Asia,  Cambodia,  Destinations

CNN Hero, Ponheary Ly

Ponheary Ly in 2007

When David and I went to Cambodia in 2002 we had a wonderful tour guide to the temples, a woman named Ponheary Ly. While she was guiding us, she told us about her family and her past. Her story of surviving the Khmer Rouge was harrowing and at the time we knew nothing of her true passion; making sure all Cambodian children receive an education.

A few years later, a woman from Texas, Lori Carlson, also toured the temples with Ponheary. By then, Ponheary was using part of the money she made from working as a guide and donations from tourists to help provide uniforms and supplies for the poorest of Siem Reap’s children. Lori was so inspired, when she returned to the US, she started the Ponheary Ly Foundation (PLF) as a way to further support Ponheary’s efforts.

I returned to Cambodia in December 2007 with my mother. Before leaving, we collected donations for the foundation from our family and friends. These donations led to the PLF adopting Koh Ker School, in a very rural area about 2.5 hours from Siem Reap. This school was in desperate need; the children were malnourished and sick, clean water was scarce, and they had no supplies, books, or trained teachers.

Why am I telling you all this now? Because finally, Ponheary is being recognized for all the wonderful work she does; she is this week’s CNN Hero. On that link there is a video about her (which is running on CNN today and tomorrow), an extra video about the amazing Lori Carlson who has moved to Siem Reap so she can run the foundation full time, and the text of the story (which expands a little on the video). In the videos you can see footage of Koh Ker School, which is doing so much better than it was 2.5 years ago thanks to the continued support of the PLF.

We’ll be returning to Cambodia in October to help with the distribution of school supplies for the beginning of the school year and I’m very much looking forward to seeing all the changes and improvements, seeing what the new needs are, and spending some time with Ponheary and Lori.


    • wired2theworld

      Yes, it’s a snowball effect really. All it takes is one person to start it and then other people take up the cause. The number of kids whose lives are changed because of this is incredible.

  • Don Faust

    We used Ponheary in 2008 when we went toured the temples. It was a great experience, and we also visited the school. We made a donation to the school ahead of time, and when we got there, we had the opportunity to meet all the wonderful kids and provide a meal for all of them.

    Her story was sad – almost everyone of a certain age there knows someone who was killed by the Khmer Rouge. Lori was there at that time, so we had an opportunity to meet her as well.

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