In the Beginning
In 2003, whilst volunteering at landmine museum on the on the outskirts of Siem Reap’s city center, we became aware of the huge demand from people in the surrounding village for education. All of our soon-to-be students were motivated and eager to learn; they wanted more than just language classes, they wanted tuition in a range of subjects.
We were astonished by the willingness of these kids to take extracurricular lessons to have a better chance of finding a job later in life. We felt compelled to somehow provide what they so desperately desired.
Later that year we were invited to teach English classes in the village. We held the first lessons under the roof of the aunt of one of the teachers (a local recent graduate), with financial support from Switzerland. Our classes grew, and by the end of our time in Cambodia, we had 80 students.
Upon leaving Cambodia in 2003, we established a fundraising body and were officially recognized as a non-profit association in Switzerland. We returned in 2004 to set up more education projects, and joined forces with other passionate volunteers to form Salariin Kampuchea.
In 2004 we extended our project into Chreav, a rural village 5km outside Siem Reap. A generous group of monks offered to host our lessons in their pagoda. Chreav would one day become our primary project region.
Demand was huge. We recruited 50 students and started with two beginner classes. Some of the children lived with the monks because their parents were too poor to provide for them. The rest of the students came from local villages. After one year of success we opened 2 more classes for 50 students.
Looking to the Future
Fast forward to 2012. Salariin Kampuchea was still teaching from the pagoda and providing lesson from a building in the original village. Over the previous decade, the education opportunities for communities around the town center had exploded. We thus decided to focus our efforts on our more marginalized students, and set ourselves up permanently in Cheav.
Meanwhile, the founders took a step back and handed Sallariin Kampuchea over to local staff. The founders remain on the board and their association in Switzerland is our primary donor. We are now an all Khmer staff, working to lift the communities we grew up in out of poverty.