The Fondation ELLE has awarded almost 20 grants to young Cambodian women since 2007. All of the grant winners are from families living on less than €25 per month and have applied to study at the Sala Baï hotel school in Siem Reap, near Angkor.
Over the past 10 years, more than 800 young people, 70% of them young women, have been trained at Sala Baï, and all them go on to find employment after finishing their studies. Several years on, they can expect to earn a monthly salary of $300-$400. The class of 2011-2012 broke all the records: within one month, every single student had found a job.
Sithat, 20, a farmer’s daughter from Kampong Cham in south-east Cambodia who took the Restaurant Service course at Sala Baï, was one of those students. She talks to us about her experiences.
“Why did I apply to Sala Baï? I met one of the college’s former students, who got a permanent job after her course, which means she can help her family.
“Now I’m doing the same. Thanks to Sala Baï, I have not only found a real job, but I’m now somebody within society – and all this just a week after I got my diploma. As of 1 August 2012, I work six days a week, 2 pm to 11 pm, in the restaurant at the Héritage hotel, for $120, service charges included. Every month, I send $50 to my parents, which is twice their usual monthly income. I know it’s going to change their lives. I’m saving the rest so that I can study at university one day. My dream is to become a teacher.
“I’m really grateful to Sala Baï, the donors and my teachers, without whom none of this would have been possible. The college gave me the chance of a lifetime. Word of mouth works really well, because even in my native region, which is far from Siem Reap, the college is starting to get a name for itself, and competition for a place there is going to get tougher.”