More than business

The IT class
The IT class
After an overwhelming start in January, the team of the BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center in Chansom Senmongkul / Ang Tasom didn’t rest on their success. Everyone knew that the start was good, but there was still a very long way to go to make the Learning Center financially self-sustainable. Olivier Kaeser, BOOKBRIDGE fellow in Chansom, writes about what has been achieved in February.

What does financially self-sustainable mean in our case? Let’s take a look at our social business model: Our Learning Center is run by a very motivated team which consists of a Head of Learning Center, a Librarian and three teachers – one of them full time. Those five people earn about USD 800 per month. Together. The salaries we pay are decent compared to the salary of a teacher at a public school in Cambodia. A public teacher earns USD 80 per month what in many cases is barely enough to feed a family.

Even monks come to the center to read or do research
Even monks come to the center to read or do research
Additional to the cost of labour, we have various expenses such as electricity, office supplies or marketing of about USD 100–200 per month. Luckily, we do not have to pay any rent since local authorities sponsor the rooms. That leaves us with expenses of about USD 900–1 000 per month that have to be covered by our paid courses.

Our final course schedule offers nine English courses, two kindergarten classes and three IT classes. All of those courses are in a price range of USD 2.5 to USD 6 per month. The prices we offer are reasonable for most of the kids compared to USD 30–40 they would have to pay for a private teacher.

The number of students rose from 150 in January to 188 in February. We were able to generate an income of USD 764 and had expenses of USD 929 what leads to a sustainability rate of 82% what is way above our expectations. A BOOKBRIDGE Learning Center usually takes a year to become self-sustainable, so we are well on track after the first two months and will hopefully break even very soon.

Students from the English and IT classes in front of the learning center
Students from the English and IT classes in front of the learning center
The business side is a very important part of this project, but all of the figures above do not represent the value that has been created here in Ang Tasom. Five Cambodian people are able to provide their families with a regular income. The kids finally have a place to read books, to learn English, to play games and just enjoy themselves with the new toys and the playground. A lot of parents approached us to express their gratefulness and also pointed out that they were a bit jealous that they didn’t have the same opportunities when they were kids.

So hopefully our social business model will work out to make our impact last for many years to come!

Olivier is a passionate photographer. His beautiful pictures of the children at the learning center can be found here.

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