The Path Project is designed to support and raise awareness of local programs in Cambodia that are off the beaten path. There are many “grass root” programs running in Cambodia with great intentions. However, the success of these programs will need more than just great intentions, they require action.
Mission/Goals of the Ymak Path Project:
To support 2 local programs the Volunteer Development Children’s Association and Toun Community Center formerly known as PCDOC, to achieve the following:
- Help create opportunities and hope for the children of Cambodia through education.
- Keep children off the streets and away from child labor.
- Empower local community to participate and support one another in its efforts to break the cycle of poverty and construct sustainable development.
For me Cambodia is not just another poverty-stricken country, where over 8 million people are living at or below the poverty level and 39% of children are pushed into the work force. It is my ancestral home and my birth place, making me Khmer. Even though, I was raised, educated, and naturalised in the states, Cambodia is in my blood. Therefore, the urge to help Cambodia is a natural one for me. How to help, where to start, should we help? Endless questions and debates about relief and aid goes on and on but so the cycle of poverty, until we decide to do something about it.
“Hope is like peace. It is not a gift from God. It is a gift only we can give one another” – By Elie Wiesel.
When members of the Holy Spirit Lutheran Church of Lincolnshire in IL, USA made it their mission in the late 70’s to sponsor asylum seekers and Cambodian refugees in response to the horrific killings of the Khmer Rouge, my family and I were saved by their act of kindness. They not only gave us hope but also a life filled with endless opportunities. Not all who tried to escape made it out and not all who made it out were given the same gifts. Being blessed by kindness it is my responsibility to pass on the gift of hope.
After years of wanting to be pro-active, I literary woke up one morning in September of 2011 with a message from the universe, “it only takes one person to get things started and once others see you helping, they too will join in.” I decided for my upcoming October holiday I will head out to Cambodia in search of a project, that could benefit from my cross-cultural upbringing and training as an educator. Being an education specialist, I was naturally drawn to working with children. However, with the recent surge of “orphanages” and “voluntourism” in Cambodia, many of the well-established NGOs were either run or partnered with a foreign organisation that had stipulations such as 2-6 months commitment, registration fees, screening process, and waiting lists for their volunteer programs, to ensure safety and social well-being of the children. Unfortunately, I was unable to meet the requirements needed for these programs. It reminded me that volunteering is not about me but what is best for the those I seek to help.
Truth be told, I did feel slightly gutted and dishearten by their polite declines, and rightfully so. Protection and safety should be their priority. To lift my spirits, my dear friend Sap suggested on taking a leisurely ride through the countryside before my next appointment. As we rode through the rural areas that was hidden from the bustling tourism of Siem Reap, I saw hardship and distress upon many of the faces we passed by. I was then caught off guard when Sap decided to stop his bike because he spotted a children’s shelter. My initial thought was to just keep going but I did not want to be rude or shallow.
After the visiting the center, I realised how important this shelter was to the rural people of Siem Reap and it shifted by thinking. Change needs to come from within. We need to support the locals in their efforts to become self-sufficient. Initially, I tried to stay away from these local projects because they have a reputation of being mis-managed or they tend to create or add to greater consequences. However, my Khmer heritage had led me here. Perhaps, this was where someone like me is needed.
Being Part of the Change:
There are many challenges to Cambodia’s development, and it will call upon its people, community, and government to overcome those challenges. Even with the best intentions unforeseen consequences may arise, which makes it even more important for us to support local programs with appropriate training and education on sustainable development. Change is possible, but we need to be part of the solution.
“Som Au Khun” (Thank- you!)
Founder of Ymak Path Project