Asia,  Cambodia,  Destinations,  Planning

Where next and why: Cambodia 2010

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.

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 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.


  • sharon Miro

    OK-you made me cry, and I am going there with you. There are no words that can properly tell others what these kids are up against, and how brave they have to be to overcome all the obstacles that life has thrown at them, but you have done a good job.

    I am proud to be part of this adventure with you.

  • Joy

    Kristina, you are such an inspiration! You honestly have compelled me to think about my next trip and doing something similar. It’s nice to travel, but it’s such an honor, a blessing, and a privilege to be able to help and make a difference in people’s lives.

    • wired2theworld

      Joy-Thank you so much! I love to travel, just for the sake of travel, but doing it for a reason is also rewarding. I recommend it!

  • Tiffany

    Oh my gosh… how incredibly life changing. I am floored that such a small amount to us can have such a huge impact. Consider the organization donated to from my family.
    You and Sharon are such a positive influence across so many levels. Have fun, work hard, and enjoy the everything you get there.

    • wired2theworld

      Tiffany-Yes, the smallest amounts really add up. That’s what this foundation is based on. When we first collected donations 3 years ago, our focus was on the $20 a year per child it took to provide school supplies and uniforms. That’s what? Three trips to Starbucks? Who’s not willing to give that up so a kid can go to school? Thanks for anything you can donate!

  • Lucy Inouye

    Hi Kristina!
    I’m going to be volunteering there in the second half of October. Coming right after the Boston GTG. My daughter will meet me in Bangkok and we’ll be in Siem Reap from the 14th to the 29th. Will you still be there? I’d love to see you again.

    Great post!

    Lucy aka “Lcuy” on Fodor’s

    • wired2theworld

      Lucy-Oh no! We fly home from PP on the 14th so we are just going to miss each other! What a bummer. So great that you are going too though. No BKK for us this time. 🙁

  • Arshad Abd Ghani

    I happened to visit your website through Saveur – your lemonade. Anyway, may god bless you for your efforts in Koh Ker School. I am writing from Malaysia. Take care

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