Wednesday, November 8, 2017


From its inception, Friends of Cambodia has played a "long game," believing that the best preparation of disadvantaged youth for successful adulthood requires learning on many fronts over many years. Now we are truly beginning to witness the fruits of our labors, and are happy to share with you a peek into the lives of several of our program participants.


Sreyneang is a third year student at Pannasastra University in Phnom Penh, majoring in Communications. Her passion is teaching literacy to children. For the past year or more, she has been working at Sipar Publishing, a French NGO dedicated to publishing high quality literature for children and youth in the Khmer language, and "exporting" good teaching practices into many rural villages throughout Cambodia.

Sreyneang discusses with Halimah a graphic novel project she worked on

At Sipar, Sreyneang has worked on projects in the publishing end of things, including a graphic novel that teaches children about the Khmer Rouge period. In addition, she often travels to the countryside with fellow workers to do activities with village children related to literacy. One of her many strengths is forming positive emotional bonds with the children she teaches.

Srey Mom

Srey Mom is actually a graduate of the Cambodia Scholars Program, but that does not mean we don't keep up with how she is doing when we visit Cambodia. And she is doing great. She has learned many "real world" skills after leaving our program, working in the restaurant business, earning appreciative comments from customers and supervisors. Now she has a very good job as a server on the eleventh floor of a very nice hotel, with views overlooking Phnom Penh and the Mekong and Tonle Sap rivers. When we visited her at work, we were especially pleased by her air of confidence. She will do well anywhere. That was our goal!

Lobby of the Harmony Hotel where Srey Mom works

 Sophea is a second year student at Pannasastra University, majoring in business. She thrives in an academic setting, and is getting high grades in everything she studies. As you can see from the photos, she has a wonderful combination of charm and focus which is bound to serve her well anywhere, especially in the business world.

 Sophea giving oral presentations at her life skills and English class

 Sophea to the left at a Toastmasters meeting at her university 
(yes, Toastmasters is big in Cambodia)

Chenda is our next in line to graduate from university. She will receive a degree in Tourism from Royal University of Law and Economics in summer, 2018. She is now pondering her various options for work after graduation. In the photo above, she is polishing her CV.
Halimah and Chenda after conferring about progress in school

No, Sophorn is not a Duke University basketball fan. But she likes their sweatshirts! We have never understood why anyone would want to wear any sweatshirt in Cambodia, but they are very popular.

Sophorn is our youngest student, being in Grade 11 this year. She is very bright, especially in math, and maybe a little bored with public school. We think she will blossom when she goes to university.

 Sophorn at Teacher San To's life skills and English class

While we were in Cambodia recently, we took Sophorn to Harpswell Foundation for an informational interview. Harpswell is a residential university scholarship program for exceptionally bright Cambodian young women. We do not know if this is the right fit for Sophorn, but in keeping with our philosophy of encouraging life skills and networking, we wanted to expose Sophorn to this program.

 Sophorn with students and the Director of Harpswell Foundation

 Serey, Vicheka and Piset
Elia and Halimah with our graduate, Serey, who took a six hour night time bus trip down from Siem Reap to check in with us. Serey graduated from National University of Management and now works in the tourist industry in Siem Reap helping to run a youth hostel.

A selfie with Vicheka, who will enter year one at Pannasastra University next fall. In the meantime, she works in the marketing department of Sipar Publishing, and at Open Book bookstore.

Piset is our other National University of Management graduate. His constant ambition is to own his own tourist-oriented business. He has gained significant cooking skills recently, and is hoping to attract investors to open a restaurant.

Seametrey School at Tonle Bati

Our longtime partner in helping all these youth succeed in life has been Mrs. Muoy You, pictured here with Elia at her house at Seametrey Children's Village at Tonle Bati, an hour's drive south of Phnom Penh. Mrs. You is an extraordinary visionary. She was outside of Cambodia during the Khmer Rouge years, receiving her Ph.D. in French literature. Due to the political situation, she and her family lived in exile for many years, but she finally returned to Cambodia in 2003 to found the Montessori based Seametrey School. In recent years she has pursued a dream of building a world class school from pre-school to grade 12 on a large piece of land that also has a "leisure center" to generate income to support the school. Below, please be amazed, as we are, at what she has accomplished so far. Friends of Cambodia has recently given a grant to complete a multi-purpose facility that will serve the school, but will also generate income from being rented out to various organizations for special events.

 Volunteer living quarters (L). Nursery school (R)

 Nursery school

 Primary school
 School library

 Multi-purpose building under construction

Seametrey Leisure Center Income Generators

Swim facility for income generation

Football pitch and basketball pavilion in distance

The End
This has been a long blog! If you made it all the way to the end, congratulations! Now it is time to relax.

Thursday, November 3, 2016

November 2016 A LOT TO CELEBRATE

Last year at this time, we announced our expected achievements for 2016, and we are pleased to say that all these expectations have been met. Well, one of our college graduates is actually taking an additional year to complete a research project in her major of International Relations, but two others have now graduated from National University of Management, two more have finished high school and entered the work force, four are currently enrolled in university programs, and the youngest has just passed her 9th grade national examination, qualifying her to proceed on to Grade 10.

   So where does that leave us? Do we now just sit back and relax?

No! Not at all. There is still much to do. Certainly, money is needed to make Cambodia Scholars Program work, but it also needs wise guidance of youth to help steer them through the unaccustomed world into which they are entering. We do that in person when we travel to Cambodia, but also now, more and more, by Skype and email, as global electronic communication improves.  

Besides, things are precarious in Cambodia. These two photos say it all! And yes, that is a truck full of raw eggs.

Sreyneang and Vicheka are now both in university, and both have a passion for literacy. 

We have been able to arrange internships for both of them at Sipar Publishing, a company dedicated to publishing children’s literature in the native Khmer language. Sreyneang is shown here with Ms. Socheata, Sipar's Publishing Program Manager.

Chenda continues her studies at Royal University of Law and Economics, while her sister, Srey Mom, now works at a big restaurant, and has become rather important for the owner due to her ability to speak English. So hooray for Srey Mom’s years at Seametrey School, and her years of small group English instruction with our own teacher San To.

Meanwhile, Sophea has zipped through her English prep courses at Pannasastra University, and is now enrolled in her first year of actual course work, trying to decide what course of study to adopt.

Srey Pov, who is finishing her degree in International Relations this year at Pannasastra University, gets an A+ for thoughtfulness from us. We were last in Cambodia in mid-June, and somehow she was aware of that Hallmark Card created holiday, Father’s Day, and showed up at our door with a cake for Elia to celebrate. Amazing!

She also accompanied Halimah to a training session that Halimah did for attorneys and law students sponsored by Standford’s Handa Center for Human Rights and International Justice. Srey Pov had enough poise and confidence to fit right in and enjoy herself.

Meanwhile, our first university graduates, Serey and Piset, have “flown the coop.” Except that we have made clear to them that while their financial support from us is finished, our moral support never will be, and we look forward to following their lives, and offering encouragement and possible advice, if needed. 
Piset’s big dream is to own and operate his own tourist guest house. He has the academic degree now, but has gotten a job as a cook in a Khmer-Korean restaurant to learn the nitty-gritty of food preparation, so that he will know that aspect of the business when he finally opens his own guest house.

Serey is moving up to the tourist-heavy area around Angkor Wat (far north of Phnom Penh), and will live with a relative while she gets established in a job in the tourist industry.

Finally, what about Elia & Halimah? What direction are they headed? We have met many fine people while working in Cambodia. Opportunities present themselves all the time to support educational efforts, whether at Seametrey School, Sipar Publishing, or the amazing library run by our friend, Mr. Ly An, in the poor village of Andong, just outside of Phnom Penh. As our long running residential scholarship program matures, we will focus more on supporting other existing educational projects in Cambodia. And we still have several years to go to fully keep our promises to all the wonderful youth in our existing program. We look forward to that.

Monday, November 9, 2015


The goal of the Cambodia Scholars Program has always been to help disadvantaged Cambodian youth to achieve independence in Cambodian society, free from poverty.

            By June, 2016:

·       Three will have graduated from university and into full fledged adulthood

·       Two who have finished high school will have become fully integrated into the job market

·       Two will have finished Year 2 of university, and one will have finished Year 1.

·       One will have finished high school and moved on to university

·       One will be still in high school.

·       Three have developed and will continue a deep leadership role in Cambodian literacy projects through LitWorld, an international NGO.

·       All will continue to create an ever-expanding network of friends and associates as they integrate more and more successfully into adult life.

·       As for Friends of Cambodia itself, we maintain our commitment to see our 10 youth into adulthood, and as they graduate from our program, we will turn our attention more and more to literacy and education programs.

Our Three University Graduates 
Spring of 2016 will witness a big milestone for the Cambodia Scholars Program: The graduation of our first three students from universities in Phnom Penh. Srey Pov will graduate in International Relations from Pannasastra University, and Piset and Serey will both graduate with degrees in Tourism from National University of Management. All have performed near the top of their classes academically, and look forward to promising careers. June of 2016 all three will not only graduate from university, but also from the Cambodia Scholars Program. They will be independent adults, just as we had always hoped.

Srey Pov



Our Two High School Graduates
In addition, Spring of 2015 saw two more of our scholars complete high school. Saonoy and Srey Mom continue to live in an apartment provided by Friends of Cambodia until June of 2016, but they both now have jobs, and are paying for their own food, clothing, and other necessities---everything except housing. Saonoy works in retail and Srey Mom in the restaurant business.

Srey Mom and Saonoy

Our Three University Students
Sreyneang and Chenda are second year university students. Sreyneang goes to Pannasastra University, and has a passion for literacy and education (see below). Chenda is more oriented toward business, and attends Royal University of Law and Economics. Sophea has just entered Pannasastra University and is now sorting out what direction she wants to go in life.





A Passion For Literacy
Friends of Cambodia, through its Cambodia Scholars Program, is helping 10 disadvantaged Cambodian youth to achieve their highest educational potential. During this long effort, another direction for Friends of Cambodia has naturally developed: Support of meaningful literacy programs in Cambodia. We say "naturally" for two reasons: 1) Sreyneang and Vicheka, who have been in the Scholars Program from the beginning, now have an abiding passion for literacy, and are co-leading a program in Phnom Penh sponsored by a New York NGO known as "LitWorld." 2) Halimah Van Tuyl, one of the co-directors of Friends of Cambodia is herself a retired school teacher with decades of experience in developing literacy in children---both in the United States and Cambodia. For information about the worldwide reach of the LitWorld programs, read here:
Sreyneang even made it onto the LitWorld Facebook page here:

The Purpose of LitWorld In A Nutshell

For a look at what is happening in Cambodia with some assistance from Friends of Cambodia, keep reading!

Youth in Phnom Penh LitClub

Vicheka and Sreyneang Modelling Literature Reading to Children

Sreyneang Conferring with Local Phnom Penh Published Children's Author

Vicheka and Sreyneang Also Organized a "Stand Up For Girls"Event For Girls at the Local Cambodia Arts & Scholarship Foundation (CASF)

 Spreading Literacy Out To a Poor Village
The group of LitClub youth in Phnom Penh, led by our own Vicheka and Sreyneang, is really preparing to introduce literacy to much younger children. Recently, these LitClub youth did a service day at a poor village just outside of Phnom Penh called Andong, at a library run by an old Friends of Cambodia associate, Mr. Ly An. Below are a few photos of Ly An, with his library youth, meeting with Halimah Van Tuyl from Friends of Cambodia.


Andong Library Building


Halimah and Ly An at Literacy Gathering at Andong Library

Keeping the Past Alive, But Pointing To the Future
None of the Cambodia Scholars forgets the poverty they came from, nor the positive aspects of their Cambodian culture. For a final, symbolic photo, here is one of our university graduates, Piset, pointing to the relics of Cambodia's past, as well as to his own future, armed with the knowledge, life skills and human connections he has achieved while part of the Cambodia Scholars Program.

Piset Guiding Tour Through 11th Century Ankgorian Ruins