Testimony of Marisa, committed to the children of Cambodia :

Testimony of Marisa, committed to the children of Cambodia

Marisa and her husband Fernando in front of the PSE entrance

Marisa, committed to PSE for 20 years
to ensure school continuity during the school break!

An emotional experience followed by a strong commitment

In 2002, Marisa Caprile and her family met Papy et Mamie during the annual tour in Toulouse. Since that day, Marisa has found herself linked to PSE. "It was overwhelming. I remember the image of a child picking up needles from a heap of garbage. From that moment on, I couldn't stop crying until the end of the video. I imagined myself with my children on the dump, and I was completely transported!".

After the film, Papy and Mamie asked for help with the summer camps. In fact, 1/3 of the children didn't return to PSE after the summer vacations. It was becoming urgent to organize activities during this month to ensure continuity of programs and limit school drop-out. In 2000, a priest friend of Papy et Mamie initiated the very first summer camps in Cambodia, but was later forced to return to France.

"At the end of the video, I went to see Papy and Mamie with my eldest daughter, who was 16. I told them I was available during the summer to help out at camps if needed. I didn't hear from them again until May 2003, when I got a call asking me to help out with the camps in July."  No longer sure she could do it, as the camps were coming up very soon, Marisa called on her husband Fernando and her 3 children (Pedro, Pablo and Alexandra, aged 12, 13 and 16 at the time), who told her: "Let's get into this adventure together".

Thanks to them, the camps started up again in 2003. They started from zero, with only a photo from the first camp in 2000 of a child playing with a soccer ball. That year, 19 European and 20 Khmer monitors were mobilized to look after 250 PSE children for 1 month. In 2019, these numbers have almost all been multiplied by 10, with 250 European monitors and 300 Khmer monitors, taking care of 3,300 children every day.

A kid, barefoot, is playing soccer

Papy and Mamie, "a model we can identify with".

Marisa and her family surrounded by Cambodian children on the dumpsite

For Marisa, Papy and Mamie were true role models: "I had many examples around me of people who dedicated their lives to others. It was hard for me to identify with them, but deep down I felt an intense desire to help those in need. Then I met Papy et Mamie in Toulouse. For the first time, I saw a couple with children, a family, embarking on a great project. My children and my husband reminded me of this dream. So, thanks to my family, and thanks to Papy and Mamie, I took the plunge. And today, I'm full of hope, because with this program, PSE is helping to ensure school continuity for thousands of children".

Without Mamie's "yes" in 1995 to follow Christian and join him in Cambodia, PSE would not exist. "We are all here today because Mamie said yes".

Without Marisa's "yes" after that call, there might not have been any summer camps, and many students might have stopped school after the summer vacations.

Fernando and Marisa among the children
Fernando and Marisa among the children
Marisa with two children at camp
Marisa with two children at camp
Marisa and Thul, who she has known from the very beginning
Marisa and Thul, who she has known from the very beginning

The evolution of summer camps to continue to answer a need

Since their beginnings, the camps have been created to answer a need: to prevent children from dropping out of school during the summer vacations. "The camps exist because they are needed. But if one day we realize they're no longer needed, we'll stop coming.  Today, this need is still very important, and we do our best to keep children away from the dangers of communities such as drugs, alcohol, prostitution and odd jobs.

Since Covid, another major challenge has been to get the school calendar back on track. The start of the school year has been shifted to January, which means that summer camps now take place in December rather than July. This year, the December school vacations have been cancelled in an attempt to gradually return to a September start to the school year. Camps have therefore been reduced to allow students to have two weeks of holiday without getting behind on the school program.

This year, there will be 13 camps in the first 2 weeks, then 3 camps in the last two weeks for children in the Adapted Teaching Section (ATS), pre-school children and teenagers living in the PSE center, as well as a program for students at the PSE Institute. To achieve this, the organizing team recruited 90 European monitors and 250 Khmer monitors.

"I'd like to say a big congratulations to the whole team (in Spain, France and Cambodia) who showed great adaptability in the face of the change in schedule, to provide the best possible solution to this year's unprecedented needs".

Marisa is in the middle, surrounded by European and Khmer monitors and the children.

Summer camps for children and monitors to develop their skills

little ones reproduce a drawing of a truck on blackboard slates

Initially, the camps were all about having fun, but since 2010, the organizing team has been promoting learning through games.

"We're convinced that today, we can have fun and learn at the same time. We try to integrate this pedagogy into our summer camps. We have manuals with lots of ideas, but it remains a real challenge to train monitors in this pedagogy, as many come here to have fun and are not sensitive to these methods. Furthermore, Covid has not made this any easier, as training is now done online".

This year, due to the rescheduling of the school calendar, we'll be experimenting with "winter school" with the older children. As the younger students will be returning to school earlier, the PSE Institute students will have two weeks similar to a support school, during which they will be able to take courses in languages (English, French, Spanish), leadership and the place of women in the world, offered and prepared by European monitors. These camps are also formative for the European and Khmer monitors, who open up to a new culture and improve their language skills.

Children play a picture matching game
Children making a puzzle
Babies look at a picture book with a camp monitor

A branch to perpetuate the school continuity program

In 2005, Marisa and her husband decided to set up the PSE Spain branch to organize the camps in advance and provide funding. Today, Marisa is the president and devotes a great deal of her time to these children on a voluntary basis.

In addition to fund-raising, PSE Spain also organizes all the preparatory work for the camps, including the recruitment and training of new European and Khmer monitors.

"I'd like to finish by saying a big thank you to Papy and Mamie. Thank you for giving hope to all these young people for 27 years. Thank you for getting involved, thank you for never giving up and thank you for your strength.
I'm sure that today, all 6,000 PSE alumni and 6,500 beneficiaries join me in saying a huge THANK YOU".

"Misery is not worthy of humanity", Papy.