On September 18 – 22, the PEPY team held our first staff retreat since the pandemic, marking our slow return to normalcy since contending with years of crises and challenges. Staff retreats are an important time for us to come together to deepen our relationships, review our program strategies and efforts, and acknowledge and identify areas where we can improve our communications and workflows to better support each other. Since 2020, we have been operating mostly to meet the quickly changing needs of our community members who were grappling with widespread unemployment, extended school closures, and food insecurity.
Now that conditions have slowly improved, we have been using the Spring and Fall of 2023 to reassess our programs to ensure they are meeting the needs of young people in a post-pandemic world AND focusing on the mental health and well-being of our team. Reinstating our staff retreat was therefore a priority and was organized through the tireless efforts of our operations, finance, and administrative team members.
For this post, we will highlight and share some of the key events and outcomes of the retreat with you.
This year, the Staff Retreat took place in Sihanoukville and Kampot, two beautiful coastal regions in Cambodia. One objective of PEPY retreats is to provide unique and new experiences to our team while we bond. Each retreat gives us the rare chance to travel outside of our province and for some of us it is the first time we have ever traveled far from Siem Reap. As a result, we share new experiences and forge meaningful memories together.
During the retreat, we share rooms with team members from different departments so that everyone gets to interact with someone they do not work with day to day. This enables our team members to learn more about each other and increases cohesiveness and understanding between us.
The first day of the retreat was spent traveling to Sihanoukville, which takes around 12 hours. During the van rides we sang, shared stories and updates, and played games together. This was our first bonding experience of the trip. After arriving the team enjoyed a seafood meal and went to bed.
The next day’s itinerary started with our NGO partner, M’Lop Tapang. M’Lop Tapang’s work is focused on breaking the cycle of poverty in Sihanoukville by providing holistic development and support to at-risk children and youth, as well as their families. Their programs are very similar to PEPY’s, and we feel we have a lot to learn from each other. During our visit, we got a tour as well as an in-depth look at their programs. This was a very positive and key exchange for us.
We also reviewed our progress on the 5-Year Strategic Plan. Our Executive Director, Mean Lux, conducted a session to consider where our major challenges are ahead and what we can do to support one another to ensure we reach our targets each year. The discussion helped us further consider how each department’s work interacts with each other and identify tangible actions in the next few months.
We concluded our work session with staff acknowledgments and a lucky draw. We recognized everyone who had worked to organize the retreat and had our staff loyalty awards – celebrating the team members who have been with PEPY for several years and their contributions to the organization. During the lucky draw, all team members received fun and meaningful prizes. The team finished the day with an evening food tour and a visit to the beach.
The following day was centered on team building. Everyone played cards, talked, and enjoyed music together. Despite the rain, the team members took part in local touring and site seeing activities. The street seafood offerings were amazing and memorable for everyone.
The last full day of the retreat was spent traveling from Sihanoukville to Kampot, visiting the Bokor Mountains along the way. Everyone enjoyed taking group photos and seeing the old casinos at the top of the mountain. Reconnecting with nature and exploring Cambodia’s history and culture was moving and powerful for our team. After arriving at the hotel, team members were assigned new room buddies to get to know someone from another department.
On the return day, many team members bought their friends and family gifts from Kampot Province’s Samaki Market. From there, the team began the long journey back to Siem Reap. Some team members disembarked in Phnom Penh while the rest enjoyed a final lunch together in Kampong Thom (a district where many of our PEPY scholars are from). Then the team finally arrived back at the office at 10:30 p.m.
Now, we are in the process of expanding our Dream Management Project to more high schools and are moving to a larger office! We are thrilled and honored to be able to support many more young people in our community and even offer spaces to other local organizations.
Participating in the staff retreat has put our team in the right headspace to advance our work. As a team, we are feeling strong, supported, and energized.
We would like to thank everyone on our team and our sponsors and supporters who helped make this year’s Staff Retreat possible. Together, we will be taking major steps in 2024 to transform career development and education in the region.