September 2015 HVTO Newsletter

Summary: HVTO progress has remained very strong with the completion of the new school building provided by funds from Viking Cruises Corporation. Buil t adjacent to our original school, this new building is already being used to house computer classes and will enable us to add about 200 additional English students. The number of student sponsorships now stands at 119, and in the last three months we have completed 14 clean water wells generously donated by friends and families from the Rosemere High School in the city of Rosemere (a suburb of Montreal), Quebec, Canada. An additional 13 wells are in the processes of being drilled which were funded by and through Sarp Özkar, a marketing manager with Pronto Tours in Istanbul, Turkey.


HVTO School

This quarter saw the completion and inauguration of the new HVTO School building generously funded by Viking Cruises Corporation. The official dedication ceremony with Viking management took place on 11-August 2015. A video documenting the opening ceremony can be seen using this link: From a 24-February ground breaking ceremony, which was highlighted only two newsletters ago, in less than six months the school is now fully up and running. This speed is largely due to free labor provided by the people of the village and HVTO students. This extended from girls helping to bend rebar connections, to men and boys (and sometimes girls too) helping with much of the heavy labor.

 HVTO students helping to install the footers for the new HVTO school building

The New HVTO School Building Provided by Viking Cruises Corporation

The completion of the new school is a huge accomplishment for HVTO and will allow us to ramp up our English class enrollment over the next two-three months by about 200 students (from the current 435 to about 635). Because the new school has smaller classrooms that the original school, it will be largely devoted to the smaller, higher level classes and the computer room. Computer classes, which are only offered to older students, are challenged by a lack of climate control. The new computer room is on back of the second floor of the new building where dust will be less of a problem. Students take computer classes for six months learning the basics, including Microsoft Windows, Word, Excel, and Power Point. The day-today expenses required for running both school buildings are provided by Viking Cruises Corporation, with help from the Studiosus Foundation. These two groups also help greatly by periodically sending representatives to the village to help in education. These volunteers help bring a perspective of the outside world that our kids can get no other way. Many thanks to Viking Cruises and Studiosus for their unflagging support in maintaining our core programs. In the last two months we have been gathering additional background information on all of the students attending the HVTO school, including those that are unsponsored. In addition to basic background information, we have now added their public school grades for the last two years,avorite subjects and English level. This will allow us to identify early the higher potential students in order to high-grade the placement of future sponsorships.


Sponsored Students

The annual high school equivalency examination in Cambodia, which is a pre-requisite for beginning university, took place in September. HVTO had 23 students take this exam, of which 19 (83%) were able to pass. This will be more than double the number of HVTO students attending university. Unfortunately, four were not able to pass. Students unable to pass the high school equivalency examination have two options. They can retake the 12th grade and repeat the exam the following year, or enrol in university and obtain an Associate’s Degree in two years. This degree replaces the high school equivalency examination and gives the student the option to obtain a Bachelor’s Degree with three additional years of study. Because such a degree program will require five years rather than four to accomplish, the HVTO sponsorship will run out one year before graduation. In order to reward students that better apply themselves and pass, and to provide a reality check for those that do not, our policy for students wishing to begin an Associate’s Degree is to take them off of their sponsorship for the first year of this program. Then, if they are able to get good grades in university, with agreement of the sponsor and HVTO management, restart the sponsorship for the final four years. This will result in some financial hardship, but these students will also be earning money working in Siem Reap. In any group of students there is always a wide range, not only in skills and initiative, but in how quickly they mature. The same is true at HVTO.

All HVTO university students are working in Siem Reap, most inhotels or restaurants that cater to the tourism industry. These students work 8 hours per day, 6 days per week, with an average monthly wage of $120. This is the equivalent of about 62 cents (U.S.) per hour.

Two students that deserve special mention are Chhea Sinorn, who is sponsored by Raymond Munden, and Chhea Sokhim (no relation), who is sponsored by Roxy Wells. Armed with initiative and their HVTO English skills, these girls are teaching in local schools while they themselves go to school. Sinorn is a first-year student at Build Bright University and Sokhim is a third-year student at U.S.E.A. (University of Southeast Asia). Although at this stage they are making no more than students working in the tourism industry, as education majors they are acquiring the skills and experience necessary to succeed in their chosen professions. Public school teachers are required by the Education Ministry in Cambodia to be trained for two years in order to acquire a license to teach, and this is giving both girls a head start on receiving their licenses.

University classes for education majors are set up to allow them to teach during the week and do their course-work on the weekends.

Chhea Sinorn is living in the village of Pong Ro in the rural countryside, and because there are not as many teachers here, she is working full-time teaching eight hours per day, six days per week. She teaches during the week at Pong Ro Elementary School and on the weekends at Hun Sen Sam Dach decho secondary school. So, in any given week, after putting in 56 hours, Sinorn attends her university classes from 6 to 9 P.M. on Saturday and then from 7 A.M. until noon on Sunday........ And you thought that you had it hard in college!

Chhea Sinorn, sponsored by Raymond Munden, in front of Hun Sen Sam Dach Decho Secondary School.. Sinorn also teaches at Pong Ro Elementary School.


Chhea Sokhim also works full-time as a teaching assistant for an expatriate teacher at Smart Kids International School. Located in Siem Reap, this is a private school to which well-to-do Cambodians send their kids in order to have access to more qualified teachers and better facilities. We believe that her being able to land this highly sought after position speaks volumes for Sokhim’s nitiative, abilities, and English skills


Chhea Sokhim, sponsored by Roxy Wells, with her class at Smart Kids International School in Siem Reap.


We also have two new HVTO graduates this year: Keo Kimsang –sponsored by Lawrence Chan, who just received his Bachelor’s Degree in Information Technology, and Kon Kai, sponsored by ‘Friends From Oklahoma’, who received his Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting. Both graduated from the University of Southeast Asia. Kimsang has been working for HVTO for the last 6 years, and in addition to being the computer teacher at the school, he also helps in organizing well drilling /photos and assists the general director, Meng Seaknam. Because he lives in Siem Reap with his wife and two children, he does most of the traveling for HVTO, making numerous runs between Sophy Village and the big city. Kimsang’s thesis topic presented for his degree was entitled ‘The HVTO Management System.


Keo Kimsang, third from right, in a group photo with other IT students (blue shirts) and their professors (white shirts) after their thesis presentations. He is sponsored by Lawrence Chan.

Our second graduate, Kon Kai, has already passed the State Accounting Exam and like Kimsang, received his Bachelor's degree from U.S.E.A. Kai gave his thesis presentation, entitled "Loan Risk Management", on 7-October. Another of our working students, Kai works during the week in Angkor Chum District, about 60 km from Siem Reap. He is a credit officer for A.M.K. (Angkor Mikroheranhvatho Kampuchea) Plc, a microfinance institution headquartered in Phnom Penh. He returns to Siem Reap on Friday evenings to attend classes at U.S.E.A. Kai has already passed his probationary period with A.M.K., where he is making loan evaluations. He works very closely with clients and potential clients, riding his motorbike to wherever they may be located, mostly in Varin and Angkor Chum Districts. Kai is responsible for about 400 clients and loans with a total value of about $150,000 –an average individual loan value of $375. Clients use the loans to build or upgrade shops, purchase equipment, and plant/harvest/sell various food items like rice, noodles, wood crafts, pigs, and the local cash crop, which is akin to the sweet potato, cassava.

Kimsang and Kai are real success stories for HVTO, making excellent role models for other students with similar aspirations. Please join us in congratulating them on a ‘job well-done’!

Kon Kai in the after-glow of completing his thesis presentation to his professors at U.S.E.A. He is ponsored by ‘Friends From Oklahoma’.


HVTO University Student Assistance (College Prep Program)

Some of our university students are able to live with friends or extended family while they attend university in Siem Reap, but many cannot. To address this issue HVTO has rented a home in Siem Reap that is being utilized as a dormitory. All of the students in the dorm will have internet access and therefore more opportunity to Skype with their sponsors. In addition to giving HVTO a base of operations, the dorm saves each student about 10 hours per week in commuting time and brings them closer to their jobs in Siem Reap.

Most of the high school seniors that were able to pass their high school equivalency exam will move into the dorm this month. Each of these students will be required to contribute $10 per month of their income in order to defray the cost of maintaining the dorm. At this point the home under lease will have a total of 25 students, with five students in each of the five bedrooms. A smaller room serves as the computer room and the HVTO office.

Students online in the HVTO Dormitory computer room. From left are: Lab Kimhorn (sponsored by Helen Forster), Sros O (sponsored by James Stonham and Patti Baker), and Yart Simon (sponsored by Wayne and Melinda Colquitt)


To date HVTO has drilled over 8.7 kilometers of wells, in the process bringing clean water to nearly 2,600 people in rural Cambodia. A recent article, made possible through the efforts of Patti Baker, describes how HVTO organizes the drilling of water wells and why we use local village men to do the work. It can be found on our website at the following link: Through 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.

With the help of two generous sponsors, the HVTO water well numbers have increased by 27 in the last three months to a total of 382. None of these rural Cambodian families would otherwise have access to clean water. All ten villages in Kontreang Commune are now complete and we are now focusing on Chhub village in neighboring Knar Pur Commune. Here the village chief tells us that there are 45 families are in need of clean water. Rosemere High School in Canada, in their continuing campaign of support, recently donated another 14 wells, and 11of these were drilled in Chhub Village. Funding from this highly motivated and generous school and their supporters has since 2013 brought 53 new water wells and clean water to 282 rural Cambodians. To see more of Rosemere’s efforts please refer to the following link:

Well #366 above was donated by Rosemere High School in the city of Rosemere, Quebec, Canada. This well was drilled for the family of Mr. Sarun in Sophy Village, Kontreang Commune.

Sarp Özkar, the Marketing Manager for Pronto Tours in Istanbul, Turkey, has donated funds for three water wells and secured funds from his company to drill an additional 10 wells. We are still in the process of drilling these wells, so all 13 are not yet complete, but a photo of one of the first, with Sarp, is shown below.

Sarp Özkar, from Istanbul, Turkey, took a holiday to Cambodia in March of 2013 and his tour guide was Sim Piseth. He was very impressed with Sim and what he has accomplished through HVTO. Since that time Sarp has kept up with our progress on Sim’s Facebook page, and based on what he saw, influenced Pronto Tours to join him in funding a total of 13 water wells. In September of this year Sarp returned to Cambodia with two colleagues, and between the three of them they boast two million followers on Instagram. During their stay they took photos of the various HVTO projects that they plan to show their followers. These fundraising efforts are very welcome and if you are interested in following or getting involved with Sarp’s work, please refer to his website at:

Sarp Özkar, in front of well # 370, drilled on behalf of Pronto Tour. This well as drilled for Rin Loo and Rin Loeum, parents in a family of nine. They live in Chhub village, Kna Pur Commune.


Having seen our work first-hand, Viking and Studiosus 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 and provides a vehicle for access to larger grants that can have a major impact on reaching goals. 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. 

We are continually updating our newsletter e-mail distribution, so if you have any friends or family that would like to be included in our distribution list, please let us know. Unfortunately, newsletters sometimes end up going into Spam folders, so if you know of someone that has not been receiving these, please have them check this.

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 the 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 a student, we have a list of deserving candidates that we can send from which you can choose.

Children of all ages attend the HVTO School, beginning with introductory English classes. Shown here is Lak Vannak, a 12-year-old soon to be 7th grader studying English Level 4 at the HVTO Center. Vannak lives with his uncle’s family in Kontreang Village in order to be close enough to attend the HVTO school.

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



                                   Sim Piseth                                                                                                        Seaknam Meng

                               HVTO Founder                                                                                                  HVTO General Manager

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