Context: According to a report by the Lao People’s Revolutionary Youth Union (LYU) and UNFPA, nearly 60 per cent of Lao PDR’s population are below the age of 25 years and around 30 per cent are in the range from 10 to 24 years of age. As in many other countries, unemployment rates for the youth are higher than for those over the age of 25. Although this is true in both urban and rural areas, the difference is more pronounced in urban areas, where the youth unemployment rate is between 6 and 8 per cent, significantly higher than the overall youth unemployment rate of close to 3 per cent. Since the Lao PDR economy is expanding substantially, with an urban expansion growth of around 5 per cent a year, urban poverty is fast becoming an issue, and youth often suffer from marginalization.
Implementation of programme/ initiative: Peuan Mit, or “Good Friends” in Lao, is one of the four “friends programmes” launched in 2004 by the social enterprise Friends-International. One programme exists in each of Cambodia, Indonesia, Lao PDR and Thailand. In Lao PDR, Friends-International works in collaboration with the Ministry of Social Welfare. Peuan Mit operates in a holistic manner including through social services, social businesses such as vocational training restaurants and mechanic shops, and “childsafe movement” for urban children and youth living on the streets in marginalized communities in Vientiane and Luang Prabang. The objective of Peuan Mit’s work is to help children and youth to become functional and productive citizens. The programme is managed by local teams but includes strong collaboration with local and national authorities and networks.
Through the ChildSafe Alliance, Friends-International has more than 40 partners across Asia, Africa and South America. In terms of funding, the friends social businesses generate about a third of their revenue, while funding from philanthropic and other agencies accounts for the remaining two-thirds. The top ten contributing partners of Friends-International include UNICEF, the Global Fund, USAID and the European Union. In 2015, the Peuan Mit programme had a budget of US$ 1 million.
Main challenges: Peuan Mit faces two main challenges. First, despite its ambitious goal, it is still considered a small-scale programme. Hence, it likely needs to be expanded to include a greater variety of services and to cover more beneficiaries across the country to be able to create larger impact on society. Second, while the programme is successful in Vientiane, in Luang Prabang there have been bureaucratic delays in setting things up. This calls for a re-evaluation of strategy and ways to strengthen collaboration with the local and national authorities and networks in order to facilitate dealing with administrative issues.
Results achieved: In 2015, Peuan Mit worked with 2,514 children and youth; 668 children were provided with education, 105 youth were placed in vocational training and 21 were placed in employment. The total number of beneficiaries increased 13 per cent from 2014 due to the expansion of coverage and the restoration of Mobile School activities. In addition, Peuan Mit provided 16,922 life skills service events and other relevant materials in 2015, which was a substantial 58 per cent increase from the previous year, likewise due to the restoration of Mobile School activities.
Peuan Mit also runs successful social businesses in Lao PDR. The programme is well known for its two vocational training restaurants, Khaiphaen and Makphet, and the Friends ’n’ Stuff retail outlets selling products made by parents who become better able to keep their children in school.
Moving Forward: Peuan Mit aims to operate at the highest standards of service provision; hence regular monitoring and evaluation of the programme, along with appropriate training for all programme staff are necessary, as specified in the programme’s 2015-2019 strategic plan. All programmes are also expected to increase their financial sustainability through vocational training businesses. Moreover, donor support is encouraged by transparent financial reporting, personalized communication and the provision of tax deductible receipts following donations.
Replicability: Peuan Mit is a programme from Friends-International which developed from a social service provided to street children in Cambodia. It has since been expanded and modified to fit more appropriately to the situation in Lao PDR. One factor contributing to the success of the programme is its achievement in leveraging its several social businesses to support the foundation of its social services; hence the programme does not rely solely on external funding. Another reason for success is the pledge of the programme that ensures funds are directed toward empowering and sustainable approaches, rather than a simple “pity charity”.
Background Information from LYU and UNFPA:
Friends-International official webpage
Friends-International Annual Report 2015
This good practice was kindly prepared by Ms. Thanchanok Chaykamhang
Date: April 25, 2017