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Six Friendship with Cambodia university graduates, thirteen current university students and three FWC staff visited the Mangrove Nursery Community, located in Trapaing Sang Kae, Kampot Province for a service project.  They bought and planted mangrove trees to restore the environment.


Here is an account of the trip, written by Ms. Cheam, Kosal, our Sponsorship Program Director. “All the students met at our office and our rented bus picked us up at 5:30 am.  We drove toward Kampot Province.  Around 9:30 am we arrived at Teok Chhou, a water fall resort area that people like to visit. All the students stopped here to enjoy the view and experience the water fall. This area is very nice, but now the water is not as clean since the electrical dam was built last year.”


“After this stop, we went to the Mangrove Nursery Community in Trapaing Sang Kae district, Kampot Province, along the coast.  We arrived around 11 am. People in this area make a living by fishing from small boats near the shore. This nursery is run by three community leaders. They also built a nice place for travelers to stop to rest and have a picnic.  The facility is free, but people who visit here can make a donation to help the local community restore the environment.”

“The Mangrove Nursery Community sells trees for about 50 cents each and shows people where to plant them.”  Mangrove trees provide many benefits including habitat for fish reproduction, purifying the water from pollutants, preventing erosion and reducing global warming 100 times more effectively than terrestrial trees.


Kosal continued, “After arriving here, the students went straight to plant the mangrove, all together they planted 50 trees that they bought from the community.  Some of the students who could not come on the trip because of a job or classes, gave money to buy trees and plant for them.”


One of the Friendship with Cambodia university alumna named, Ms. Am Sina, organized this service trip for the students to plant mangrove trees.


Some of the mangrove forests in this area were destroyed by construction for a port for cruise ships.  The fishery in the area has also been depleted by commercial fishing boats from other countries that illegally troll (drag nets) close to shore.  Rebuilding the habitat will help the fishery and the community recover.  An NGO helped this poor community start the project, and now the community runs it on their own.  The community is mostly ethnic Cham, a Cambodian Muslim minority group.


“After planting the trees, all the students had lunch and enjoyed eating seafood together. It was a really good time for all of them.

“Next, they went to visit the beach at Kep and some of them went into the sea for swimming.  This was the first time most of these students saw the ocean. They really enjoyed visiting and experiencing swimming. After that, they left Kep at about 4 pm and arrived Phnom Penh at about 8 pm.”

All of our students are from poor rural families and, for most of them, this was the first time they were able to go on a fun trip to visit a beautiful area.


List of the 6 Alumni participated in Tree Planting:

No Code Number Name F/M
1 TPH03 Nhay Soben F
2 TPH07 Sea Puthy F
3 KPT08 Am Sina F
4 SAM02 Yim Phally F
5 KPT03 Man Malen F
6 PBL07 Rim Rem M


List of Current Students Participated in Tree Planting

No. Code Number Name F/M Year
1 CCD32 Kong Lay Heang F 1
2 BTB01 Morn Rina F 1
3 CHL11 Chhum Srey Mao F 2
4 CHL12 Chheak Ratha F 2
5 COCD05 Chum Sophorn F 2
6 CLA07 Mab Neang F 2
7 CLA08 Seang Samen F 2
8 CHL13 Proeung Lina F 2
9 COCD07 Son Dem M 2
10 COCD06 Poch Seyla M 2
11 BOR13 Tham Sao-Run F 4
12 CHL09 It Channy F 4
13 PBL13 Lun Srey Khouch F 4










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By Tess Bergin

Group members with visitor passes wait to be admitted to the SMF/AFESIP building.

Group members with visitor passes wait to be admitted to the SMF/AFESIP building.

On Wednesday, December 11th we rode tuk-tuks outside the city of Phnom Penh for an appointment at the Somaly Mam Foundation. The ride was about an hour through the industrial outskirts of the city, and at one point we were stopped and approached by a little girl. The girl spoke Khmer, but by the expression on her face and the tone of her voice we knew she was begging for money. I stared at her silently as our professor told her in Khmer that we wouldn’t give her money. I had to clench my jaw to force back tears. She couldn’t have been more than eight or nine years old. Yet, her face resembled that of an old woman – her eyes and expression worn and exhausted. She has been through too much already. I wondered what her life was like and wondered who it was she had to answer to at the end of the day.

Upon arrival at The Somaly Mam Foundation, the first thing we noticed was the guard tower and the barricaded perimeter surrounding the building. While this particular building was not a safe house, meaning no victims of human trafficking were housed or rehabilitated there, the operation in itself has experienced violent attacks in the past.

We met with Hayley Welgus, the Policy and Liaison Manager of the foundation. She gave us a PowerPoint presentation on the causes, effects, and statistics of human trafficking within Cambodia, as well as on an international level. She was very open to our questions and was extremely warm and inviting.

At the end of her presentation, we were informed that one of the survivors who is an active member of the Voices for Change program was coming in to speak with us. This woman was beautiful beyond words, her strength and light were so inspiring, and her English skills were very impressive. She shared her experience with us, which was incredibly brave of her, especially to do so in a foreign language. What struck me the most was that she wasn’t able to tell her family that she worked for the Somaly Mam Foundation due to the stigma and discrimination she would face from her family and village. This broke my heart to hear, and yet it wasn’t unfamiliar. In observing the community response toward victims of rape and sexual violence in my own town, I know that on many levels this is a truth for American women as well.

I feel fortunate to have met someone as wonderful and brave as this. It left me feeling that there truly is hope for humanity. In her final words, she told us to love everything and everyone, and that she would see us again soon. I hope this is true.

A follow-up to the UO students’ visit to The Somaly Mam Foundation

By Colleen Lawler

In the evening after attending the presentation at Somaly Mam, a few of us decided to go out and experience a karaoke bar. We were immediately met with stares from all the local people in the bar. We we pressured to buy food and drinks immediately and our table was surrounded by bar workers. We looked around and noticed that there were many women who were wearing very minimal clothing and seemed to be hanging on some of the men. There were several private and VIP rooms. No one in the bar spoke English and all the karaoke songs were in Khmer. We were pretty sure that the bar was actually a cover for a brothel. It only took about 5 minutes for us to get uncomfortable enough to leave.

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By Grace-Ellen Mahoney

About a week ago, the University of Oregon students had the unique opportunity to visit the Daughters of Cambodia visitor center in Phnom Penh. Daughters of Cambodia is a non-governmental organization that serves women who have been victims of the sex trafficking industry that is highly present throughout Cambodia, and Southeast Asia as a whole. Daughters of Cambodia provides women who have been involved in sex trafficking an opportunity to seek holistic restoration. The women who become involved with Daughters of Cambodia have access to counseling and medical services, job training, and support if they are involved in unhealthy domestic relationships.
ImageThe Daughters of Cambodia visitor center offers guests a variety of options. From shopping to delicious dining to spa services, Daughters of Cambodia offers activities that every guest will be able to enjoy. All of the jewelry, clothing, and art work that is sold in the gift shop has been made by the women themselves. The spa offers guests an opportunity for a relaxing massage or manicure and pedicure. It is important to note, however, that spa services are only available to female visitors. Upstairs, the Daughters of Cambodia visitor center offers an opportunity to watch an informative short video that explains the mission and the services offered by the organization. There is also a cafe upstairs with a full menu. Overall, Daughters of Cambodia was a fun and educational experience. The Daughters visitor center is a must-do for responsible travelers in Cambodia!

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By Lizzy Schuster and Kara Rawlings

Today we visited the Senteurs d’Angkor workshop in Siem Reap.

ImageDuring the tour, we learned about the processes behind making their products. We saw them making palm leaf and palm branch boxes and learned that after gathering leaves, it takes one to two months before the dying process can begin. While each worker can make 30-40 palm leaf boxes each day, the branch boxes take more time, and each worker can normally only finish around four a day.

ImageAt the workshop, we also learned about how they make candles, spices, soaps, and teas and coffees. We enjoyed sampling the lemongrass and cinnamon coffees and bought some to bring home.

ImageOne reason this place appealed to us was because it was free to experience, and they had a tuk-tuk to bring us from their shop near the Old Market to the workshop location. It was also cool to see how the workers made the products and to be able to purchase them from the store at the end.


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While visiting Phnom Penh, we had the opportunity to attend two twelve-step meetings. The meetings were in the same location that was listed online and they were quite easy to find both on foot and in a tuk tuk. While we were there, the members were discussing moving the meetings to a new location because the building is being torn down. Hopefully the website will be updated with any changes. 

The meetings were open to anyone, which means even someone who is not a member of a twelve-step program is welcome to attend. The meetings were extremely similar to the ones in the United States. The same readings were handed out and read at the beginning and end of the meeting. Both of the meetings we attended were topic meetings, which means we read out of the twelve-step literature and then shared on the topic of that reading.

Most of the people in attendance were either passing through Phnom Penh or had moved there from another part of the world. A large percentage of the people in attendance were men, although it is a meeting the welcomes anyone.  We plan to attend a twelve-step meeting in Siem Reap as well. Everyone was extremely welcoming and these meetings are a great resource for anyone who may need to attend a twelve-step meeting while in Cambodia.

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By Shoshana Kerewsky and UO Family and Human Services Cambodia Group

December 10 was International Human Rights Day, which is sometimes a day of demonstrations in Cambodia. Although we were interested and would have liked to see these demonstrations, prudence dictated that we stay away. We decided to travel to Phnom Chisor, a hill rising above the village of Sla in Takéo Province south of Phnom Penh. The two-hour tuk-tuk ride down was interesting in and of itself and provided many opportunities to observe the transition from urban to rural Cambodia. At the top of Phnom Chisor there is an ancient Brahmin temple and newer Buddhist works. Murals in pavilions depict Hindu scenes, and a large, golden, reclining Buddha is a major focus. The views from the hill are agricultural. Although we were not the only visitors, this Angkoran site was peaceful and serene. 


Here are some of our thoughts about this visit:

Kara Rawlings: Phnom Chisor was like nothing I had ever seen before; it was also something I had never thought I would see. While there, I took the time to sit and look out at the beautiful countryside that surrounded me. For a few minutes, I was alone with my thoughts. What kept running through my mind was how easy it is to stay in your own little world and not realize how much is out there that you are missing. I feel like a lot of times as Americans we are so centered around our country that we fail to realize the beauty and magnificence other places have to offer. It was an experience I will never forget.


Darian Finley-Garcia: One thing that I learned was that not all Buddhas have to look the same, and many statues are influenced by other religions. On the way to Phnom Chisor, I learned that people will do whatever it takes to get by. I saw people selling food on the side of the road, as well as people farming, and it just opened my eyes to what people go through on a daily basis to provide food and shelter for their families. I learned a lot about the culture, and I cannot wait to learn more.


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By Kara Rawlings
Note: These shops advertise as fair trade and socially responsible, but have not yet been vetted by Friendship with Cambodia.
While in Phnom Penh we have visited a few fair trade craft shops. I was very impressed with the three A.N.D. shops on Street 240 which sold beautiful hand-crafted items. They were mainly a clothing store (a shirt and dress were purchased by members of the group), but they also sold other items as well.
These shops were more expensive than the items you could buy from the Russian Market or non-free trade stores, but you could tell the items at these stores were very high quality and worth the higher price. What I love about the stores is you know that you can’t get anything like this from the United States. Everything they sell is unique.
We also visited the Ta Prohm Souvenir Shop near the Russian Market. It sells items that are produced by landmine survivors, people with disabilities, and women. My favorite part about this shop were the multitude of gorgeous purses they sold of all different varieties. They also had beautiful jewelry, scarves, and little wallets. I had to force myself to not buy everything in the store.

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