Saturday, November 1, 2014

Our Volunteer Cycles 2000km to Enable Future Stars of Cambodia!

We hope you know how grateful we are for your help in improving the quality of children's lives, and helping their families achieve sustainability and self-sufficiency.



You hopefully know that we have only native Cambodians as paid staff, and everyone else works as unpaid volunteers. We spend nothing on marketing, so all contributed funding goes to the Cambodian projects. But there's never enough funding for all the wells, cisterns, seeds, school buildings and teachers that are needed. So we are always thinking, "What can we do about this?"

Well, one of our volunteers didn't just "think about it"... He came up with a solution! Martin Benda is riding 2,000 kilometers to support education for the children in rural Cambodia! Read below to discover more...


Our Volunteer Cycles 2000km
to Enable Future Stars of Cambodia!


The following is what Martin Benda says about the campaign:

It all began in March 2014 when Victor Siow (a member of the board of directors of Sustainable Cambodia) asked me to join him for a short volunteering trip to Pursat, a large province located approximately 250km north of the capital, Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

This trip was about learning how Sustainable Cambodia (www.sustainablecambodia.org) helps local communities address some of the most fundamental challenges such as access to education and clean water. I was lucky enough to experience first-hand the progress made on this front to date and also to witness how much more yet needs to be done to raise awareness and funds.

Victor (left), Martin (right), at Sustainable Cambodia Site, Pursat, Cambodia, May 2014

Before this trip, I knew very little about Sustainable Cambodia, its efforts and the educational and self-sufficiency challenges faced in remote areas in Cambodia. However, this trip allowed me to gain a truly meaningful and eye-opening experience in many aspects.

The most striking was to find out how little things, often taken for granted in developed countries, can make a huge difference in the lives of the future stars of Cambodia, its children. Be it a pen, a book, an appealing story or simple shelter, these seemingly trivial things can help these future stars gain access to "the most powerful weapon, which can be used to change the world", education.

In Cambodia, between 2008 and 2012 pre-primary school participation was only 13.3% and this percentage is as low as 1.5% in remote areas. Furthermore, just 1.6% of Cambodia's GDP is spent on education, which ranks around 170th in the world. In remote areas in Cambodia poor families struggle with daily cost of living, which makes them make their children work in the field from an early age. This field work takes place at the expense of school attendance, a concept not understood.



As powerful as these statistics are, with my motto "Enabling Future Stars of Cambodia" I decided to turn things around and further enhance the existing efforts Sustainable Cambodia are making. With this goal in mind, I decided to cycle from Singapore to Bangkok to raise awareness and funds for the future stars of Cambodia. Read on, I will take you through my experience and will tell you how you can play a part in this little yet symbolically important journey.


How it All Started:
My Volunteering Experience in Cambodia 


I truly believe that every single human being should do a volunteering stay at least once in a lifetime. To this date, I have done two, one 4-month stay in an orphanage in Indonesia and one one-week visit to Cambodia. The second one I consider as the beginning of a life-long journey to make an impact in places such as Cambodia.

Let me take you through what I believe has made a profound impact on me during this trip. You will then be able to gain a better understanding what has led me to the decision to cycle 2000km for this great cause.

Right after arrival, together with the staff of Sustainable Cambodia Victor and I were busy doing workshops and making field visits. Over just one week we visited a number of schools built from scratch, we saw many new enhancements made such as libraries and we met with many students who were able to go to university thanks to "Sponsor Me" donations. All these successes were made possible thanks to the donations from people who care, you!

Victor, Martin and SC staffs at one of our village preschools

One such a school built from scratch is in the picture on the left. It was newly built in a very remote area in Pursat with no asphalt roads, no regular supply of clean water and no means to provide elementary education. This school is now a self-sufficient shed with build-in facilities to convert rainy water into drinking water. It can also accommodate the need to provide basic education to all the children in the picture. This project was a game changer in the location and Sustainable Cambodia are going to build many more such schools in this remote area.

Martin (left) and Victor (right) at the bookstore in Phnom Penh, Cambodia

A good example how to quench the thirst for knowledge of these children is to provide them with books and various reading materials. In the picture on the right, Victor and I took a bookstore in Phnom Penh by storm and bought books and magazines worth of USD300. The following day we donated these books to a library in Pursat. The reaction I witnessed thereafter left me speechless.


Children enjoy reading their books in the library

All the pupils came running in an effort to grab a book. After they managed to grab one, they kept reading and reading out loud to each other. This was one of the most moving moments for me. After observing the library in more detail, I noticed that most of the reading materials were indeed years old, dirty and used probably a trillion times. This small investment will keep these children's hunger for knowledge satisfied, not for long though.

Details About The Journey 


As treacherous and challenging as the journey seems, to overcome the different terrains, altitudes and notorious traffic, I am counting on the understanding of the drivers in Singapore, the hospitality of the Malaysian people, the wide smiles of the people in Thailand and a positive attitude of all the other people I will make contact with along the way.


To put this journey into perspective, my goal is to cycle around 200km per day, which should total to approximately 10 days to complete the whole journey, from Singapore to Bangkok. All in all, 2000km. Three additional days are planned for emergency situations such as heavy rain, traffic difficulties, by-pass around big cities and some necessary rest on some nice beaches along the coast.

How I am Going to Raise Awareness 


I believe everyone around me will be as excited about this journey and the impact we all can make as I am. To raise awareness through the countries I will cycle through, Singapore, Malaysia and Thailand, I will be wearing gear with the logo of AIMIA (www.aimia.com), the main project sponsor and a significant donor, and Sustainable Cambodia.


To let you all experience the thrill, a Facebook page: "2000km Journey for Future Stars of Cambodia" (click here to access the website) has been created, please do like it and spread the word of this good cause.

On this page, you will be able to witness all the pre-journey preparations that are currently getting under way as we speak. Once I set off, currently planned for the last week of November 2014, you can see my regular check-ins and other posts and photos taken on a daily basis.

Besides the cycling, a couple of joined promotions at bars and restaurants in Singapore are planned at the moment. Stay updated and do check out my Facebook page regularly.

How to Make Donations 


To make it as easy as possible for people to make a donation, Sustainable Cambodia set up a fundraising page on Crowdrise (click here to access the website) to provide everyone with the opportunity to make a fair contribution and enable the future stars of Cambodia gain access to education. To show my commitment and get others motivated, I have already made a donation of USD500, beat that!

As I mentioned earlier on, every little help makes a huge, tangible difference. The below table should give you a fair idea on how much impact you can make by donations as low as USD100, which is an amount often wasted on the things we barely need in life. However, such an amount can help change lives, literally!


It is the responsibility of those fortunate enough in life to be able to meaningfully contribute to the development of those less fortunate. Little gestures of appreciation such as the donations made through this cycling trip can be translated to improving the educational standards in rural areas such those Victor and I visited.

Who knows, maybe, just maybe, the future Albert Einstein, Arnold Schwarzenegger or Angelina Jolie can emerge from these future stars who, thanks to our help, will be able to access the world of education and achieve extraordinary things they could not otherwise. Let's find out by enabling these future stars!


If you would like to create a fundraiser page, email us at sponsors@sustainablecambodia.org, and we'll help you create an fundraiser that will really change lives! Or you can help Martin reach his goal by visiting www.CrowdRise.com and contributing to her campaign.





Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Jorie's 18th Birthday Gift Changes Lives!

This is a note of gratitude to all of you who are improving the quality of children's lives, and helping their families achieve sustainability and self-sufficiency.


We strive to be efficient with funding. We have only native Cambodians for paid staff, and everyone else works as unpaid volunteers. We spend nothing on marketing. All contributed funding goes to the Cambodian projects. But funding the well-drilling, pumps, cisterns, seeds, school buildings, school books, etc. is always a challenge. So we are always thinking, "What can we do about this?"

Well, one of our supporters didn't just "think about it," she came up with a solution! And she took action! Read below about how JORIE MORAN used her 18th birthday celebration to help dozens of children and their families...

Jorie's 18th Birthday Gift Changes Lives!


Jorie Moran recently returned from her work overseas in Vietnam and Cambodia. While in Cambodia, she was moved by the history of this nation and the dire conditions of the villagers who love in the rural communities.


In the lieu of gifts for her upcoming birthday, Jorie created a fundraising page on the website www.CrowdRise.com to raise funds for Sustainable Cambodia. She set a goal of $2,000 to help change the lives of Cambodian children and villagers.

Jorie's friends and family have been contributing birthday gifts to the project, some small, others big.

The results of her birthday gift will last for years. Children will have opportunities they might never otherwise have. Families will be empowered, and as part of the pass-on program the families will "give back" to other families in nearby villages. Jorie's birthday gift, from all her loving friends and family, will be at work in Cambodia for years to come.

Jorie, her friends, and the children in Cambodia

In Jorie's own words, after returning from her volunteer work across Cambodia: "This summer I had the opportunity to work overseas in Vietnam and Cambodia. While in Cambodia, we visited the Killing Fields and learned about the Khmer Rouge. The Khmer Rouge wanted to erase Cambodia's history completely and therefore created the term "Year Zero." They invaded the city Phnom Penh, and in a matter of three days it was completely empty. Since then, Cambodians have suffered tremendously in trying to rebuild their country. Lack of clean water, education, resources, and economic opportunities have been constant troubles for Cambodians. I had the privilege of working with the Sao Sary Foundation and made and installed water filters for villages with basically nothing. Sustainable Cambodia is a similar group determined to change the future of Cambodia. Please support me in making a donation to those in much more need than myself.  PS-You should Google the Killing Fields!!"



If you would like to create a fundraiser page, email us at sponsors@sustainablecambodia.org, and we'll help you create an fundraiser that will really change lives! Or you can help Jorie reach her goal by visiting www.crowdrise.com and contributing to her campaign.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Community Ponds Change Lives

Cambodia is a country of stark contrasts. In the rainy season water is abundant, so rural families can farm, grow vegetables, produce an income, and send their children to school.

Prey O'mal, our new target village
In the dry season, everything is different; the shallow ponds quickly dry up, and water becomes very difficult to reach. Not only is drinking water scarce, but farming is difficult, and as vegetables disappear so does the ability to earn an income for the family. For many families, this leads to one of the parents leaving for temporary jobs in large towns or even in Thailand. The children at home have to do more housework and chores, and the biggest of those chores is spending several hours each day travelling to collect water. As a result, children often can't go to school regularly. When they miss school, they get low grades and eventually drop out, and the cycle of poverty is recreated….

Your support helps families break the cycle of poverty.

We are grateful for all our supporters around the world, including you, Youthlinc, Starquest Expeditions, and the many Rotarians who are working through Sustainable Cambodia and Sustainable Cambodia Australia to help village families and children. With everyone's help, nearly 400 wells are providing safe water, more than 4,500 students are currently enrolled in our schools, and nearly 25,000 Cambodians have been able to change their lives for the better. None of this would be happening without supporters like you!

Rural families can grow vegetables all year round with the water from our community pond program
In this month's newsletter, we are sharing how our community ponds program has changed the life of many rural families and their children. Please read below to discover more.

Community Ponds Change Lives

Our Community Pond Program provides community members with an affordable and sustainable way to improve their family's health and to help them produce food and generate income during the dry season.

One SC-supported community pond in Prey O'mal village
Community Ponds provide water for irrigating gardens and feeding livestock and can be stocked with fish to increase the village families' access to high protein food and generate income. This earned income provides families with the means to pay for supplies, healthcare services and food security, and even to create small business opportunities.

Not only are families engaged in co-creating a sustainable community asset, they are productive during the long dormant period between the rice harvest and the next rice planting. With locally earned income, families don't have to leave their homes for jobs in the distant areas, and their children can stay in school!

The families in Prey O'mal village, a new SC target area, have helped to dig four new community ponds, which are benefiting more than 40 families. In the following section you will meet one of those families, and see how their lives have changed!

Mrs. Kong Sophear and her family
Meet 34 year old Kong Sophear, one of the poorest farmers in rural Prey O'mal, our new target village. She currently lives with her husband and her 2 children.

Life was extremely challenging for them when they first moved to this village in 2004. Their home was very far from any water source, and the children often missed school when they had to spend hours fetching water for the family.

Her vegetable garden with the water from the SC-supported community pond 
Moreover, with no job opportunities during the dry season, the family was unable to create a sustainable source of income no matter how hard they worked.

Mrs. Kong Sophear and her husband in their vegetable garden next to the SC-supported community pond
Everything changed when Kong Sophear and her husband joined Sustainable Cambodia's projects. Sophear joined one of SC's Self-Help Groups in late 2013 and has worked with the group for nearly a year now.
Sophear and her husband harvesting their vegetables to sell at the market
The family has clean water from a bio-sand water filter, has benefited from an SC-supported community well and community pond, has been trained in agriculture and business concepts. Mrs. Kong received vegetable seeds, along with agricultural tools and training, and received a micro-loan for the family to open a village business. 

And their lives have changed... The harvest from Mrs. Kong's family farming has given the family much-needed income.

Mrs. Kong and her husband working in their vegetable garden
Her husband works in the vegetable garden with her, and also runs his small business, providing commodities for the community. Their lives are no longer dominated by long walks to get water, and their children are now able to go to school regularly. 

When we interviewed Kong Sophear, she said: "We are very honored and grateful to have Sustainable Cambodia come to help our community. After the pond was completed, we were able to grow enough food to eat, and earn enough money to support our family, and allow our children to go to school everyday.”

Mrs. Kong Sophear and her husband next to the pond
She continued: "I now love my husband more than before because he now works so hard all day, he grows vegetables with me, we raise chickens and animals, he sells products in the village and helps me with housework. Thank you SC and all supporters for helping our family and our community with the water, well, and bio-sand filter for safe drinking water, loan for business, pond for growing vegetables, and a lot more. We wish you good health, good luck and good lives for your family, too."



Sunday, August 10, 2014

Thanks to the Youthlinc Teams: They made everyone smile!

This past month, Youthlinc again sent students and mentors to visit our Cambodia projects. Youthlinc is nonprofit organization dedicated to creating lifetime humanitarians by offering students and mentors local and international service experiences. Rotary clubs and Rotarians are engaged in helping Youthlinc with this program. This year we had two groups of students - 80 students per group, plus mentors - who came to help with some major projects.

We are grateful for all our supporters around the world, including you, and Youthlinc, and the many Rotarians who are working through Sustainable Cambodia and Sustainable Cambodia Australia to help village families and children. With everyone's help, nearly 400 wells are providing safe water, more than 4,500 students are currently enrolled in our schools, and nearly 25,000 Cambodians have been able to change their lives for the better. None of this would be happening without supporters like you!

First Youthlinc Team at SC

1st Youthlinc team of 40 students and mentors and SC staff, a group photo next to the newly built school in Krang Popleak village

Each Youthlinc team spent around 10 days in Cambodia. The projects they focused on at Sustainable Cambodia ranged from clean water and agriculture, to health, education, and empowerment in the rural villages.

2nd Youthlinc team and SC staff Sin Soy


2nd Youthlinc team in the village

Each Youthlinc student and each mentor chose activities to participate in during their stay with us. These included building a rooftop rainwater harvesting tank (RRH), constructing and painting 2 preschools and the fence, teaching (English, sewing, business concepts, health care and more), fixing and making new school desks, and planting vegetables and fruit trees and more...

Providing sewing machines and the skills training Teaching and training

Teaching and training

Building the school concrete and the fence

School construction, planting seeds and painting the water tank

Painting windows at the schools

Providing animals and farming tools

Providing school bikes and uniforms

Books for the school libraries and more

Students standing in front of their new school built by the Youthlinc team in Chherteal Roung community


Youthlinc Teams Make Everyone Smile!


Youthlinc made a lasting difference in the lives of the families with the projects they completed. The children enjoyed learning. Village families found ways to improve their lives. The following are some comments from the Youthlinc team and the community people who have benefited from the Youthlinc projects.

Uncle Em Moul, 73 years old, the community leader of  Chheuteal Rung

Em Moul, the community leader, said in Khmer: "We want to express our deepest thanks for all your great support, friendship and love, encouragement and trust, and above all the great hope and prosperity you have brought to our community.   

"We are so impressed and grateful that you have traveled so far from your homes, spent so much valuable time and money, tireless commitment and strength to help our community.  

We want to tell you that your caring heart and support will stay with us forever. Since you came, we are more hopeful and more united than ever. We've learned to share what we have and to pass on what we know to one another. We know how to work as a team and as a community member. It's a REAL CHANGE to our community."

Aunt Morm Samoeurn with her first sewing class  and our SC staff Ork Siep
Morm Samoeurn said: "When we first got here, we had nothing and we were so hopeless, but we didn't have a choice. We didn't have clean water to drink and use, we didn't have a water well, we didn't have latrines, we didn't have schools for our children, we didn't have anything except the forest around us.   

But since Sustainable Cambodia came to our village, we have clean water wells, water bio-sand filters to make water safe for drinking, latrines, community ponds, pass-on animals, vegetable gardens, micro-loans for business and farming, and more. And now we have more support from the Youthlinc team, we have a school with some school bikes and uniforms for our young children, sewing machines and skills to make money, more animals to raise and pass on, education and knowledge and more.   

I have learned to make clothes with this machine with the Youthlinc students, and I have already made some and sold them. I am sure that I can make money with this skill, and I will pass on this skill to other families in my community. Thank you to the Youthlinc team and to everyone for helping my family and my community."

Our preschool teacher Nhem Sophea, 35 years old, one of the first families in Chheuteal Rung community

Nhem Sophea said: "We are so lucky that our children now have a school to learn. It's the first time for them to attend the preschool here. The Youthlinc team has changed the way we live, the way we grow our children and the way we think and work for our dreams of our own choice. We know we have to give our children a chance for education, and other good things will follow.   

Thank you to Youthlinc team and to everyone for helping our community, and we wish everyone great happiness and success in lives and business."


The following are some comments from the Youthlinc team:









Comments from Team Leader Stephanie:" On behalf of Youthlinc, I want to thank Sustainable Cambodia from the bottom of my heart. Sustainable Cambodia has been a fantastic partner for us, and has always worked diligently to ensure our teams have a positive and life changing service experience.   

Working together with SC, and our friends in the Chheuteal Rung Community was incredible. Together we were able to complete the school house, build a fence surrounding the school, install a garden, build desks for the school, teach sewing, English, and business skills and much more. We are forever grateful for the many friendships made, and treasure our new friends in Cambodia. We will always cherish our memories made in Cambodia, and hope to visit again soon.   

Many of us at Youthlinc are also involved in Rotary. Myself, Judy Zone, Miriam Barth and Dayna Revetti are all members of Millcreek Rotary Club, which has sponsored projects for SC. Recently, we sponsored a water well in Chumony, Cambodia and are happy to hear that the school now has access to clean drinking water year round! Dayna and myself were absolutely delighted to attend a Rotary meeting in Pursat, with Polin, while we were in Cambodia last week. We are happy to have new friends in Rotary, and look forward to working together again!   

Stephanie Chard,  
Youthlinc Team Leader "

Monday, June 30, 2014

SC Students visiting Angkor Wat

Thanks to supporters like you and Rotarians from around the world, Sustainable Cambodia and Sustainable Cambodia Australia are able to help thousands of village children get a quality education through our community preschools, primary schools, enrichment schools, and university scholarships.

All over the world, children are a powerful force in their communities. When they have opportunities to improve their lives, everyone benefits. Families eat better. They stay healthy. And in the end, entire nations are in a better position to prosper economically.

Our students reading books in the library
Education at SC means engaging our students in a stimulating, creative, and quality learning environment.  One of our most exciting programs provides students from primary schools to high schools a rare opportunity to visit the Temples of Angkor in Siem Reap once a year.

For most of our students, this is the first trip they have taken away from their homes, and this is their first opportunity to visit the cultural and historical heart of their own country of Cambodia.

92 students and 25 teachers went on the study tour this year
This educational field trip is one of annual curricular activities aiming to allow students to learn more about Cambodian culture and civilization during the Angkor era, to give more opportunities to students to be independent in practising their English with foreign tourists, and to strengthen relationships between teachers and students. And the trips also inspire teamwork, improve self-confidence, and encourage potential.

Read below to discover more...

An Educational Field Trip to the Temples of Angkor Wat

This year, 40 students from SLMS, 20 students from KBFC, 32 students from KSS, and 25 teachers joined the field trip to visit the temples of Angkor Wat.


Students and teachers in front of Angkor Wat
This three-day study tour was a great success. The students had a lot of fun and gained knowledge and experience. They toured several cultural and historical landmarks including the West Baray, Angkor Thom, Baphuon, Ta Prohm, Angkor Wat, Banteay Srey, Kulen Mountain, Preah Khan, Bakheng Mountain, the Cultural Village, and the Night Market.

Students and teachers at the West Baray
Students and teachers at Banteay Srey
The journey by bus started at 6:00 in the morning in order to reach Siem Reap by midnight.

Students and teachers at the Cultural Village
The group first visited Baray, a 17 km2 lake built in the early 11th century. Teachers and chaperones taught the students how to care for their environment and explained the two competing theories of the history of Baray. Some historians argue it was created to irrigate lands during the dry season, while others believe it was  built primarily as a depiction of the Sea of Creation in Hinduism.

Students and teachers at the Kunlen Mountain
Group Discussion Activities
The next day was full of temple trekking. Students explored and learned about the history, achievements, culture, and wonder of the Ancient Khmer Empire. Many students were surprised at the number of "baraang," or foreigners, visiting from all over the world.  The teachers had their work cut out for them, as students showered them with questions relating to each temple and site.

Our students and teachers at the Ta Prohm
Everyone had a fantastic time. When the students returned to  Pursat, they shared their experiences with their fellow classmates, getting others excited for their turn on future trips.

Our students Meak Danick (left) and Huy Ravychivorn (right)
They said in Khmer "Hello, everyone! How are you? We both are very happy because we can come to visit Angkor Wat and other Khmer temples for our first time in our lives. It's a great experience. It's unforgettable! We are not tired to walk all day exploring our temples for the first time. We have learned a lot from our trip. We have a lot of fun. We take a lot of pictures to show our classmates and our families when we go back. We have a lot of stories to share with our class and our families and they will love them, too. Thank you, SC and all supporters for giving us this opportunity to come here." 
Our student Tob Darin and a foreigner at Angkor Wat
Our student Tob Darin expressed her feeling in Khmer: "It's the best trip ever in my life. I have never imagined that I can leave my home this far. It opens my eyes, mind, and soul. I can know how my English is vital. It can help me get a new friend from a different culture, it's fun! I saw Angkor Wat so many times on TV and I hoped one day I would see real Angkor Wat, now I can see it. It's amazing! Thank you for helping make my dream real."