Sustainable Cambodia is a grass-roots, volunteer-based, Rotary-supported not-for-profit organization working with the residents of rural Cambodian villages to help them achieve sustainability and self-sufficiency through wells, irrigation systems, schools, training and empowerment.
You may have seen that this holiday season we are honoring our teachers, because we believe that they have the ability to change the world... one child at a time. We believe that if we invest in teachers we are investing in a brighter future for Cambodia.
With Thanksgiving around the corner, we also want to honor the people we are most thankful for... all our supporters. Our work would not be possible without the help of them. We are grateful to have people from all around the world that believe in our work and believe that together we can improve the quality of life of many Cambodian children and families.
Geoff and Sue, have been part of Sustainable Cambodia family for a long time and this week we want to share their story with you.
Why did you first give to Sustainable Cambodia (SC)?
were looking for a charity to support that involved assisting
children in poorer countries to have a better life. Because of
Cambodia’s turbulent history, there were so many orphaned or
disadvantaged children, it seemed a logical country to support in
some small way. After travelling to Cambodia in 2007 and seeing the
poverty and need first hand we looked for a suitable organization and
found Sustainable Cambodia, after rejecting a number of others.
What interests you most about SC's ? Why?
were impressed by Sustainable Cambodia’s model to empower the local
community and not just give handouts. Also that any money donated
would go to fully supporting the community and not be wasted on
administration fees. The fact that SC only use paid local staff and
the administration and decision making is handled by Volunteer
Directors and staff is very appealing.
Sue and her sponsored student
Why do you continue to give to our organization?
been involved with SC for 8 years, we continue to support this
organization by assisting our Sponsor students to complete their
education. This hopefully will allow the students to gain secure
employment to support themselves and their families and provide a
better future. It is very rewarding to be able to communicate with
our Sponsor students and see them grow and prosper.
Why does the cause you are supporting is important to you?
are very fortunate to live in a country which hasn’t been as
affected by wars and natural disasters, so we realize how lucky we
are compared to those who are less fortunate.
Geoff and his sponsored student
What makes you hopeful and happy?
are hopeful and happy that through the great work of organizations
like Sustainable Cambodia, that Cambodia has a much brighter future.
By empowering the villagers and providing education for the children
it will provide much greater opportunities to help rebuild the
Like Geoff and Sue, you can make a positive impact in the lives of many Cambodian families. No matter how much you can give, you are going to help Cambodia strive again. Start making an impact now!
2000, Susan Mastin and Richard Allen were walking around their
neighborhood in Florida. And it was there when they first met Bruce
Lasky. The meeting led to friendship, and in 2002 Bruce went on a
round-the-world travel adventure. One of the countries he visited was
Cambodia. When Bruce arrived in Phnom
Penh he met a woman who volunteered to drive him to the rural village
where she grew up. That small village was Osdao, in Pursat. Bruce met
many of the families from this village and saw
first-hand the impoverished quality of life - consequences of the
Khmer Rouge regime.
He was so taken by the conditions he
found there that he emailed his family and friends asking if they
would help him establish a small school. His mother, Sylvia Lasky,
was the first to respond, saying she would sponsor a child if he
promised her that 100% of the money would go to the school. That
promise became one of the founding principles of what would become
Sustainable Cambodia, and Bruce became the first volunteer director.
Pred, a friend of Bruce’s, stepped up and became the first onsite
volunteer with Sustainable Cambodia. Without David’s work as a
volunteer, and Bruce’s work as volunteer director, the program
would never have started. In 2002, Richard and Susan, who had helped
support the program from the beginning, volunteered to convert the
program to a formal NGO and nonprofit entity, joining David and Bruce
as volunteer directors and co-founders. Sustainable Cambodia started
to grow with the help of many people around the world that started
sponsoring children, and the incredible help of The Rotary
Foundation. Sustainable Cambodia would not be the same organization
today without Rotary.
2003 Sustainable Cambodia was still a small school, operated in the
home of a local Pursat family. Bruce's brother, Cyril Lasky, was
working as onsite volunteer and the directors were working from
United States, to develop and grow the organization. Their aim was to
start creating village development programs (water wells,
agriculture projects, microloans and microenterprise) to empower
rural Cambodian villages and help them be self-sufficient. The
founders felt it was important to hire an experienced Cambodian as a
National Coordinator. They wanted to relocate the school to a new place that can build more classrooms for the students, and have more rooms for staffs to work on more projects to help the village families.
and Susan quickly booked flights to Cambodia to help. But long before
they arrived, while thinking for solutions, a knock came on Cyril’s
door. Upon opening it, he found several representatives of the
village families, who had come with a quiet message: they had found
what they thought might be a good second location for the school.
They took Cyril there, and indeed it seemed a good fit. So
preparations began for the school’s relocation. And what we had
hoped to accomplish through village development programs –
empowerment of the village families – was already happening.
families volunteered to help relocate the school materials, and to
fix and clean the new location. Susan and Richard arrived to sign the
lease on the new school. All the school’s original teachers came to
the new location and helped keep the school operating, planning
classes and helping with everything. Bruce and
David spent countless hours helping with the transition. And during
these few weeks in the new location, the organization’s first
National Coordinator was hired.
continued for months as volunteer during this period. But
without his volunteerism, and the families stepping up to volunteer
to help, and all the others who volunteered during this period, the
program would have a lot of challenges. Instead it grew rapidly in both village
development and education.
that one small school in one rural village, the program expanded and
grew. Sylvia Lasky’s request became a founding principle of
Sustainable Cambodia. The other founding principles of the
organization are empowerment and sustainability.
Sustainable Cambodia has grown to have more than 20,000 families who
are part of the program, with 36 rural village schools, including
preschools and Grades 1-12. Nearly 200 of these children have now
been able to earn Sustainable Cambodia scholarships upon graduation
to attend Cambodian universities. The schools have active Youth Clubs
who do community service. And the organization is very proactive
about empowering women through the program, with at least 50% of the
students in the schools being female. In total, village families have
installed more than 400 wells, and built more than 2,500 Biosand
water filters. And there is an active Animal Pass-On program that
empowers the village families as donors.
this has been built on the Sustainable Cambodia model of
Participatory Empowerment, where the village families organize and
help with the goals and plans, as well as doing the physical work
all of this started with a simple walk around the neighborhood. A
walk that ended up in Cambodia, changing the lives of children and
families who perhaps never dreamed any of this was possible.
One of the things we love most about our work is that we get to meet many people from all over the world that are passionate about the causes we support. They come to Sustainable Cambodia to share their skills, knowledge, enthusiasm and expertise with all our Cambodian staff, students and teachers. Their work is invaluable and we are grateful for having them as part of the Sustainable Cambodia team.
And we want to introduce them to you! This week we want you to meet Sharon Sykora, from United States. She was in Pursat in January 2015 and coming back in November to volunteer again!
Tell us about yourself in a sentence
am a retired Nurse Practitioner who feels strongly about “giving
back” and also about challenging myself for continual growth.
What motivated you to volunteer in Cambodia?
visited Cambodia about 10 years ago as a tourist and the country
touched me in a way nowhere else ever had. I have been involved
in supporting SC ever since through purchasing a well and sponsoring
girls. So when I became able to volunteer in person, SC was the
Why did you choose SC instead of another organization?
I was looking for an organization through which I could buy a well.
SC came up when I googled it. Through my years of involvement,
I have been impressed with SC’s ethics and attention to detail.
What was your first impression when you arrived to SC?
my first impression was not a good one. It was more
“primitive” than I expected. But within a couple of days, I
lowered my expectations, considered it an adventure, and had a great
time! I hated to leave so much that I'm going back next
What did you find most challenging about volunteering at SC?
food! Not enough protein! I was continuously hungry for the
first couple of weeks I was there, until I located some peanut butter
and oatmeal. This next time, I'm bringing dehydrated food
Tell us about some of the people you've met while volunteering.
are so many! I especially enjoyed coordinating with the Peace
Corps volunteer in Pursat so we could help each other. Getting
to know Yaru and Siep was wonderful.
What was your favourite project while volunteering at SC?
don’t have a favourite.
What was the most rewarding experience while volunteering?
that I can do it! I'm more adaptable than I realized.
Learning that different isn't scary. It’s just different. I
could relax, enjoy myself, and grow in confidence and in
What is the best memory from your time at SC?
is going to sound ridiculous, but my favourite part
of the day was early each morning when I’d hear the children start
to arrive at school about 6:50 AM. I’d go out to the
school yard to mingle with the children and to pick up trash on the
ground, which was my excuse for being there. Every morning a
handful of students would help me clean up the yard. I’d
practice my Khmer with them and they would practice their English
with me while we worked. People laugh when I tell that that my
favourite thing to do at SC was to pick up trash, but it WAS!
What would you tell someone who is thinking about volunteering with
“camping.” Don’t expect nature to remain outdoors.
Don’t expect – or even hope- to improve the system or you will be
disappointed and frustrated. But you can help
If you are considering volunteering in Cambodia, you can visit our website to get more information about our Volunteer Program.
World Bank estimates suggest that Cambodia achieved the Millennium Development Goal (MDG) of halving poverty in 2009, there are still
many challenges to address.
development, mainly in education and health, remains a priority for
Cambodia. About 42% of children under 5 years old are malnourished
and stunted. Youth
(age group between 15 and 30 years old), makes up 33% of the
population*, which represents a significant young labour force. An
estimated 300,000 young Cambodians** enter the labour market every
year, but often they do not have the required skills to meet the
needs of the labour market. Therefore, equipping young people with
quality education and skills is crucial to ensure that Cambodia moves
towards improved equality and wealth for its citizens. The
development of skilled human resources with quality, ability and
virtue is a key priority for Cambodia.
is key to achievement of Cambodia’s long-term vision to build a
peaceful country with political stability, security and social order,
long-term economic growth, sustainable development and equity,
improved living standards and reduced poverty.
Sustainable Cambodia we believe that knowledge is power, and we want
every child to have access to quality education in order to create a highly skilled workforce. We are focusing on providing quality education and access to basic education to many children from different ages that live in rural areas.
work hard to ensure that our preschool, primary and secondary
children receive the education they deserved, and that enrolment rates keep going up.
Our teachers, supporters, volunteers and staff efforts and support are contributing towards the achievement of the #GlobalGoals and
are making valuable contributions to help Cambodia get a developed country
us in our journey of providing quality education to Cambodian
children and follow our progress towards a better future for the next
year 2000, the United Nations established a set of 8 international development goals called Millennium Development Goals
(MDGs), with specific targets and dates for achieving them. All the
189 United Nations member states at that time and 23 international
organizations committed to help to reach these goals by 2015:
- To eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
and other diseases
- To ensure environmental sustainability
- To develop a global partnership for development
the last 15 years, a great progress was made towards these goals:
million more kids go to schools
2 billion more people get clean drinking water
of the world was living in extreme poverty (people living on less
than $1.25 a day) in the year 2000, but today in 2015 that number
there is still a lot of work to do, and there is no point going
halfway. So on September 25th of this year, the United Nations launched the new #GlobalGoals in an
effort to end extreme poverty, fight inequality, and tackle climate
change by 2030. These goals are meant to build on the progress of the
last 15 years and finish what has been started.
The 17 new Global
Goals were shared with the world. But if the goals are going to work,
everyone in the planet need to know about them. So read about the goals here and spread the word. As #GlobalCitizens we are all responsible,
this is not just a responsibility of the world leaders only.
poverty can end by 2030. We can all make it happen. Share the
#GlobalGoals with everyone you know. These goals are for everyone,
At Sustainable Cambodia we believe in sustainable development and we believe that all together we can finish the job.
month we would like to share a success story from the field. Begoña
Iturregui was one of our on-site volunteers in Pursat for 7 months.
During her time with us, she participated in different projects,
mainly related to education. Her main focus was teaching English and
conducting science workshops in the SLMS school in Pursat town.
Students loved her workshops and had a lot of fun doing experiments.
However, it was during her visits to different preschools that she
realized that small children were having some urgent needs.
Children at one of our preschools
to research we now know that the first six years of a child's life
are key for the development of the human brain. But to be able to
reach it's full capacity, the brain needs to be nurtured from an
early age. Unfortunately, parents in Cambodia struggle to provide
their children with this much needed education before they start
attending school so children lack of cognitive stimulus. That is why
Sustainable Cambodia supports a number of community preschools in the
Pursat province, which give support to children under six years of
age. Preschools' budgets are really tight so they run very short on
educational materials and toys needed to develop motor skills,
language skills, counting skills and spatial awareness.
Begoña providing toys to the children
in young ages, even before primary education is reached, in decent
nutrition, in well-being, in a safe environment and in the cognitive
development of young children is absolutely crucial, as consequences
can last throughout the entire subsequent life of the child.
First look into the new toys
wanted to do something to change this so she created a campaign to
raise money to provide our four Pursat preschools with these much
needed toys and educational materials. In one month she raised enough
money to buy toys for the four preschools in the Pursat district. Way
to go Begoña!
Everyone enjoying the new toys
work does not end here though. There are still a lot of other SC
preschools in the province who need help. On the other hand toys
break and need to be replaced. So we continuously need to provide each
preschool with new materials. So if you want to make a difference in the lives of many young Cambodian children, you can join Begoña. Her
campaign is still running and she is only $200 away from reaching her
goal. You can make a donation and learn more about this campaign
here: Fundraising Page
are extremely grateful for having supporters like Begoña and all the
people that contributed with her campaign!