Posts Tagged ‘Student Sponsorship’

Day 6, January 5: Around Phnom Penh

We headed out at 8:30am to walk to the Royal Palace, where our guide, Sarum, gave us an interesting and informative tour.

Royal Palace

Royal Palace

Toul Sleng Genocide Museum was once a high school

Toul Sleng Genocide Museum was once a high school

Then, Mr. Tang, our driver, drove us to Tuol Sleng Genocide Museum, the former high schoolwhere Khmer Rouge imprisoned and tortured thousands, including fellow cadre members who had been accused of some disloyal act.

Photographs of the prisoners were displayed, and we could see that many were young children.

Photographs of young genocide victims

Photographs of young genocide victims

Interrogation room

Interrogation room

It is a very hard place to experience but so important as a space to honor and remember those who lost their lives during the genocide. Bun gave us an orientation, then let us proceed through the exhibits at our own pace from 10-11am.

One of the few people to survive Tuol Sleng was there selling his book. Chou En was his alias. I recommend reading “Voices from S-21” by David Chandler to learn more about Tuol Sleng and the atrocities committed there.

We had lunch at Sugar ‘N’ Spice, a very pleasant café and coffee house. It is operated by Daughters of Cambodia, an NGO that provides women who have been victims of human trafficking with shelter and training to learn a skill and make their living. The Cambodian manager told us a little about the project while we enjoyed an opulent and rich lunch with a wonderful meringue for dessert.

Picking up our gifts for FWC’s university students we drove to the FWC/Holt Office and student center where we met Kosal and Sita, who coordinate the Student Sponsorship program. FWC funds the program in partnership with Holt’s Cambodian NGO. FWC arranges scholarships for 54 students. Thirty-eight of these students are in university. We met with about 30 of the students who are sponsored by FWC donors.

Student Sponsorship Program Director Cheam Kosal and University Student Chea Both

Student Sponsorship Program Director Kosal and university student Both

We all introduced ourselves, and many of the students used this opportunity to practice conversing in English. Sita showed us on a map where each student was from. Then we broke into smaller groups so that each sponsor could meet their student(s). Carol, Daniel, and I met with several students for a very interesting discussion about how job applicants can best present themselves.

Tour participants enjoy an afternoon with FWC-sponsored university students

Tour participants enjoy an afternoon with FWC-sponsored university students

By 5:30pm, it was time for happy hour at the Rooftop Bar overlooking the Mekong River, which was very soothing after an emotionally charged day. We had dinner just around the corner at Friends Tapas, where we had a wonderful time with great food (the best yet, in my opinion). We also enjoyed an informative conversation with one of the teachers, as this is also a training restaurant. The Friends fair trade shop next door was an excellent stop for some post-dinner purchasing. We were back at the hotel by 10pm.


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By Shoshana Kerewsky and the FHS Cambodia Group

On behalf of the University of Oregon’s Family and Human Services student group, I would like to thank Bhavia (Executive Director), Erin (Office Manager), and Friendship with Cambodia for allowing us to share our trip through FWC’s blog. I would also like to thank FWC and its partners’ assistance in planning this trip. Eric Skaar of IE3 and Lauren Lindstrom of the University of Oregon’s College of Education also played instrumental roles. We would also like to thank Lisa Fortin, Krissy Hemphill, Surendra Subramani, Kelly Warren, and everyone else who helped, accommodated, made suggestions, pointed out problems, and worked with us to make this trip happen. We are profoundly grateful to our families, friends, and strangers who made donations toward this trip that, along with our own contributions, paid for donations to the agencies and programs that educated us and defrayed some of our expenses.

In Cambodia, Kevin and I shared an enjoyable lunch and discussion about trip planning and fostering meaningful experiences with Drs. John Miller and Jason Platt. To Ms. Kosal, Mr. Arun, Ms. Hema, Scott, Melissa, Hayley, and the many other educational/NGO partners who helped us, and our new Cambodian friends: Aw kuhn!

At the end of the academic quarter following our trip, I asked the participants to reflect on the experience with the following questions:

What did you learn about Cambodia and Cambodians that surprised, interested, or pleased you? What did you learn about yourself by participating in this trip? If someone were planning a trip to Cambodia, what one activity or place would you recommend they visit and why?

Participants’ responses are below, with one exception: An important outcome of this trip for Tess Bergin was to change her major from Family and Human Services to Journalism. She has a passionate conviction that the best way she can help is to write about Cambodia and help Cambodians have a voice through media access. Good luck, Tess! We miss you and wish you well.


Tess at the Somaly Mam Foundation

Colleen Lawler (Graduated): I found Cambodians to be some of the friendliest people I have encountered while traveling. They were very welcoming and kind. Professionally, I learned a lot about what it is like to work with people from different cultural backgrounds and that I really enjoy helping international agencies. I would recommend that visitors to Cambodia tour Angkor Wat—it is a must-see. I also really enjoyed Siem Reap and think it is a nice place to stay while on a visit. If someone is more interested in learning about the genocide in Cambodia, Phnom Penh is more likely to be a better fit. It depends on what someone is seeking out of their visit.

Kara Rawlings (Junior): At the beginning of the trip, I wondered how the Cambodian people would act towards Americans. I was surprised by how friendly and gracious every person with whom I interacted in Cambodia was. There was never a time where I felt unsafe or frightened because of a person’s actions towards me. A few of us in the group even commented on how much safer we felt walking around at night in Cambodia than in Eugene. I loved being able to smile at a stranger on the street and have them give me a huge smile right back.

My trip to Cambodia was the first big, international trip I have taken. Before going on the trip, I worried about how I would handle being away from home. During this time, I learned that it was very possible for me to spend time without my friends and family and be successful. It taught me that further international study abroad experiences are something that I really want to do. If someone were planning a trip to Cambodia, I would be sure to tell them to visit the Phnom Chisor temple. This was one of my favorite experiences of the trip. I enjoyed it so much because it was a place that was not crowded with people and had beautiful scenery. While I was there, I was able to have time to myself and enjoy everything that was around me.


Phnom Chisor

Kevin Wiles (Assistant Trip Leader): When we travel outside of our usual domains, it allows us to experience cultures and their inhabitants on a personal level. The use of media to describe how the smells, textures, and sounds, which are a part of daily living in these locales, proves inadequate, once your own senses are used. Such is the impression I have of travel to Cambodia. I cannot begin to explain how walking on a path of hand-hewn stone transports me back more than a millennium.  I am walking in the footsteps of holy men and monarchs alike, climbing stairs worn smooth by the passage of time, mankind, and the relentless elemental forces. When I take a picture of a woman riding by on a scooter, or a man sleeping in the shade of his tuk-tuk, I am reminded that I am a stranger here; however, the sense that I am invited as a part of a larger family does not escape me wherever I go. I was invited to share an hour-long ride in a tuk-tuk with a young woman who wanted Shoshana and me to meet her family. The hospitality was unparalleled—we were welcomed with food, water, and a place of honor to sit. We witnessed a family’s pride for their young granddaughter and the love of a mother overcoming the challenges posed for a child born with an extra 21st chromosome.


Visiting a family

The sights and sounds are trivial to the experience when compared to the human interactions. The benefit of traveling with a socially conscious mindset is that the person-to-person contacts are considered a vital component, and it moves the experience beyond the commercialized expectations of the average tourist. When we are able to see that our lives on a rudimentary scale are not so different from each other is when we can connect and truly see what is before us. When we are willing to take the step and move out of our boundaries is when we are actually traveling. I remember the saddest I felt on this trip was when I was coming back home—I was having lunch in Korea with a group of travelers who were returning from a river cruise down the Mekong. They were not talking about the places they had seen or they people they visited; instead, they were bemoaning the fact that there were no “American” items on the menu at the restaurant, and that not having a fork was “uncivilized.” I was sad indeed, but the upside was that I had plenty to eat that day!

If you are contemplating a trip, take the time to reflect on the reasons, then leap into the unknown. After all, what is there to lose? If you are lucky, maybe you will gain more than you spend. Pay attention to the little things, those things that are passed over because they are ordinary — the smile of a child whom you see riding on a scooter with the other four members of her family, the small crowd gathered around the new water filtration device in their village, or even the man sitting on the sidewalk repairing a tire with a homemade vulcanization kit. All of these are worth seeing, and most certainly not something you will encounter at home. What do you have to lose? You never know. You might even get a good lunch, compliments of those who are less willing to live a little!

Lizzy Schuster (Senior): One of the things I appreciated the most about going to Cambodia was experiencing a new culture among other Family and Human services majors from the UO. This was an important part of the trip because I was able to process the cultural differences with other people who were having similar experiences. Additionally, the other students helped expose me to their views about the NGOs and cultural sites we visited.

Over the next week, I will finish up my course work at the University of Oregon and graduate with an undergraduate degree. Going to Cambodia increased my interest in applying for Peace Corps post-graduation. During my time in Cambodia, I learned about the importance of exposing yourself to another culture, especially cultures that need assistance in supporting their population. In our visit to the University in Phnom Penh and meetings with Cambodian students, I was able to communicate with individuals my age and see how their experiences growing up were similar or different to my own. Additionally, I discovered my interest in having these conversations and learning about ideas that are different from my own, whether reflected in religion, culture, or everyday lives.

One of my favorite organizations we visited was called the Trailblazer Foundation. This organization works with the villages to provide clean water to individuals who would otherwise not be able to have access to clean drinking water. If anyone is planning a visit to Cambodia, this is an organization I would recommend to demonstrate a great non-profit and the support it gives to the people of Cambodia.


Trailblazer water filters

Anna Hicks (Junior): While in Cambodia, I was amazed by how friendly everyone was. Compared to other places I’ve traveled, the people in Cambodia were very genuine and kind. Every person I spoke to was very curious about my life in the United States. I really appreciated that because it made me happy knowing Cambodians wanted to learn about US culture as much as I wanted to learn about theirs. I learned that the material things in my life shouldn’t matter so much. The amazing people in Cambodia lived off almost nothing and still maintained happy, content lives. This was extremely eye-opening for me and will stick with me forever. Seeing how little some of the people in Cambodia had, I realized that you really don’t need a lot to be happy. I also realized that despite prior fears I had of traveling to a developing country, I now feel more confident about things that are outside my comfort zone. I was definitely nervous about the trip, but I’m so thankful that I participated because I think it was a perfect time in my life to do it. At some point, I want to go back to Cambodia. I also learned that even though Cambodia is a completely different place from the US, we all share the common desire to be happy and live the best lives we can.

I would definitely recommend that visitors to Cambodia experience the Killing Fields. I think that was one of the most powerful moments of the trip and something people should experience, because it is something very prominent in Cambodia to this day.

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August is one of the best months to be in the Friendship with Cambodia office.  Why?  Because we just received all of our students’ progress reports and updated photos, which we’ll soon pass on to all our student sponsors.  We love reading about our students’ school year, what they’re doing in their free time, and their plans for the future.

Every single Cambodian student that we sponsor struggles to overcome hardship and receive an education, and for Sochen, all that hard work paid off!  Sochen joined our program when she was in the 10th grade.  Both of her parents are farmers, and her mother is often ill.  After high school, she was accepted into the Vanda Institute of Accounting.  Through her hard work and dedication and support from Friendship with Cambodia, she will graduate in October 2012 with a degree in accounting.

Using skills she learned in school and through extracurricular training classes provided by Friendship with Cambodia’s partner organization, SADP, Sochen used the Internet to apply to jobs in Cambodia.  After completing the interview process, Sochen was offered a position as an accountant for a garment factory in Phnom Penh.

Sochen’s story exemplifies how becoming a student sponsor empowers Cambodian women to help themselves.  The support provided by Friendship with Cambodia enabled Sochen to develop the skills needed to find a job and the qualifications to succeed in her career.  Today, she is an independent young woman who is not only able to provide for herself but also build a satisfying career.

Congratulations, Sochen!

To learn more about Friendship with Cambodia’s Sponsorship Program, visit http://www.friendshipwithcambodia.org/donate_sponsor.php

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Shoshana Kerewsky is the current president of Friendship with Cambodia’s Board of Directors.  She shares with us how she became interested in Cambodia and what her FWC duties entail.  We would like to take this opportunity to thank Shoshana for all her hard work and dedication to FWC.

How did you learn about and/or become involved with FWC?

I first visited Cambodia on a professional trip with People to People International. I was moved by the stories we heard and the events of recent Cambodian history. When I returned to the US, I looked for an organization that supported vulnerable people in Cambodia and was very happy to discover Friendship with Cambodia in Eugene. I attended a couple of events and began to volunteer. After becoming more familiar with the organization, began giving educational programs at fundraising house parties. I joined the board of directors and ultimately became board president.

Shoshana sets up to give a talk about Friendship with Cambodia’s “Responsible Travel Guide: Cambodia” at Monument Books in Phnom Penh.

What is your current role at FWC and how are you involved in the organization?

I’m currently entering my second term as president of the board. I continue to provide educational programs on Cambodia, and I’ve visited Cambodia several times. On my last trip, I gave a health education workshop for a group of the university students sponsored by FWC’s sponsors, gave a newspaper interview and a book talk to promote Friendship’s Responsible Travel Guide Cambodia, visited an Oregon State University student on practicum at an orphanage, and taught classes in the psychology program at Royal University of Phnom Penh. I also conduct research in Cambodia, and I’m exploring possibilities for taking students there to volunteer and learn.

Shoshana teaches a course on HIV/AIDS awareness to FWC’s sponsored university students.

What is your favorite part about working with FWC and/or your favorite part about Cambodia?

The volunteers and our Cambodian partners are wonderful to work with. Finding ways to contribute to the well-being of Cambodians is very meaningful and satisfying, but the relationships are my favorite part of volunteering with FWC.

Shoshana with FWC’s sponsored university students at the Royal University of Phnom Penh.

Is there anything else you’d like to add?

I appreciate how FWC has educated me about the ways I can help Cambodians—not just through donations and my family’s student sponsorship, but also how I can travel in a socially responsible way. It’s great to know that I can fight human trafficking and exploitation, and support job training programs, through my choice of hotels, restaurants, craft stores, and even tuk-tuk drivers. Even a vacation in Cambodia can be an act of conscience.

Dr. Shoshana Kerewsky is Academic Coordinator of the Substance Abuse Prevention Program and on the faculty of the Counseling Psychology and Human Service Department at the University of Oregon.

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Bhavia and Linda

Kosal is the Cambodian student my husband and I have sponsored in school since he was in high school. I had the great fortune to spend four hours with him on my visit to Cambodia. This year, Kosal is a junior at Cambodia Mekong University. He is majoring in Community Leadership, a degree similar to Nonprofit Management. He loves to lead problem-solving and leadership training seminars. Kosal’s English is fairly good, and he has no problem trying to speak with foreigners. From what I have gathered he takes more credit hours than is required for graduation, and all of his textbooks are in English. These books are heavy and costly (just like in the US).

Kosal and Linda

It is too expensive to live in the dorms on campus, so, like all of our other sponsored students, he found a cheaper place to live in the community. Kosal invited me to visit his home. It is what we might call a budget student studio, Cambodian-style. It is one room, approximately 15×15 feet. The kitchen was one burner plate on the floor, and there was one small bathroom stall. He shares this space with his two sisters.  They moved from their rural home two years ago to follow their brother and to pursue better educational opportunities in Phnom Penh.

Kosal runs at the nearby public track almost every day. He enthusiastically told me that exercise is good for everyone!

~Linda, a proud student sponsor

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As the weather cools, leaves start to change colors, and the last hurrah of summer that is Labor Day weekend fades into memory, Friendship with Cambodia, like many of you, begins planning for the new school year. You probably remember excitedly (or grumblingly, for the non-shoppers among our readership) searching for new shoes, the perfect backpack, stacks of paper, and if you were lucky, an awesome TrapperKeeper with New Kids on the Block on the cover.

Samphos wants to be a nurse midwife.

Friendship with Cambodia’s sponsored students start the new school year a little differently. Most of them are uncertain whether they will be able to attend at all.  In the impoverished countryside, most families struggle to survive.  Parents may wish to support their children in school, but basic economic concerns dictate that, once children are old enough to work, they drop out of school to help their families.  Only 6% of Cambodian children finish high school.  Women comprise less than half of that number.


Friendship with Cambodia is campaigning to educate rural girls. Statistics show that education of girls is key to ending the cycle of poverty.  Women who are educated:

  • have fewer children
  • immunize their children
  • improve nutrition, sanitation, and income for their family
  • make sure their children get a good education

Without an educated population, Cambodia cannot progress or solve their problems, such as a 45% malnutrition rate in children.

Lay-Chheang wants to be a teacher.

One out of 10 girls is sold into prostitution.  Mothers who cannot feed their children allow their daughters to go to the city to work as housekeepers, not knowing they will be sold to a brothel.  When girls are sponsored in school, they are not vulnerable to being sold as a sex-slave.

Rural students understand the problems facing rural Cambodians and are more suited for finding appropriate solutions. Eighty-five percent of the population is rural. Very few rural students are able to go to university. Their families, who earn an average of $1 a day, cannot afford it.

Our students become role models in their village.  Traditionally, rural families in Cambodia do not value education.  We need success stories to help inspire rural families to see the benefit of education.

Srey-Deth wants to be a lawyer.

$125 a month sponsors a student in university for a year

$30 a month sponsors a student in high school

Any amount helps. Donations are tax-deductible. To learn more about sponsoring a student in high school and/or university, visit: http://www.friendshipwithcambodia.org/donate_sponsor.php

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~ by Lowell Hill.

Printed in Responsible Travel Guide, Cambodia: Improving Lives Through Thoughtful Travel Choices by Pujita Mayeda and Friendship with Cambodia. 



When we first traveled to Cambodia, Friendship with Cambodia showed us life in a rural village. There we met a few young people who were good students but needed support and encouragement to stay in school. It was obvious that these kids would likely lead better lives and contribute more to their society if they had the opportunity to keep learning – reading, writing, arithmetic, English. It was easy to decide to sponsor one of them, a shy young man with the dream of becoming a village chief. When I wrote to him, I encouraged him to study hard and practice talking to groups of people. My mother was able to move beyond the coal-mining town she grew up in because she was a good student and was supported in her desire to go to college. There was no question that her children would go to college.  The more I see of the world, the more I believe that education, for girls as well as boys, is the leading hope for improving it.

To learn more about sponsoring a student through Friendship with Cambodia, visit:  http://www.friendshipwithcambodia.org/donate_sponsor.php

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