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The following key principles have helped us make each school project work, and some of the project successful. To understand our approaches, please check the details of each principle:

  • Sustainability of beneficiary programs is at the center of the foundation's operating philosophy. Instead of making one-off donations, the foundation sets up small-scale commercially viable and eco-friendly agriculture projects with donations of $5,000-20,000. Within 2-3 years, proceeds from these projects will supply a steady stream of cash flow to fund free tuition for all financially deprived children in the village. After meeting the tuition needs, revenues can also be used to fund students' room and board, school fees and supplies, and improvement of school conditions. Before these school farms become profitable, the Phelex foundation may provides direct tuition aid, usually for 2-3 years, to the school's poorest children, with priority going to girls and ethnic minorities.

  • Volunteerism, entrepreneurship and local partnerships are essential ingredients of STAP, which relies on volunteers as project monitors, technical trainers, advisors, Community Council coordinators, accountants and auditors, photographers, local fund-raisers, etc. Many of them take full charge of the agriculture projects, running them with good business sense and in most cases, with good profitability. The volunteering "entrepreneur" can be a teacher, the principal, an educational official, a reporter, or a parent. To maximize the effect of its financial resources, the foundation builds partnerships with local NGOs and government agencies that share the foundation's values. Local partners often contribute cash, free (or low-cost) land, production materials, tax exemptions, or an undertaking to purchase the product at best prices. In addition to amplifying the financial impact of the foundation's donations, volunteerism, entrepreneurship and local partnerships have also enabled us to build broad-based grass-root support in areas that are difficult to reach geographically and culturally.

  • The Community Council pilot program has been a successful aspect of the STAP, and surprisingly uncontroversial. The 5-11 members of the Community Council, mostly democratically elected volunteers and parents, make decisions on a wide range of issues:

    • Distribute tuition aid funds, as well as merit scholarships, teacher stipends (if applicable), nutrition supplement funds, in compliance with donor guidelines and the principle of openness, fairness, and truthfulness.
    • Supervise the finances of the agriculture project and special purpose accounts,
      ensuring integrity and transparency.
    • Advise the Principal on the overall financial management of the school. Help the school and Phelex Foundation raise additional funding for the tuition assistance fund dedicated to the aid of children of poor families in the school district.
    • Make regular reports to the Phelex Foundation as well as the local government. The Community Council format, essential to the work of the Phelex Foundation in Asia, has become widely accepted in the beneficiary school districts, and is gaining popularity in programs administered by other NGOs.

  • Financial Control is provided by the Phelex Foundation for all the projects it has funded and for as long as the projects last. This ranges from financial planning, budgeting, procurement, line-item reimbursement, financial reporting (cash flow, P&L and balance sheet), auditing, proceeds usage planning, and disclosure. All Phelex Foundation funds must be used on specific items approved by the foundation. The Foundation prohibits uses of its funds on things like taxations and levies, purchase of school premises, payment of IOUs issued by local governments to teachers, etc. School farms are also prohibited from providing cash, goods or services to any institution or individual.

  • Efforts in helping minority groups and disadvantaged school-age girls

Improvements Needed

Since 1995, the Phelex Foundation has established more than 30 projects in elementary and middle schools in helping rural children complete their basic schooling. We discovered some common problems in the process of project management. The following are some of the areas that need improvements based on our experiences.

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