Empowering a Generation via Intangible Assets

Machine Translation: English
  • Name: The PEPY Ride/ PEPY Tours
  • Country / Territory: Cambodia, United States of America
  • IP right(s): Trademarks
  • Date of publication: October 9, 2012
  • Last update: September 25, 2015


PEPY's aims are to improve access to education and other community services and to develop the self-reliance capability of people in Siem Reap province (Photo: PEPY)

Rich in natural and human resources, the Kingdom of Cambodia (Cambodia) has rebounded from economic malaise and political discord in the latter part of the 20th century. During this period, a generation of Cambodians grew up in poverty and without proper educational services or adequate healthcare facilities.

As part of the country’s socio-economic revival, Cambodians have worked with several national and international partners including “Promoting Education, empowering Youth” (PEPY), formally known as “Protect the Earth. Protect Yourself.”, a non-governmental organization (NGO) established in 2005.

Registered in the Southeast Asian country and in the United States of American (USA), PEPY has been based in Chanleas Dai, a rural district about 65 kilometers (km) from the northwestern town of Siem Reap, Cambodia. The NGO’s aims are to improve access to education and other community services and to develop the self-reliance capability of people in the province.

PEPY, moreover, has continued to grow and improve the quality and range of its own service provisions. The organization’s management team established a tour company – called PEPY Tours – which offers educational trips, including visits to NGOs, and opportunities for debates and discussions on issues relating to international development work. 

Research and Development 

PEPY – officially known as the PEPY Ride – was co-founded by three American friends with a zeal for education and social entrepreneurship: Daniela Papi, Greta Arnquist, and, later, Maryann Bylander. The friends first met whilst teaching English in Japan as part of the Japan Exchange and Teaching Programme (JET) – a well-known English teaching initiative that places non-Japanese teachers in Japanese schools.

During the years they were each living in Japan, Ms. Papi, Ms. Arnquist, and Ms. Bylander visited Cambodia and also volunteered at Habitat for Humanity, a non-profit organization (NPO) that builds simple and affordable housing around the world.

These experiences inspired the entrepreneurs to set a goal, in 2004, of raising US$16,000 – which they did within three months – in association with American Assistance for Cambodia and Japan Relief for Cambodia – both being NPOs registered in the USA and Japan that construct schools in Cambodia.

As part of their fundraising and awareness raising plan, Ms. Arnquist and Ms. Papi decided to organize a charity bicycle ride, which would take place the following year, along with PEPY’s first volunteer trip (these events coincided with the opening of the first PEPY-funded school).

In addition to cycling trips, PEPY Tours' customers have joined students in school day-trips to attractions such as ancient temples and venues including education centers (Photo: PEPY)

The trip brought 35 friends from 13 countries to Cambodia and raised approximately US$100,000 in donations, eventually leading to the founding of PEPY. During their journey, the entrepreneurs visited more than 10 schools – including the newly built school in Chanleas Dai – and were both inspired and moved by the Cambodian people’s resilience and kindness.  

However, the young entrepreneurs noticed that despite the new material resources that they provided for the schools (including computers, books, school uniforms, and a satellite dish), there was a severe lack of qualified human resources in the region – including fully trained teachers and administrators.

Ms. Papi decided to stay in Cambodia beyond the initial ride and, having been joined soon thereafter by Ms. Bylander, began to establish PEPY as an officially registered Cambodia development organization. The organization has subsequently worked to remedy Siem Reap’s educational and professional human resources deficit.

In the beginning, PEPY’s enthusiastic founders made many mistakes because they were relatively inexperienced in NGO management and development. Among their early missteps was to prescribe what they believed to be solutions to needs (such as presenting equipment and providing money during one-off school visits) rather than establishing what the needs were by asking the Cambodians themselves.

Subsequent to their initial, faltering steps, PEPY managers have established the wants of the region in collaboration with its people before beginning a new program and providing resources.

In order to deliver its aims, as of 2012 the NGO was divided into two main entities: PEPY Ride (or PEPY) and PEPY Tours. The former – PEPY – has been a not for profit NGO that is responsible for capacity building and developing educational strategies within schools in Siem Reap.

To this end, the NGO has focused on four main areas: Khmer Literacy; School Partnerships; Supplemental Education; and Community-based Education. Khmer Literacy classes, for instance, were incorporated into PEPY’s teacher training programs in order to support a culture of teaching and reading of Khmer – the country’s native language.

School Partnerships, moreover, have involved the Sahakoom Apeewaht Sala (SAS) scheme – which means “Communities Developing Schools”. Via this initiative, community members are empowered and encouraged by the NGO to identify and tackle specific educational needs of students and schools in the region.

SAS inspired schemes have included local fund raising events for building a communal pond for sanitation and drinking water and for establishing a shade structure where students can read when not in class.

The Supplemental Education program, furthermore, has replaced PEPY’s initially prescriptive education model with a model that teaches creative and problem solving strategies and classes that support the official curriculum. As part of this program, PEPY has worked with local and international partners such as Cambodia P.R.I.D.E., a charitable organization that promotes rural education in the country.

PEPY's founders noticed that despite providing material resources for schools, there was an acute lack of human resources in Siem Reap. To this end they created the NGO (Photo: PEPY)

Via this organization, PEPY was able to connect to One Laptop per Child (OLPC) – an NGO based in Cambridge, Massachusetts (MA), USA that has provided basic laptop computers to school children across the world.  

PEPY’s “Creative Learning Classes” – which are part of the Supplemental Education program – have introduced OLPC’s laptop computers (called XO) for use by students during science, math, social studies, and art classes. The laptops have also been used for problem-solving and creativity lessons that teach how to write basic computer programs and create exciting animations and presentations.

Because XOs were provided freely and are durable, low maintenance, and versatile (they allow Internet access), the computers have not only been lent out to each child in the junior high school that PEPY helped to build; the laptops have also become a useful tool in their everyday home and school life.

PEPY Tours, meanwhile, has been a for profit tour company whose cycling and tour guiding services cater to foreign tourists searching for adventure while educating them on the local culture. Based in Siem Reap, the company raises funds for its sister organization via educational tourism – a fast-growing sector of the travel industry.

Indeed, PEPY Tours’ customers participating in the annual PEPY Ride trip have had to raise money (US$500 per week per person in 2011) prior to enjoying the company’s educational adventure tours. The money raised has been used for PEPY’s educational and capacity building goals.  

Partnership and Financing 

In order to raise funds and deliver its educational and other programs, PEPY has worked with many local, national, and international partners. To develop its Classroom Libraries project, PEPY partnered with the Ministry of Education (MoE) of Cambodia, Room to Read, a library organization based in the USA, and Basic Education and Teacher Training (BETT) – a teacher training and school building project in the southeast Asian country.

With Room to Read and BETT’s help (BETT, which was established in 2003, was incorporated into the MoE in 2011), in 2009 the NGO introduced a grade-specific educational program – called Classroom Libraries – in 10 rural schools with a total of 3,000 students and 50 government teachers.

The program was supplemented by PEPY-produced Khmer language books and teacher training materials intended to improve both teachers' skill and the students' reading and writing ability.

In 2009, moreover, PEPY raised funds for a school building project in collaboration with Dubai Cares – a philanthropic organization based in the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that seeks to improve access to primary and secondary school education in developing countries.

Due to the NGO's educational programs, there have been across the board improvements in students' reading and writing ability, and in the attendance record and skill level of teachers in Siem Reap (Photo: PEPY)

During this partnership, Dubai Cares’ Volunteer Globally program sent UAE residents to Cambodia (over a six week period and representing 12 different countries) in order to build PEPY-partnered schools in Chanleas Dai. By the end of the program, three school-building projects with a capacity to hold 700 students were funded and built.

Furthermore, in order to facilitate its volunteers’ fundraising projects, PEPY has worked with several organizations including First Giving – a for profit organization that administers online charitable donations between fundraisers and NPOs from its base in Somerville, MA, USA.  

First Giving’s Internet based fundraising tools were the first of many online fundraising platforms used by the organization that have allowed PEPY’s supporters to build networks of potential donors from the private and public sector (including friends, family, colleagues, and corporations).

In addition, PEPY and PEPY Tours have partnered with the Footprints Network (Footprints) – an online corporate social responsibility organization that raises funds through micro-donations. Designed for travelers, Footprints’ socially oriented e-commerce tools allow tourists to designate a small portion of their travel insurance to location-specific NGOs such as PEPY.

Between 2008 and 2009, US$4,200 in donations that were raised via Footprints helped to fund PEPY’s Teacher Livelihood Project (TLP) – a performance based project that supported teachers’ food provision, training, and evaluation in the PEPY-partnered Chanleas Dai Primary School.

Other PEPY partners have included the Association for Japan Exchange and Teaching (AJET), an affiliate of JET, and PEPY at Notre Dame (PEPYND) – a student body from the University of Notre Dame, in the state of Indiana, USA. Both AJET and PEPYND members have volunteered and raised funds for the NGO. 

Branding and Commercialization  

In addition to developing a growing list of supporters including adventurous young people from around the world, PEPY has raised awareness of its aims through strategic branding and commercialization initiatives.

To consolidate its international presence, the NGO has promoted its brand via cause-based awareness campaigns and other activities via its website and through popular media (including social network sites on the Internet such as Facebook, YouTube and Twitter).

In 2010, PEPY launched a successful fund raising campaign – called “Power of 10” – via its website and through its Facebook page and Twitter news feeds. The Power of 10 initiative was a fundraising drive where the NGO’s supporters were challenged to raise funds and awareness for PEPY’s capacity building goals.

The initiative was repeated in 2011 with an event called “Power of 10 – Dream Big” when PEPY’s fans were asked to donate US$10 and to create written messages of their dreams – known as “dream cards”. The “dreams” were subsequently added to a “dream board” – a series of “dream card” photographs displayed on a supporter’s Facebook page, for instance. In addition, supporters were encouraged to raise awareness of the campaign by talking about its goals with 10 friends, hence the “Power of 10”. 

Donations for the initiative were payable through the PEPY website and through other organizations including the Cambodia Development and Education Fund – a UK based charity founded by PEPY Tours alumni that has raised consciousness of the NGO’s educational, environmental and healthcare goals from its base in Croydon, the United Kingdom.

PEPY Tours is a for profit company whose cycling and touring services cater to foreign visitors searching for adventure while educating them on local challenges and the country's culture (Photo: PEPY)

Intended to inspire young Cambodians to have big dreams, funds raised from Power of 10 campaigns were used to promote education and to empower the youth of the Southeast Asian country.

Moreover, in order to increase its global reach through detailed commentary, documentaries and images of its activities and causes, PEPY has utilized other Internet-based tools including a blog written by Ms. Papi – called “Lessons I Learned” – and the video hosting and image sharing sites YouTube and Flickr.

Furthermore, Ms. Papi has made a number of press appearances and interviews in news outlets such as the Cable News Network and the American Broadcasting Corporation. The social entrepreneur has also given a presentation on the challenges of establishing PEPY via TEDx – an independently organized event affiliated to Technology Education and Design (better known as TED), an organization that facilitates state of the art ideas and is based in New York City, New York, USA.

In 2010, in addition, the NGO launched a website called the PEPY Reader with the aim of engaging its many supporters and informing them of general publications relevant to the organization’s goals and interests. For many years, PEPY had been sharing news articles and thought pieces with its followers online and with PEPY Tours participants; this online initiative was a way for the NGO to consolidate and track those readings.

Running parallel to the NGO’s activities, PEPY Tours has managed a number of successful commercialization strategies that have supported PEPY’s educational goals. Initially, the tour company distinguished itself within the travel industry’s niche market of educational tourism or voluntourism – a conflation of volunteering and tourism.

Often used by students, teachers, families, and independent tourists, PEPY Tours have not simply raised funds for the NGO; the company targeted a particular group of conscientious consumer known as a voluntourist – a traveler who wants to visit a new country, learn about its culture, and make positive contributions to its citizens and environment. Indeed, PEPY Tours offerings started off by providing opportunities to simply make one-off school visits and give material goods to schools.

In subsequent years, the visitors were encouraged to learn from and engage with their experiences and, in addition to the cycling tours, the company’s clientele joined students in school day-trips to attractions such as temples and environmental learning centers.

Currently, the tour company no longer promotes school visits on tours, but creates learning itineraries for travelers to visit with a range of organizations working in development and with local activists, artists, and leaders.

As of 2012, PEPY Tours organized non-cycling learning trips and cycling courses of various lengths. Due to its increasing success, the tour company has been featured in a number of bestselling industry publications including Lonely Planet, National Geographic Traveler, and Frommers.

The new PEPY logo, unveiled in 2012, has been protected via the IP system, thus ensuring the NGO's hard-earned good name and international reputation (Photo: PEPY)

Trademarks and Domain Names  

Having established a cause-based, principled organization and an ethically driven and sustainable enterprise, PEPY has relied on the intellectual property (IP) system in order to ensure its good name.

To this end, in 2008 the NGO registered PEPY as a trademark and word in one of its most influential customer and volunteer bases, the USA, via the United States Patent and Trademark Office (USPTO).

In this registration, the organization’s highly distinctive logo is represented by a blue inscription of the trademark superimposed on an image of a bicycle wheel evolving into a green leaf, and vice versa.

The image encapsulates the NGO’s ideals: people power working in harmony with technology and nature to achieve positive and sustainable results.

Not only securing the central images and messages that support its causes, PEPY registered the phrase “Adventurous Living. Responsible Giving.” (2008) as a trademark via the USPTO.

The NGO and tour company, furthermore, maintain a range of domain names (including www.pepycambodia.org, www.pepytours.com and www.lessonsilearned.org) in order to keep its current and future avenues for expansion open.

With IP protected assets, PEPY has created a distinctive cause-driven corporate image that has spread its good name around the world and attracted new supporters and customers. 

Environment and Public Health 

Although Cambodia has had a rich cultural history and impressive but largely untapped natural resources (including unknown quantities of natural gas and oil), the country continues to have a very low per capita GDP of US$830 (US Department of State – USDoS, 2010).

Via the NGO's educational and environmental programs, Siem Reap's young adults have started turning the negative wave of underdevelopment into a positive future (Photo: Frederic Poirot)

Moreover, the Southeast Asian nation has had a shortage of professional human resources in part because half of its population is below 20 years of age (USDoS, 2011).

In Cambodia, furthermore, 50% of children drop out of school by the third grade and only 26% go on to high school (PEPY, 2011). These factors have contributed to a shortfall of an educated and professional class which, in turn, has fed a cycle of underdevelopment and poverty.

Through PEPY sponsored educational and environmental initiatives, the country’s young adults – especially in Siem Reap, one of the poorest provinces in Cambodia – have begun to turn the negative trend into a positive future.

The NGO’s successful Khmer literacy program at Chanleas Dai Primary School, for instance, has inspired a generation of children and opened a world of opportunities for them based on the ability to read their native tongue. Partly due to the programs, literacy rates, library books lending and teaching standards in the school have risen.

As educational standards have improved, improvements have also been made in other areas including health and the environment. PEPY’s Bike-to-School Program, for example, provided bicycles (which cost US$45 or the equivalent of two and a half month’s salary for the average Cambodian in the area, PEPY 2010) to students who successfully graduated from 6th grade so that they could attend junior high school.

The program not only incentivized the children’s learning; it also promoted a healthy and environmentally friendly means for them to travel to their distant school. PEPY later stopped the program after the NGO helped build Chanleas Dai’s first junior high school, making continuing education more accessible to children in the area.

The NGO’s child-to-child clubs, which began in 2008, moreover, have allowed young people in the region to develop leadership and community activism skills. By engaging with other children in the area via child-driven dramas (such as health education puppet shows), songs, and other community based events, the students have learnt how to become proactive leaders.

During a pupil-led project called the “Clean Water Campaign”, for instance, children in the community – with the support of mentors trained by PEPY – brainstormed ideas that affected their lives, such as a lack of clean water. Thereafter, the children carried out interviews with residents in the area – in order to establish a list of priorities – and developed a movement advocating for improvements to local facilities.

As one child-to-child mentor who is employed by the NGO said, “[it] was hard to believe that these were the same children who knew so little about hygiene when I first met them.” In line with its capacity building goals, PEPY’s child-to-child clubs, since their foundings, were managed by residents of Chanleas Dai.

In support of PEPY’s environmental initiatives, PEPY Tours has implemented economically viable and socially responsible tourism programs that are still adventurous, fun, and educational. During the company’s intensive cycling tours (which can reach 1,000 kilometers), participants have been encouraged to visit some of the country’s most established NGOs so that they could learn for themselves about the region’s pressing concerns.

PEPY Tours events have been (apart from fundraising) a combination of adventure and education. By allowing a traveler to see, do, and learn for him- or herself, the company allows participant to “Go Where Your Money Goes” and, in this way, creates an emotional attachment between the consumer and the organization’s causes, services, and beneficiaries. 

Since its foundation, PEPY has continued to expand its capacity building and educational programs for young Cambodians while inspiring a new generation of international supporters (Photo: PEPY)

Business Results 

Since its foundation, PEPY has continued to expand its capacity building educational services for young Cambodians. Indeed, within two years of its establishment, the organization had opened a junior high school in Streung Treng province. Two years later, the NGO installed 50 classroom libraries in 10 primary schools in Siem Reap and, all in all, built 6 school buildings.

As a result of the NGO’s capacity building initiatives, students from Chanleas Dai who were part of PEPY’s programs started their own organization – called Volunteers for Community Development (VCD) – in 2008. VCD’s educational programs have been established in over 20 locations in Chanleas Dai, offering classes five nights per week to more than 750 students.  

Due to the NGO’s educational programs, moreover, there have been across the board increases in student reading and writing performances and in the attendance and skill level of teachers in the Siem Reap region. For instance, aspects of TLP (such as teacher training) helped raise teachers’ school attendance from an average of 53% to 90% (PEPY). Student recruitment, retention and performance in the school also improved following the implementation of this program (PEPY).

In addition, via organizations such as AJET and PEPYND, the NGO has continued to inspire hundreds of adventurous people around the world to raise funds for its causes and travel to Cambodia to learn about development issues. The organization also strengthened its partnerships with internationally renowned development organs including doing trainings for groups like Oxfam Australia.  

PEPY Tours, meanwhile, has established an international reputation in the niche market of educational travel and given strong voice about the dangers of voluntourism whilst developing a quality brand. In so doing, the company and its sister organization have developed their capacity to effect change and become multiple award winners.

As it has developed, PEPY Tours won several awards including the National Geographic Geotourism Challenge Award (2009); the Notre Dame University’s Social Venture Business Plan Competition prize; and the CIMPA Humanitarian Travel Award.

In addition, the tour company (in 2010) had over 100 participants in its cycling and educational courses (representing an 18% increase on the previous year) who raised US$45,000 for the NGO’s education initiatives.

In the same year, PEPY’s Power of 10 campaign raised US$200,000 from 719 donors in 25 countries. In total, the NGO raised US$370,000 (2011) and had nearly 50 Khmer staff members (including over a dozen who had enrolled in schools and universities through the NGO’s scholarship scheme).

As of 2011/2012, Ms. Papi and Ms. Bylander were advisory members on PEPY’s board of directors. The organization and company that they founded has subsequently been managed by Cambodians and has continued to support the education of more than 1,700 families in 12 villages and 10 schools in Siem Reap. 

Learning for Change  

PEPY began as a means to raise funds for a single rural Cambodian school with a few material assets. Shortly thereafter, its founders discovered that intangible assets – such as teachers and administrators – were equally, if not more, important.

Presently a cause-based organization and enterprise with a strong brand image and principles protected by the IP system, PEPY has continued to inspire, support, and win new clients and fans internationally whilst developing a new generation of skilled and self-reliant Cambodians.

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