and receive feedback within PEPY. Self-reflection is emphasized and constructive criticism encouraged. We strive to both give and accept feedback with a spirit of generosity and kindness, understanding that the goal of all feedback is to help one another learn and improve. The more we do this, the more comfortable it becomes and the quicker we learn. We want to work with team members who seek out feedback because they realize “it’s not personal”, and that only through seeing our weaknesses from the outside are we are able to learn how we can improve ourselves and our impact.
“If you want to build a ship, don’t drum up people together to collect wood and don’t assign them tasks and work, but rather teach them to long for the endless immensity of the sea.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery
We learned this through mistakes: we came in from the outside and thought we could “fix” the problems we saw. Disregarding local leadership and power structures meant that we often prioritized the wrong things and wasted money on some programs which failed due to lack of local ownership. We now realize that in order for our work to have the most positive impact it must be developed and championed by those who will continue to work towards these goals long after we leave. A key to making sure the positive impact of our work lasts longer than our programs is to “work with, not for” by ensuring that the communities we work with are partners in development rather than recipients of aid.
While our goals are infinite, our resources are not.
We view our stakeholders as not only the communities with which we work but also our donors and our planet. In the same way that we need to ensure that our programs have the most positive impact towards our mission, we also need to make sure that our funding is used honestly and efficiently and that we are minimizing our impact on the planet. From not using air conditioning in our office to minimizing extraneous expenditures, we work to use most effectively what we have at our disposal.
“Life is a long lesson in humility.” – James Matthew Barrie
Being humble is a trait we seek out in others and work to foster in ourselves. The greatest lessons are often born out of failures, and over the years we have seen our share. We work hard to be transparent about our struggles and share them with as much enthusiasm as when we promote our achievements – in the hope that others may use these lessons to avoid the same mistakes in the future. In the areas where we have had success, we work to spread these models through trainings and sharing resources. We know we have a lot to learn from others, both from what works and what doesn’t, so we’re glad when we can give back through communicating our own achievements and mistakes.
“Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes YOU come alive, and then go out and do that, because what the world needs is people who have come alive.” – Harold Whitman Thurman
Working at PEPY makes US come alive. That’s not just our favorite quote, but also something we live by. We take our work seriously, but we love what we do and who we do it with, so we have a lot of fun. We sing, we dance, and we make a lot of cheesy jokes. Everyone we work with is a little bit weird and a little bit silly, and those little bits are things that give rise to some of our best and creative ideas. If it wasn’t for this loving, quirky culture, we wouldn’t be as passionate about working at PEPY.
“I am a part of all that I have met.” – Lord Tennyson
We have had many people from across Cambodia and around the world come work with us and join our family, and when they leave, we stand outside the gate and wave until we can’t see them anymore. Even after they have left, they are still part of us, and their impact continues to shape our growth. We consider YOU part of the PEPY family too if you have visited us, shared our lessons, supported our work, cheered us on, or if you share our values. Thank you for never giving up on us or on anyone you care about and for continuing to send us a wave when you come across things which you think can help PEPY grow.
“We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence, then, is not an act, but a habit.” – Aristotle
It’s definitely not enough to talk the talk, we need to walk the walk. Role modeling our principles to become an integral part of each of our lives is a principle within itself. Give us feedback (remember, we love that!) and help keep us in line if you think we are falling short.