Humans of Handprint: Meet Vicheka Chourp, Chief Executive of ISF – Making an impact on education

Isf Cambodia

It’s often the individual threads that make the most compelling stories. Welcome to “Humans of Handprint,” a special segment dedicated to shining a spotlight on the incredible individuals who are the driving force behind Handprint’s impactful journey. As we delve into the lives, passions, and experiences of these remarkable people, we discover the heart and soul of organisations that thrive on the dedication and inspiration of its diverse team. 

Join us on this journey as we get to know the faces and voices that breathe life into Handprint’s mission, and witness firsthand the profound impact they have on the world.

In this chapter of HoH we sat with Vicheka Chourp, CEO of ISF, while she shared with us her journey and experiences. 

The Beginning and The Development

The origin of ISF begins with a rather sad story. One of the founders was visiting Cambodia and noticed many kids alongside the streets picking up water bottles and cans. These kids had been pulled from schools by their parents because there was no money to send them to school and the families needed them to work. They would never have a chance to go back to school after working. 

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Over time, funders developed an NGO to help thousands of children. ISF has three main programs: the Education Programme, Football Programme and the Community Development Projects. Unfortunately, they cannot support all the families that apply each year, focusing on those who have never been to school or those out of school and are 2-3 years behind school. This often means if they don’t work with ISF, these children will never go to school.

Education is a long-term investment, by helping kids reach their full potential they will be able to support their whole families and give back to their community. Just one kid getting an education can break a whole family out of poverty. 

The Education Program  Dsc8460  

The Education Program works with children aged 8-11, supporting them with a holistic approach. They work with them for about 1 or 2 years until they are caught up to government level, where they can be integrated back into the state schools. Even when students have caught up with their correct grade, ISF continues to support them and to follow their path, so that they go to college or practical training. 

In the Education Program, working with all parties is key. ISF develops a close relationship with the parents, as the parents have a huge impact on whether the kids get a good education. If there are problems, such as the kids not attending school or sleeping in class, ISF social workers will check with the parents to make sure everything is fine at home. The teachers also help as they can notify ISF if something is wrong. 

The biggest struggle of the Education Program is convincing parents their kids should go to school, especially the daughters. ISF provides monthly food parcels and employment support to the families so that they can afford to send their kids to school. 

The Football Program

The Football Program is the largest program by size, focusing on gender equality and education on various social issues. Football, known as the ‘World Sport’ connects the community and provides a platform for meaningful talks. While kids of all abilities learn and play the game, they discuss gender equality, drugs, alcohol and environmental issues. 

The goal of the program is an all-inclusive activity that everyone participates in. They have women, men, and people with disabilities all participating. Currently there are 4000 students enrolled in the football program, with around 35% are women. 

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Success and Challenges

While ISF has made a difference with so many students in Cambodia, some success stories really stand out. One student went all the way to graduate university and entered the real estate field. She now has kids and a family. ISF has helped her throughout her education and employment. 

However, it is hard to go so far with many students, due to the culture in Cambodia. There are still the thoughts that women should be at home, and only the son should go to school. ISF works consistently with parents to target this school of thought. As the culture changes over time, more women will get to go farther in their education. Vicheka mentioned when she first started, she also could not believe that women were playing football. 

Vicheka Chourp and ISF

Vicheka has always worked with NGOs, trying to make the world a better place. She joined ISF when it had 15 students in education and 100 in football. Inside of ISF, she oversees all operations, organises the departments, and helps out in all sectors when she needs to. When at ISF, she mentioned “it feels right”. ISF is rewarding, when you see a young kid flourish in the program, it just makes you happy. 

She resonates with the struggles that many go through, as she had to put her education on hold herself because she had to start working. After dropping out, she went on to become a translator, all with the goal of improving her English. Later on, Vicheka had the opportunity to go back to school and complete a Bachelor’s Degree.   

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Vicheka couldn’t have done this without other people, whether it was the person who taught her how to make a resume and CV, or the people who gave her jobs and helped her find other jobs. 

Partnerships with Handprint

Handprint and ISF are new partners, just starting to work together. ISF gets its other funding from big corporations, foundations and from small donors involved in 

fundraising. Her message to everyone is to join and help out as it can make such a difference. 

If you want to know more about ISF, visit https://isfcambodia.org/

If you want to know more about Handprint’s Education partners, read about Think Equal.