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!