June 2015 HVTO Newsletter

Summary: HVTO’s progress in the second quarter of 2015 has remained very strong with the near completion of our new school provided by funds from Viking Cruises Corporation. In addition, in the last three months we have added 18 new student sponsorships, bringing our number of active sponsorships to 114. With other financial priorities the drilling of water wells has slowed, but we still completed eight this quarter to complete Rumdeng Village in Knar Pur Commune. We are also preparing our recently opened dormitory in Siem Reap to receive an additional 17 university students in the fall, which will bring our total to 27.


In recognition of the proliferation and growing importance of NGOs (Non-Governmental Organizations) to the development of the country, the government of Cambodia has formalized a series of new guidelines to which these must abide. They include – a child protection policy, mission statement/goals, financial accounting, student selection criteria, and other rules and responsibilities of the NGO and sponsored students. Designed to allow the government more oversight and better coordination of the work of NGOs, these rules have been brought together in what is called a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU). The MOU was officially signed by HVTO and government officials in a 6-May ceremony held in Siem Reap. See below.

The signing ceremony for the HVTO Memorandum of Understanding with the government of Cambodia. Pictured from left to right are Mr. Piseth (Chief Administrator – Siem Reap Municipality), Mr. Serey (representing the Board of Kontreang Commune and Sreth Community), Mr. Sam Arth (Leader of Bakong District), His Excellency Mr. Moa Vuthy (Deputy Governor Siem Reap Province), Sim Piseth (HVTO Founder), Seaknam Meng (HVTO General Manager), Ine Un (HVTO School Headmaster), Keo Kimsang (HVTO Computer Teacher), and Kean Kourn (Community Committee).

This new policy will help bring much needed NGO oversight that also will see staff exchanges between the NGOs and the government. Unfortunately, it will also add to the number and complexity of official reports that must be sent to the government. As HVTO has grown the administrative/accounting load has grown with it. Although we have always tried to perform all of our work internally, we have now reached the point where we lack the skills and personnel necessary to keep up.

For this reason we have hired Ky Sarana, a student with a double-major at Build Bright University who will receive her Accounting degree in November and her Languages degree in 2016. I was very impressed with Sarana‟s grades, English and computer skills, and especially her attitude which will allow her to take on the many challenges of being the HVTO accountant and administrative coordinator. Please join me in welcoming Sarana to the HVTO family.


HVTO School

This month saw the completion of the new HVTO School building generously funded by Viking Cruises Corporation. We were able to complete the critical heavy construction before the rainy season began by working night and day. This was made possible by village men and older male students providing free manual labor, which also saved roughly 40% of the construction costs had only outside labor been utilized. From a 24-February ground breaking ceremony, and with a lot of extra help, in only 4 months the building has been completed with only minor touch ups necessary before its official dedication ceremony with Viking management in late July. This generous donation from Viking Cruises Corporation is already having a major impact on our ability to educate our students. Students now attend classes in shifts, but when fully up and running, crowding in the classrooms will be reduced and we will be able to take on an additional 130 students (from ~485 to ~615 English students). Many thanks to Viking for making this possible. See photo below.

The Studiosus Foundation, with help from Viking Cruises Corporation, are our major benefactors in paying the bills associated with the day to day running of the schools. They also help by periodically sending representatives to the community to help in the education and bring a perspective of the outside world that our kids can get no other way. Again, many thanks to Studiosus and Viking for their generous help in maintaining our core programs.

Sponsored Students

In the last three months we have obtained sponsorship commitments, mostly through Viking and Studiosus tours, for an additional 15 students, bringing our total to 117 (114 of these active). Ten of these fifteen came from Dr. Oliver Nesehnson from L.N.R. TRUST REG., who is the executor for the will of Mrs. Cokkonis. Through her desire to aid in the education of the poor, in the last three years we have seen 30 HVTO students obtain sponsorships with a commitment to continue to add 10 students per year. Many thanks to Dr. Nesehnson and Mrs. Cokkonis for their generosity in supporting the educational efforts of so many of our young people.

To understand the value of the educational effort into which HVTO puts so much time and effort please review the graph above showing the career goals of our students. Obviously, in a place like Cambodia all of these areas are in desperate need of qualified workers. Behind these numbers the „Professional‟ field ranks include those wishing to enter various aspects of Engineering, Law, IT, and Translation, and „Medicine‟ includes 11 aspiring doctors (of whom we have already graduated one) and 5 nurses.

Recently three of our students received more than educational assistance in the form of some badly needed dental work. Thav Serey (from her sponsors Virgil and Ruth Johnson), Serey Makara (from Dr. Bruce King D.D.S., his wife Peggy, and their travelling companions and professional colleagues: Dr. Elliot Engel and Dr. Leroy King), and Pon Solim (from her sponsor Bob Fischer). The „Before‟ and „After/In Progress‟ pictures are shown below. Our gratitude to these generous sponsors who continue to go above and beyond the call of duty.


        Thav Serey "Before"                                                           Thav Serey "After"            


                                                              Serey Makara "Before"                                                               Serey Makara "After"


                                                           Pon Solim „Before‟                                                                 Pon Solim „In Progress‟

In another example of Cambodians helping each other, twelve student volunteers from Phnom Penh visited the HVTO School from 19-21 March to give a series of presentations on „Soft Skills‟. Part of a program called „Khmer Helps Khmer‟, their visit was sponsored by HTVO-USA through the work of its president, Patti Baker. The presentation topics included time management, critical thinking, studying techniques and problem solving. Also included were instruction on how to express views with self-confidence in social and professional settings, a valuable topic for a Khmer people that tend to be shy and deferential. The students were also shown how to speak to both individuals and groups, including interviewing for jobs or interacting with friends and family. They were also shown how to present themselves and how to recognize and grasp opportunities.

The 12-person student group, which calls itself SMARC (which in Khmer means „volunteer‟), are themselves recent university graduates, and were led by UK Sovannara. They also provided valuable information on how to apply for scholarships and admission to US schools.

UK Sovannara (center) and his colleague Sor Virakdara (left) receive a teaching certificate from Sim Piseth for their work in teaching „Soft Skills‟ to HVTO students.

HVTO University Student Assistance (College Prep Program)
Most of our university students are able to live with friends or extended family while they attend university in Siem Reap, but many cannot. In the culmination of an initiative called the College Prep Program, HVTO has rented a home in Siem Reap that is now being utilized as a dormitory. The home under lease can accommodate 35 students and has a small room that is serving as the HVTO office. At this writing, prior to our 12th graders taking their final examinations to gain admission to SE Asia University, it looks like we will have about 27 students living in the dorm in the fall semester. In addition to giving HVTO a base of operations this will help take our students off dangerous streets, give them more study time, and bring them closer to employment possibilities in the Big City.

An exciting event occurred on 21-March when the First Lady of the United States came to Siem Reap to meet Cambodian students to hear their stories and share America's perspectives on education as part of a campaign to help girls around the world stay in school. Promoting the U.S.-led education initiative, "Let Girls Learn," the community-based program is locally sponsored by “Room To Read”, a Siem Reap based NGO. It is designed to help get 62 million girls in the developing world back into classrooms. With her Cambodian counterpart, First Lady Lok Chumteav Dr. Bun Rany Hun Sen, they were able to meet ten outstanding students from the Siem Reap area. We can be proud that for this rare event three of the chosen girls came from HVTO: Lorn Phou Nam sponsored by Thomas Barkemeir and Hur Savang and Vean Sokhang, both sponsored by the Rotary Club of Healdsburg California through Henk Peeters.

Lorn Phou Nam (far left), an HVTO student sponsored by Thomas Barkemeir, and Vean Sokhang (arm around Mrs. Obama) an HVTO student sponsored by the Rotary Club of Healdsburg California through Henk Peeters, are seen here with Michelle Obama, Lok Chumteav Dr. Bun Rany Hun Sen, and two other girls from the Siem Reap area.


With the need to fund the outfitting of the new dormitory in Siem Reap water well drilling has slowed in recent months. The eight added this quarter brings our total number of wells to 352, all to rural Cambodian families that would not otherwise be able to afford clean water. We have completed all ten villages in Kontreang Commune and have now finished our 72nd well in Rumdeng Village, completing that village. Our next target is neighboring Chhup Village, also in Knar Pur Commune, where the village chief tells us that of the 95 families there, about 45 of the poorest families are in need of clean water. Rosemere High School in Canada, in their continuing campaign of support, recently donated another 12 wells which will be drilled in Chhup Village.

To date HVTO has drilled almost 8.4 kilometers of wells, in the process bringing clean water to over 2,500 people in rural Cambodia. A recent article, made possible by the interviews carried out by Patti Baker, describes how HVTO organizes the drilling of water wells and why we use local village men. It can be found on our website at the following link: http://hvto.org/hvto-project/clean-water/meet-the-hvto-water-well-installers.html. Through this article, and the stories told of these men and their families, it is possible to get an unvarnished glimpse of life in rural Cambodia. For information on how you can sponsor a well see „Support‟ below.

This well, which was drilled earlier this year for the Keam Kem family in Rumdeng Village in Knar Pur Commune, was donated by Debra and Skip Sayres. Meng Seaknam, the HVTO General Manager, is on the far left.

Having seen our work first-hand, Viking and Studiosuss tour groups are HVTO‟s main source of support. Living all over the world, with the aid of modern technology, former guests not only help financially, but also provide administrative assistance. This has been a great help to our founder Sim Piseth who, in addition to his many HVTO responsibilities, is a full-time tour guide that must be away for extended periods of time.

Patti Baker, a former Viking guest, is the President of Homestay Teachers Volunteer Organization, Inc., a 501c3 (charitable) organization incorporated in Florida to provide tax relief to US citizens that fund HVTO in Cambodia. This NGO simplifies money transfers as well as providing a vehicle for access to larger grants that can have a major impact on reaching goals. Patti has very recently recruited Pippa deCosson Woods, who has generously agreed to take on the responsibilities of Secretary for HTVO-USA. Pippa, a former Viking traveler, is now retired from her career in transit and transportation where her last position was the Transportation Policy Advisor for the governor of the State of New Jersey in the U.S.A. Throughout her career she has served in various capacities for non- profit organizations in the United States, but Pippa‟s recent trip to Cambodia and exposure to the activities of HVTO has extended her generosity.

Thank you, Pippa, for donating your time, energy, and expertise to HVTO.

Pippa Woods – the new HTVO Secretary

There is much to do and we are is still in need of volunteers, so if you are interested, all that‟s needed is access to a computer and the ability to use the internet. To learn more please visit the website at: http://www.hvto.org/about-us/hvto-contacts-in-usa.html or call Patti Baker directly at 239-682-0067.

If you would like to provide HVTO with financial help, here is a brief cost summary:

Water wells:​

$200 (A plaque is an additional $25.)

Donors receive a photograph of the completed well with information on name, size and location of the family for whom the well was drilled.

Below are the all-inclusive costs for student sponsorship.

                           Grades 1-9: $270 per year
                           Grades 10-12: $400 per year
                           University: $550 per year

If you are interested in providing a sponsorship to one of our students, we have a list of deserving candidates that we can send from which you can choose.
In addition to sponsorships and water wells HVTO has a number of „one-off‟ needs, including a refrigerator, furniture and water cooler for our dormitory in Siem Reap.

Children of all ages attend the HVTO School, beginning with introductory English classes. Shown here is Phou Bopha, an unsponsored 9th grader in public school taking part in the advanced HVTO English class (Level 6).

Again, thank you for reading about our continuing story and we hope that you share our pride in HVTO‟s accomplishments.

                                       Sim Piseth                                                                                                                     Seaknam Meng
                                    HVTO Founder                                                                                                             HVTO General Manager

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