What do you imagine when you think about the sorts of classes circus artists take part in here at Phare Ponleu Selpak? Flips and trapezes? Sequins and tightropes?

Not always.

Recently, Phare performing arts students took part in financial literacy workshops thanks to support from ANZ Royal. These sorts of life skills classes might not sound quite as flashy as circus training, but they’re crucial to the long-term success of our students.

Why Phare Offers Life Skills & Financial Literacy Classes

Many Phare student-artists come from disadvantaged backgrounds in Battambang where they haven’t had the opportunity to learn about managing money responsibly.

“Before, I thought about saving, but I didn’t know how to manage it,” said one student. “When I had money, I just spent it, and it was gone. Nothing was left for saving.”

In order to make sustainable livelihoods for themselves, our students need to know how to budget. Support from ANZ Royal meant that our artists had access to training from OU Saorn from VBNK.

ANZ Royal bank in Cambodia, supporters of Phare Ponleu Selpak

Two sets of students spent four hours in the life skills workshops. They were encouraged to think about their goals for the future. According to OU Saorn, it was the first time many of them were asked such questions.

“Many people of this generation don’t think about the future,” said OU Saorn. “When I asked this group about their goals, they didn’t know what they wanted. They started to think about it, and most of them came up with great ideas, like supporting their families, building a house, and studying at university. But they don’t know how to get there.”

They worked through hypothetical situations, such as creating a budget to help a fictional character to pay off debts and live within his means. In one exercise, they stood in a circle throwing a cotton thread around: one throw for each financial decision. By the end of the exercise, the thread was a big messy tangle.

“This symbolizes how one person’s decisions can affect the people around them,” explained OU Saorn.

The message? Every action has repercussions, and if you’re not careful you can end up in financial web that is very difficult to unwind.

How Financial Literacy Has Empowered Phare Students

The students were overwhelmingly enthusiastic about the training.

“The workshop has really prepared me for now and for the future,” said one participant. “Now I know that the most important thing is recording your expenses and budgeting your income.”

Learn how financial literacy and life skills workshops are helping Phare students succeed long-term

As the student-artists were leaving the building, I asked some of them about their dreams for the future.

“I want to start my own business,” said one student.

“I want to go to university and become a doctor,” said another.

“I want to save money to buy land for a big house,” said a third student. “This is a big goal for me, but even if I fall down I will stand up to achieve it in the future.”


While Phare Ponleu Selpak believes in the transformative power of the arts, we also want our students to succeed after graduation – particularly those who come from disadvantaged backgrounds.

This is why our arts education programming is always matched with robust social support and life skills education that’s tailored to the realities of Cambodia. Taken together, these classes ensure students can find self-sustaining careers after graduation.

With such resilience and the right kinds of support, we believe our students can do anything they set their minds to.


Help Phare Ponleu Selpak reach more youth and young adults in Cambodia with social support and community outreach projects. Your recurring donation makes projects these life skills workshops possible.