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.