Sustainable Cambodia
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Sustainable Cambodia, Inc.
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Frequently Asked Questions

What are the specific programs that are most in need of funding?

In some villages the highest priority is wells and water. In others, water may be available but biosand filters are needed. In others, especially where SC has been working for a couple of years, the priority may be on food production (gardens and pass-on farm animals), or income generation (micro-loans through our Village Sustainability program). For many families, school & education are the next highest priority, especially preschools, and in very remote villages grade schools are imperative. You can sponsor a child, or contribute through our Village Gifts program, to assist with any of these needs.

Is a contribution to Sustainable Cambodia deductible in a country other than the U.S.?

The laws on tax deductibility vary from country to country. The only two countries in which SC is formally registered as a nonprofit are the US and Cambodia, simply because it usually costs money to be registered and we have our pledge of putting 100% of sponsorship contributions to work in the rural programs. Some countries have tax rules that dovetail with other countries and some accept donations to international nonprofits that are registered in the US. If there is a question in a specific country concerning the deductibility of a contribution to SC, our complete financial statements might be helpful, as they show how small our administrative expenses are and show that no officers, directors or non-Cambodians receive any money from the organization. Those complete official U.S. nonprofit annual reports are posted in full under the Finances button at the top of our website.

What is the origin of the name Sustainable Cambodia?

We wanted to convey instantly the idea of a sustainable model of development. By sustainable, we mean something that takes on momentum of its own. Because participants are empowered to make their own decisions and to wisely invest in education and infrastructure, the program naturally continues after our assistance is gone. The participants learn good decision making processes and develop the initiative for implementing plans. We also include self-replicating elements in the program, including the pass-on programs, which teach about community service and the power of helping others. The result is that after donor aid is withdrawn the participants are able to function independently.

May I send letters & photos to my sponsored child?

Yes, you can send direct letters or photos to your sponsored student. And you may also periodically receive translated letters from your student in response. A few sponsors send the letters directly to our Phnom Penh address, and have them transported to Pursat and the school, but it is much easier, faster and more dependable to send them by email. Correspondence by email with attached low-res (internet is slow & spotty there) photos of the family make an excellent way to forge a connection. Our teaching staff and older student volunteers will help translate the message for the younger children, and will be sure the messages get to the sponsored child. You can send these emails and photos to usoffice@sustainablecambodia.org. Please ask us to confirm that we received the email, as we are all volunteers and sometimes get a bit backed up.

May I send gifts and supplies to my student?

As far gifts and supplies for an individual child, the cost of shipping goods to Cambodia can be expensive, and in fact we’ve found that even when the very high cost of shipping is paid, the parcel sometimes does not arrive (lost or stolen in the international mail). We try to send a message to sponsors in advance when we know that a director or volunteer is traveling to Cambodia (all trips are paid for personally by the directors and volunteers), and sometimes sponsors send small gifts to carry in the luggage of the directors and other volunteers. Please feel free to ask us when the next trip is planned, by emailing us at usoffice@sustainablecambodia.org. And if a sponsor would like to fund specific special supplies or materials (like art materials or special books or supplies) to the whole class or grade or a large group of students, on behalf of their sponsored child, we can help with that, too.

How do I sign up to sponsor a child?

You can sponsor by going to Contributions & Sponsorship on this website. You will make a huge and lasting change in a child's life when you do!

Will I receive a monthly statement?

No, as an all-volunteer organization (we pay no salaries for administration), we don't currently have a way to arrange monthly payments. We take credit cards or checks, but ask for annual sponsorship contributions. However, please ask if you need to arrange monthly or quarterly payments, as there are now nonprofit websites where we can do that with you.

How many children are enrolled now?

This varies over time, but most recently we have approximately 300 children enrolled in the first school (the Silvia Lasky Memorial School), and another 300 in the Kravanh Bright Futures Center, plus around 600 younger children (ages 3-8) in village preschools, and another several hundred students in expansion school programs in remote villages. There are now more than 15,000 village men, women and children in our program's outreach footprint. These people are all benefitting from our village development programs and wells.

What percentage of the sponsorship donations are used for the programs?

100% of your sponsorship funds and program contributions go directly for support of school programs and village development programs. We have no paid staff other than native Cambodians, and therefore we have incredibly modest administrative costs (mostly just postage and credit card processing fees). The founders and a few special contributors pay for 100% of these modest administrative expenses, so every cent of your contribution goes to the programs. That's our promise.

Does Sustainable Cambodia or any affiliated group have a religious association or message?

No, there is no religious association or message. The directors and volunteers of Sustainable Cambodia communicate with respect for the cultural paths of the families in Cambodia, which are historically Buddhist.

I've read about children being sold by their parents into the sex trade or into workplace slavery, and forced to work at an early age. Someone asked me how much parents get for selling their child. Do you have any information on this? Is it that the child has to work in the sex trade and bring home the money earned?

Actually, the whole thing is more complicated than the media makes it sound. It would be very rare for a family to literally “sell their child into slavery” whether for sex or not. Perhaps in some rare cases yes, but I’ve not heard of that. I think they are usually duped. First, they must be desperately poor. Second, the culture is just overcoming the idea that it’s okay to have your kids working in the fields or elsewhere rather than going to school and being kids. Third, a desperately poor family with that mindset has something calamitous happen (a surgery or a death in the family usually), and they feel they must borrow the $500 or $1,000 from money lenders to pay for the surgery or hospital or funeral. The money lender charges them so much interest they can't even make the interest payments, and they decide to put their kids to work. Then some “recruiter” comes through and tells them their kid can go to Phnom Penh or some other country and make much more money in better conditions. The family believes it. The kid winds up going, and the money is sent back home, and the conditions are deplorable for the kid, and in some cases the conditions include sex trade (which in some cases the kids will see is a way to make more money). And there are probably a million permutations of this. So it really is complicated. Sometimes there is sex trade involved, and sometimes not. Usually the family doesn’t really “get it”, but that’s also because, partly, the cultural taboos aren't as strong against child labor as in our culture.

The way we solve all this is multipronged: Educate the families. Educate the kids. Inculcate in the families the idea that an education for the child will bring the family a better life. Train the families in ways to earn enough money that they keep their kids in school. Convince the kids that education is the answer, and use peer and social pressure, as well as fun education, to keep them in school. Give them goals like university scholarships. And wait 20 years for generational change to occur. Thankfully we are 10 years into it in the villages where we work, and can really see the generational difference.

What are the biggest challenges for the program so far?

The biggest challenge now is simply funding. Our model is extremely effective and extremely efficient. By using only Cambodians for all paid positions, we gain huge financial leverage. And having built our whole system on the most effective development models in the world (like Grameen Bank, Heifer International and Care) we are amazingly efficient. And the village empowerment model we employ, combined with the constant training of more Cambodian staff, means the model is expandable and almost self-replicating. Unbelievably, it takes under $50 per year over a 3-year period, spread over every man, woman and child in an area, to completely transform the community. We are very efficient and very effective, but funding is now the critical need. If you can help us spread the word to individuals (using the Tell-a-Friend button at the top of the site) or to organizations and companies who might wish to help, that would be amazingly supportive.

And here are a few Questions & Answers about the mechanics of our schools:

What is the salary for a full time teacher in KBFC or SLMS enrichment schools?
       The salary for a full time teacher in KBFC and SLMS enrichment schools is from $200 to $250 USD

What is the salary for a full time teacher in the Community Preschools?
      The salary for a full time teacher in the community schools is $40 USD

How many hours on average does a full time teacher work per week?
      Full-time teachers in our enrichment schools work 40 hours per week, and teachers in the community preschools work on average 18 hours per week.

What do the full-time government school teachers earn in the government-run community schools?
      The government teachers salary in community school is around $100 to $150 USD.

Do the village woman who cook the meals get paid and how much do they get paid? 
The village women who cook the meals are volunteers. They don't get paid from the project. But they can get some benefits including bicycle and some other projects or materials as the encouragement.