From passion to vocation: meet Fernando, manager of the Entre Deux program :

From passion to vocation: meet Fernando, manager of the Entre Deux program

Portrait of Fernando, Entre-Deux program manager

Moved by PSE's action, Fernando went from PSE winter camp monitor to head of the Entre Deux program, created to fight school dropout.

From passion to vocation

Fernando Restoy discovered PSE in 2014, thanks to the PSE camps. That was 9 years ago, but Fernando has never stopped his commitment to Pour un Sourire d'Enfant. "I fell in love with the association, the country and the children in 2014. Since then, I've kept coming back for the PSE winter camps. I went from monitor to coordinator to supervisor, and every time I came back to Spain, I felt like I'd left my spirit there, in Cambodia, with all those beautiful smiles," explains the young man. "My head was full of memories. And then I had the feeling that I couldn't be as happy at home as I had been during those months in Cambodia. So, I started to think about my life: it wasn't very healthy to know where my happiness lay, but to contemplate it from Spain for the other 11 months of the year. I was sure I wanted to work with children, but I didn't know how, until I discovered how important it is to develop soft skills to become a better version of ourselves. That's when I decided to move to the USA to learn how to develop essential skills in others, such as self-confidence, self-management, empathy, or conflict resolution. After that, I moved to Phnom Penh to relaunch the Entre-Deux program at Pour un Sourire d'Enfant."

Fernando during summer camp with a little girl from PSE
Fernando entouré d'enfants lors des camps PSE

Starting from scratch and achieving an 80% success rate

Today, Fernando is 29 years old and can be proud of what he has achieved at PSE. After making the decision to come and work here in February 2023, Fernando was faced with a major challenge: the school dropout rate among young people aged 12 to 19, 83% of whom are boys. How can we motivate these students to stay in school so that they can find a good job later on?

The main aim of the program is to reduce school drop-out by helping students increase their motivation to go to school, improve their academic results and habits, and prevent them from becoming students at high risk of dropping out. "Convincing students not to drop out of school, observing and researching what children need and responding in a healthy way," Fernando completes. "Our mission is to reduce school dropout by giving students lots of love and lots of time. We try to help them gain confidence in themselves, but also in us, in their teachers, in their educators and in PSE!"

To achieve this, the team implements the following actions:

  • Greeting students with attention at the beginning, playing calm music during daily activities, sharing feelings before starting the day and avoiding judgments, punishments and shouting during interactions;
  • Play with students during the first days of the program, have lunch together, emotionally connect with others when feeling upset, stressed or scared;
  • Have students take personality tests to understand their talents and relate them to future jobs, while teaching them personal responsibility;
  • Invite students' parents to participate in activities that allow students and parents to reflect on their personal situations and connect emotionally with each other;
  • Have students do exercises designed to understand the origin of their feelings of discomfort, with the aim of finding solutions to change how they feel;
  • Encourage students to think for themselves and help them find healthy solutions to their problems, through open reflection or personal conversation.

Today, Entre- Deux offers two different programs. A one-week program for students at high risk of drop-out in PSE, and a two-week program for those at risk of expulsion for bad behavior. They are supervised by Fernando and Sokunthea, who are proud to say that today, 80% of the children who have gone through the Entre-Deux program are back at school. PSE makes sure that the 20% of students who do not continue their studies are well taken care of by other NGOs or schools.

Fernando entouré d'élèves pris en charge dans le programme Entre-Deux

A successful job, but not without its difficulties and challenges

One of the main difficulties Fernando encountered on his arrival was the language. For the first four months, he was alone in the program. This made it difficult for him to make himself understood and explain his vision of the program when he wasn't fluent in Khmer. However, Fernando is grateful for the considerable help he received from the other members of the PSE team. And as soon as his colleague joined the program, things became easier for him.

The other major challenge was the mission itself: working with students who don't want to stay in school. Dropping out of school has always existed in poor families, but since the Covid-19 pandemic, the situation has worsened. Indeed, the financial situation makes families very vulnerable, forcing them to push their children to work and find money wherever they can.

Focus on two young people who have benefited from the Entre-Deux program

"Rith is a sweet boy who often missed school," explains Fernando. "Since he has been in the Entre-Deux program, we have observed that he is intelligent and helpful, but also deeply hurt by his situation at home. We believe that his personality and behavior are influenced by his relationship with his family. He told us he hated being at home because his family, and in particular his mother, hit him every day, judged him for "everything" he did, gave him too much responsibility and controlled him too much. The boy also talked about committing suicide because he didn't feel loved or valued in his family. We then organized a workshop with Rith's mother so that they could listen to each other and understand each other's needs. At the end of the activity, they created a set of rules to help everyone feel respected and loved. We saw a change in Rith, who now feels happy. He's committed to continuing his education and staying away from drugs, and we think this will continue as long as he feels safe at home."

"My name is Lyheng, I'm 15 and both my parents are workers. I'm in year 3 at the PSE remedial school, but I was taken into the Entre-Deux program because I wanted to leave school," the young boy explains calmly. "I didn't want to study anymore because bad company encouraged me to stop going to school. At that point, all I could think about was having fun. I didn't think about my future, and I ignored all my mother's words. I went back to school because I realized that without education you can't get out of poverty, but school offers a lot of opportunities! When I joined the Entre-Deux program, they took good care of me and gave me good advice. I know now that I want to study at the PSE School of Management and Sales, before joining a good company. If I achieve my dream, I'll help my parents first," concludes Lyheng.

A particularly fulfilling job

"Working at PSE is extremely fulfilling and motivating, because we work to put smiles on children's faces," Fernando cheerfully explains. "When I arrive in the morning, I want to be as efficient as possible to help the children get back to school by responding to their need for love and attention. They deserve to have staff who are totally dedicated to them. PSE is also a great place to work because we work within the school and see the children's smiles every day. I'm very lucky to be part of the PSE team!"

"For me, PSE is synonymous with hope," he adds. "Hope for a better future, hope to become a better version of yourself. And it's also a chance to find a passion by getting out of poverty!" concludes Fernando.