Normally, cooking training for Prom Thongdy and Hou Rachhou would take place every weekend in “Ly Hout” Restaurant and Hotel in the rural province of Preah Vihear, Cambodia. Besides theoretical and practical cooking training, trainers and students, almost all of them women, would go to markets together to learn how to pick and purchase fresh and high-quality ingredients.
Due to the spread of COVDID-19, Swisscontact has taken the cooking course online. Learners are now practising at home and they are grateful that the online training brings some continuity to their lives: most of them are out of jobs as restaurants and hotels are temporarily closed. They fear the coronavirus and are, thus, glad to be focusing their attention on further developing their skills.
The Skills Development Programme (SDP) Cambodia, implemented by Swisscontact and financed by the Swiss Agency for Development and Cooperation (SDC), aims to increase income and employment opportunities for disadvantaged young women and men in the rural provinces of Preah Vihear, Stung Treng and Kratie. To achieve this, the programme provides access to market-relevant skills training. In hospitality, it reaches out to people already working in the sector in low-skilled professions, to improve their access to better-paid positions.
SDP supported all students to get a Skype account and informed them about how to improve internet connectivity. Most of them use their mobile phones for this purpose as they do not own computers. Trainers conduct training online by showing slides and demonstration videos. The students are then given practical and theoretical tasks to carry out at home, which will be reviewed in the next session.
Prom Thongdy is 39 years old and operates a small restaurant in Preah Vihear Province. She has had to close the business temporarily, which has led her family to lose all income. She is feeling scared and worried but is able to concentrate on the cooking course:
“I can keep in touch with my classmates and teachers. I have learned how to make Khmer and Western food, and I discovered new ingredients.”
It is not easy for her to focus with the whole family including her children being at home. Nonetheless, she is grateful that this part of life can continue. It gives her perspective for when the pandemic is over:
“I will, of course, apply what I have learned from this course in my business. And I plan to transfer this knowledge and skill to my staff as well.”
Hou Rachhou is 31 years old and lives in Preah Vihear Province. She is now unemployed as the hotel where she used to work in the kitchen as a helper, was forced to close. With no income at all, she worries about the future.
In this difficult situation, Rachhou is glad she was able to keep the relationships with her classmates and the trainers. She has used Skype for the first time and appreciated the opportunity to ask her teacher questions almost as if he was face-to-face.
“I miss the practice sessions, and sometimes I find it hard to motivate myself to do the homework and to practise by myself. But I keep going, and I have improved my skills, knowledge and experience in cooking and I now know much more about the hospitality sector, too”.