Usually when I haven’t seen someone for a while the first question I get is, “Where are you going on your next trip?” As I said on my previous post about choosing Panama, the reactions usually range from an incredulous “where?” to an excited “Oh, I love…” By now, when I say “Cambodia” people are not as surprised. They know we’ve been to South East Asia many times and how much I love it. But this next trip is going to be a little different.
In October I’ll return to Cambodia for a third visit, along with my mother, to volunteer with the Ponheary Ly Foundation; a non-profit set up to support schools in and around Siem Reap Cambodia. You may have read some of my posts about this incredible organization in the past, but if you are unfamiliar with it, please check out their website. They’re not affiliated with any religious or political group, and are strictly dedicated to helping poor children get the education they need. Ponheary was recently named CNN “Hero of the Week” and the attention to her and the foundation is well deserved.
This will be my first trip which I would classify as “voluntourism.” In the three years that I’ve been involved with this organization I have been so impressed with the dedication of everyone involved; not only Ponheary, but her entire family and with Lori Carlson, the American woman who started the foundation, quit her job and moved to Cambodia to run it. They have had nothing but a positive impact on the lives of thousands of children and I cannot wait to be involved more than just writing a monthly check. We’re going to be helping with some of the beginning-of-the-school-year uniform and supply distribution, and anything else we can in the 12 days we are there. My mother has been asked to join their board of directors and put her newly retired self to work helping the foundation from here in the US.
Basically, here’s why I’m going;these kids need help and their own families and government can’t support them. Ponheary once told me she believed education is the key in preventing anything like the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge from ever happening again. I want to be a part of that in any way I can whether it’s through my own donations, fundraising, or physically being there. This year, it’s all three.
While children in Cambodia are guaranteed an education through the 12th grade, many don’t go because they can’t afford the $20 a year it costs them for the uniforms and school supplies required to attend school. This amount is a fortune in a country where many people earn less than a dollar a day. Many more never make it to secondary school because if they live in a rural area, they are too far away and cannot afford the expense of being boarded in another town.
When my mom and I went to Cambodia in 2007, we collected donations for the PLF from our family and friends, totaling about $2500. That money helped enable the foundation to adopt a rural school in the village of Koh Ker, about 2.5 hours from Siem Reap. We visited this school at the time and found it in so much need; the kids were sick and malnourished and they were missing the most basic of supplies. You can see more about our visit and more photos of the school on my blog page from Koh Ker School in 2007.
A lot has happened there in the last three years; a new classroom building has been built, a water filtration system put in, a breakfast program is in place, and for the first time last year, the school had “graduates” from the 6th grade.
Now that the children are finishing 6th grade, the next step is secondary school. The closest secondary school is more than 25 miles away in the town of Srayang. The foundation is setting up a supervised “dorm” house for girls near the school.
We’ve decided that our fundraising efforts this year will help support the eleven girls who are ready to go to secondary school this fall. I believe the impact of education for these girls will be far reaching, affecting their families and possibly the entire village in a positive way. The benefits for educating girls in developing countries go far beyond learning to read and write; they marry later, have fewer children, and earn higher wages.
The foundation has already purchased the land and a small house next to the secondary school and our contribution will help with putting in the well, building the latrine and fence, fixing some safety issues on the house and getting the kitchen set up. We will visit the house when we go in October.
Our goal is to double the amount we raised in 2007, to $5000 by September 30th. If you would like to contribute, you can do so easily though the fundraising page we have set up on Razoo.com for Koh Ker and Srayang Dormitory
All donations are tax deductible and 100% goes to the foundation. You can use any credit card and do not need to open an account to contribute. The smallest amount of donations can really add up.
There’s also a “donate” button in the right column of the blog.
I welcome any questions about what we’re doing or about the foundation. Thank you in advance if you can contribute to help these girls with their education.