Letter from the CEO
I remember when I first traveled to Cambodia to visit and photograph the temples of northern Cambodia. I was determined to do more than the typical tourist so I searched online for volunteer opportunities in Cambodia and came across Savong and his English language school. Despite being in Siem Reap for a relatively short period of time, I managed to meet with Savong, visit the school and even take a trip out to the countryside to visit with an entire village who needed help because they had no clean water to drink. This short trip changed my life and I don’t think there is any question that it changed a lot of other lives too. I returned year after year to Cambodia –first to do water projects and then switching to education projects and in May of 2011, the Savong Foundation officially became a 501(c)(3) nonprofit focused on supporting and empowering young Cambodian men and women.
I’m very proud of what the Savong Foundation has achieved for its students and their families. We have worked very hard to find ambitious students who come from very impoverished backgrounds and give them scholarships to high quality private institutions. For our high school students, we support them at the Future Bright International School. This school has raised the standard for education in Siem Reap and when our students tell us that they find the curriculum challenging, I think that’s a good thing! For university, we support students at Build Bright University as well as University of SouthEast Asia and in the future, we hope to support our graduates at universities in Phnom Penh. We also provide some of our best students with supplemental English instruction at BELS English school, another private institution where native English speakers teach the language. Proficiency in English is critical for a good career so this tuition money is being well spent.
In 2015, we supported 27 students. While this may not seem like a lot compared to other programs, the Savong Foundation treats every student as an individual and we encourage our students to be the best that they can be and we do everything possible to help them achieve this. Our Scholarship Manager, Rathana, meets with our students at least once a month to help motivate them and address any concerns and I personally know all our students and keep a very close eye on how they are doing. Nevertheless, we have told them that our support is not unconditional; we have high expectations and if they don’t meet them either by skipping classes or failing courses, then their scholarships can be terminated. As we enter the 2015-2016 school year, I have been very pleased with how hard working our students are and it’s incredibly exciting to hear that they have goals of being doctors, nurses, teachers, lawyers, IT specialists and business owners. Without the Savong Foundation, these same students could have spent their entire lives in rice fields or menial labor or forced marriages.
In 2015, we also launched the Student Water Pump Project. This project was designed to help the community by bringing fresh clean water to families by way of pumps and ceramic filters. The students also benefit; they build the pumps and receive a salary for their work. There is a huge need for this type of service in the area surrounding Siem Reap which, despite the influx of tourists, is still one of the most impoverished areas in Cambodia. The families are so thankful for their new pumps and the students love getting the extra money. It’s a win-win for everyone! We received a grant from LUSH, the handmade cosmetics company, to build 30 pumps but we are still looking for other donors to support this wonderful project. The cost of each pump is $285 and you will receive information about the family whom you are supporting. We do three month and one year follow-ups (more if needed) just to make sure the family is happy and everything is working well.
Our students put in the study hours and the Savong Foundation board members do their share of work but it’s really the donors that make all the magic happen. We are so thankful for the continued support, year after year and we promise that we will do everything we can to stretch every donated dollar as far as possible. The board members are all volunteer, they pay all their travel expenses, we only have three paid staff salaries and we minimize money transaction fees. In 2015, over 98% of public contributions went towards our programs which gives it an extremely high ranking among nonprofits. That’s how much we value your support!
These are exciting times for our students and we are passionate about helping them achieve their professional goals. I hope you continue to join us on this wonderful journey.
CEO Savong Foundation