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 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 give the same gifts. My fortune is my responsibility to pass on the gift of hope.
After years of wanting to be pro-active, I finally woke up in 2012 and knew it was time to book another flight to Cambodia but this time with a purpose. Education is my specialty and naturally I was drawn to working with children. However, with the recent surge of orphanage tourism in Cambodia, many of the teaching or volunteer programs required a lengthy commitment of time, a waiting list, and/or registration fees to protect and ensure the social well-being of the children. As fair as these requirements may be, it was hard for me to meet them in a week’s time, and I was looking for a project that could really benefit from my cross-cultural upbringing, training as an educator, and long term involvement.
One afternoon, my dear friend Sap suggested a moto ride through the countryside. On our way back, we spotted a local orphanage/children’s shelter that looked just like another straw house but with 20 plus kids running around. After chatting with the owner of this shelter, I quickly realised how important this shelter was to the local community. Cambodia is filled with poverty-stricken families who struggled to achieve basic needs of food, water and shelter. Loans and donations given to individual families were rare and non-existent for those in the countryside. Therefore, the only option they have for survival and being a family again in the future were these shelters. The children’s shelter is not ideal; however, it provides temporary food, shelter, education, and most importantly time for the families to be re-united as soon as they can afford basic care. Grassroots NGOs such as Toun’s Communtiy Center (TCC) is a step in helping Cambodia help themselves.
There are many challenges to Cambodia’s development, and it will call upon its people, community, and government to overcome those challenges. Empowering local people to take an active role within their community is the key to long term development. Change is possible if we are willing to take up the challenge and hopefully we can inspire others along the way.
For more information about the two programs please click on the individual tabs above. Thank you for your support. “Som Au Khun” (Thank- you!)
Founder of Ymak Path Project
To learn more about orphanage tourism here is a link that may help for further understanding of it: http://www.thinkchildsafe.org/thinkbeforevisiting/