Something As Simple as a Water Jar

How Holt is empowering women and children in Cambodia.


Nai hopes to become a teacher someday


 Holt International hopes the water jar we recently provided *Nai will help her change the world.

But for now, we just hope it helps her get to school on time…

Every morning, 13-year-old Nai fetches the water, takes fertilizer to the field and tends to her family’s four cows in the poverty-stricken Chhouk district of Cambodia. If these tasks take too long, as they often do, Nai misses her ride to school. Sometimes, she walks the long distance and is able to join her classmates. Most often, she stays home and helps her family with the rest of the daily chores.

With aspirations of attending college and becoming a teacher some day, Nai can’t afford to miss out on the very lessons that she hopes to one day teach. But in Cambodia, impoverished families often rely on their school-aged children to help earn the income needed to survive.

At Holt, we applaud children like Nai, who sacrificially step up to help their families make it from day to day. It’s our belief, however, that children shouldn’t have to sacrifice a proper education – and their dreams – to assist their struggling families.

To help Nai and children just like her, Holt began partnering with Cambodia Organization for Children and Development (COCD) in February 2013.  COCD believes that vulnerable children are better protected and cared for through the social and economic empowerment of women.  Having initiated programs that help to empower women and young girls in India and Haiti, this was a mission that Holt could get behind. To achieve this goal, Holt and the COCD have established community self-help groups for poor, female-headed households in the Chhouk district. The self-help groups serve as education tools, teaching women to contribute to a savings plan. Holt helps provide the groups with income-generating projects and teaches technical skills and lessons on proper household care and hygiene. Continue reading “Something As Simple as a Water Jar”

Cambodia Intern

Earlier this year, University of Oregon business student and IE3 global intern Orion Falvey worked with Holt’s partner in Cambodia, Pathways to Development. Here, he reflects on his experiences and lessons in a country where he faced both language and cultural barriers.
It has been two months since I returned from my internship with Holt International in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and I now find myself just two weeks away from graduating college. Studying business and entrepreneurship at the University of Oregon, I have learned about supply chains, strategic planning, market segmentation, and globalization. However, as I consider my next steps post-college, it is not these business courses that I look back on. Instead, it is the number of exciting opportunities I have had working on cross-cultural teams, coming up with innovative solutions to problems, and seeing the impact that arises as a result of being passionate about the work you are doing, that has me thinking about what I want my next endeavor to be. Continue reading “Cambodia Intern”

Sign Up Now for January 2014 Tour of Cambodia

Join Holt partner Friendship with Cambodia on a tour to learn about life, culture and the needs of children we serve in Cambodia! The tour will run from December 30, 2013 to January 11, 2014, and all funds raised will go to support programs for woman and children in Cambodia.

Friendship with Cambodia (FWC) is a nonprofit organization based in Holt’s hometown of Eugene, Oregon. FWC provides humanitarian aid to families and children impacted by a legacy of violence and oppression in Cambodia. Instead of creating dependence on foreign aid, however, FWC strives to empower and create self-reliance. Since their founding in 1992, FWC has helped landmine victims and poor women in Cambodia market their handicrafts in the U.S. They also started a sponsorship program for Cambodian children to attend school.

Continue reading “Sign Up Now for January 2014 Tour of Cambodia”

Keeping a Child in School and a Family Together

Earlier this year, Holt’s senior executive for S.E. Asia traveled to Cambodia to visit families and children in programs Holt supports in the region. Here, she shares the story of one young woman named Soriya. Despite economic hardship, Soriya’s mother held strong that her daughter should stay in school. With Holt’s help, she did.

by Thoa Bui, Senior Executive, S.E. Asia

Soriya* is a shy and very quiet 14-year-old schoolgirl who lives a very simple life with her mother in Takheo, a province in southwest Cambodia that lies along the Vietnam border. Their home is made of leaves and bamboo, and is bare inside save for a few belongings. Soriya also has an older brother and an older sister who live away from home. Her father died a year ago.

Soriya at home in Thakeo province, Cambodia.

Soriya’s family is one of hundreds of families Holt International serves each year through local partner organization, Pathways to Development. Since 2006, Holt has supported family preservation projects in Cambodia with the goal to strengthen family units and prevent displacement of children from their families. Through the years, Holt and Pathways have helped hundreds of children and families grow stronger and more self-reliant.

In the rural farming village where Soriya and her mother reside, a family is considered very lucky to have farmland. However, growing up, Soriya’s family did not have any land. Instead, her parents worked as daily laborers for local landowners, earning barely enough to get by. During the dry season, the father climbed palm trees to collect palm juice to sell. Soriya’s mother earned additional income by sewing together palm tree leaves. Together, the parents made about $2.50 each day.

When Soriya’s father died last year, the family fell into more severe economic hardship. During my visit, Soriya and her mother were still very saddened by his death, and Soriya’s mother often broke into tears when sharing about her family’s life.

After Soriya’s father died, their neighbors pressed Soriya to quit school and help support her family by finding work in Phnom Penh. But Soriya’s mother did not want that for her daughter, and tried hard to keep Soriya in school. Through a community referral service, Soriya and her mother received help from Holt and Pathways to Development. Pathways provided the family with emergency food as well as loans from the rice bank that Pathways operates in Takheo. As the roof on her house is made of palm leaves and is frequently damaged in heavy rain, Pathways also provided home repairs to protect Soriya and her mother from the elements.

Most important to Soriya’s mother, Pathways has equipped Soriya with the resources she needs to attend school – including uniforms, books and school supplies. She also receives counseling on health and education to keep her in school. During our visit, she said, “My daughter can go to school regularly thanks to all the support given by the program to my daughter and family.”

A little bit of support has gone a long way to keep Soriya in school and keep her family together… As I left their house, I kept admiring the strength of this widow and her daughter, despite all the challenges they face in life.

Pathways’ local outreach worker with Thoa Bui, Soriya and Mom, and Pathways director, Mr. Born.

* name changed

Putting it All Into Perspective

One Family’s Story: A Glimpse at Holt’s Partnership with Pathways to Development in Cambodia

Orion, an IE3 Global Intern, sits down with 14-year-old Chenda. Chenda and her family are receiving support through Pathways to Development and their partnership with Holt International. Pathways to Development is a non-governmental agency that began in 2003 to help improve the quality of life of Cambodia’s rural poor.


By Orion Falvey, IE3 Global Intern

Takeo Province, Cambodia — The sky, a soft blue sheet, void of any clouds, adds to the quieted peacefulness of Takeo Province. To my left are the vast never-ending rice fields dotted with cows, children, and the occasional palm tree. It is dry season now and there is no water in sight. As I walk down the road, the houses of Khvav Commune come into view, most of them look the same, built up on stilts with palm frond roofs. You can tell a family’s income level by whether the house has walls, and if there are cows, chickens, or pigs in the yard.

Seeing a westerner is a rare occasion for these families; one might come through town once or twice a month. The children in the houses and on the streets are always very intrigued. Some are excited to practice their English, and yell out a, “Hello, how are you?” Others are shy and peer around a fence, their eyes focused on me.

Even though school got out several hours ago, many of these children are wearing their school uniforms, a dark blue top with white pants or dress. For many children, their school clothes, which are a requirement to attend the village school, are the only clothes they own. I now fully understand the importance of Pathways to Development’s activities to provide over 200 children with school uniforms and supplies.

As my day resumes, I will continue to witness how Pathways to Development, in partnership with Holt International, provides support for these children living in extreme poverty.

Walking down the dusty road, I pass a boy who looks no older than 6, marching three cows toward the rice fields—he carries a small stick, letting the cows know who’s in charge. During the dry, non-planting and harvesting season, most villagers have little or no work. Six months out of the year they take their cows, if they have them, to the rice fields to eat. The men also climb palm trees, cutting down the fruit and cooking it into palm sugar, which they can then sell at market. This activity generally brings in around a dollar per day for the family. Continue reading “Putting it All Into Perspective”

The Future is in Her Hands

In impoverished communities around the world, girls are far more likely than boys to be deprived of an education. But when girls are educated, they have the unique capacity to create sweeping social and economic changes in their communities — for generations to come. In Cambodia, Holt recently took over an educational sponsorship program for 79 outstanding high school and college students. One of these scholars is a young woman named Jorani. When she graduates from college next year, Jorani has big changes in store for her small rural village. (Molly MacGraw, Holt and IE3 Global Intern in Cambodia, interviewed Jorani for this story.)

Holt provides educational support for at-risk girls — and boys — in countries around the world. Give your mother a truly meaningful gift this Mother’s Day. Honor her with the gift of education for a young girl in India, or an orphan in China! Click here to view Holt’s Gifts of Hope catalog online.

Jorani* is a shy, soft-spoken young woman in her third year of study at Royal University in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. A student of sociology, she loves to sit in the library for hours at a time – researching topics related to her major. The issue of community development is particularly compelling to Jorani, who grew up in an economically depressed region of Kampong Thom – a large, geographically diverse province located in the center of Cambodia. When she graduates, she plans to return to Kampong Thom and work either for a non-governmental organization or as a teacher. In either role, she hopes to help create a more prosperous and hopeful future for the people of her village.

Jorani is one of 79 students from impoverished communities in Cambodia whose education Holt helps to support. Like all students in the educational sponsorship program, Jorani was chosen for her extraordinary performance and motivation in school. Now 23, she is excelling in her classes and on track to graduate from college next year.

In a country where only one-third of students complete a ninth-grade education, Jorani is an exception. But in many ways, her background fits the norm. Continue reading “The Future is in Her Hands”

The Cambodian Spirit, A Glimpse

In September, Molly MacGraw arrived in Phnom Penh for a three-month, IE3 Global Internship with Pathways to Development – Holt’s partner organization in Cambodia. A human development and family sciences major at Oregon State University, Molly will over the coming months assist Pathways with child sponsorship reporting, grant writing and other tasks that will benefit from her native English skills. In turn, she will have the opportunity to immerse herself in the work of a small nonprofit serving children and families overseas. Here, Molly describes her first trip to Takeo province, a rural region where Pathways helps struggling families to care for their children. Click here to learn more about Holt’s work in Cambodia.

by Molly MacGraw, Holt and IE3 Global Intern in Cambodia

A sponsored child waits to receive her backpack during Pathways’ annual school supply distribution.

This past weekend, I traveled to Takeo province for my first work trip with Pathways to Development. Takeo is a province 2-3-4 hours southwest of Phnom Penh and is among the poorest provinces in Cambodia.  (I say 2-3-4 hours of travel because depending on how you get there – bus, motorbike, van – transportation in Cambodia can be quite the challenge and you never know what you could get.)

There are several communes within Takeo made up of many villages, but Pathways focuses on and serves two communes. This work trip was important to me because it allowed me to see what my organization does and how they help and who they serve.  Now that I am back in the city, I have a much better understanding of what I can do to help after seeing the faces of those who need our assistance.

Starting off, I Continue reading “The Cambodian Spirit, A Glimpse”

Uncommon Pathways; Lauren’s Final Dispatch from Cambodia

Lauren Fletcher has just returned from her 3-month internship working with Holt’s partner organization in Cambodia, Pathways to Development. A human services major at Oregon State University, Lauren applied for the IE3 global internship with in interest in learning about working for an international NGO. Working alongside Pathways staff and observing their commitment to the children and families they serve, she learned — as she shares here in her final blog from Cambodia — much more than she expected.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Lauren on an adventure in Cambodia.

My time in Cambodia is coming to a close and I feel rather sentimental. During my other travels, I have always felt that my time in each country was long enough, and I felt ready to move on. As a college student, I am used to thinking about the future and what lies ahead: what classes will I sign up for, when are my projects due, where will I work next summer, where will I live next year, what kind of career do I want, should I go to graduate school right away, etc.

This is the first time I am not ready to part with a country. Interestingly enough, this has been my longest time abroad as well.

I want to plan my next adventure through Cambodia! Not plan my class schedule. I want to keep working for this amazing little NGO that no one’s ever heard of. Not be bogged down with homework assignments.

I can think of a couple reasons why I don’t want to move on. First, the organization I work for is whole-heartedly committed to their projects and to the people we serve.  The mission statement isn’t just some words written beneath a logo. My coworkers truly want to see Cambodia’s rural poor have a better quality of life. My boss is especially committed; he works hard at the office, at home, on the weekends and wakes up early to get extra work done. In a country where 2-hour lunches are common, his work ethic is uncommonly strong. My co-workers work very hard as well – striving to make our program as successful as possible. Each month, my boss finds new ways to improve our work, including planning several trainings and seminars for our office and provincial staff in 2012. I can’t believe I won’t be here to see all the changes to come in the new year!

Continue reading “Uncommon Pathways; Lauren’s Final Dispatch from Cambodia”

Go and Sponsor a Child…

Over a year ago, Corrine Cook attended a concert on the Christian music tour Winter Jam. Between performances, members of the band NewSong shared a moving presentation about Holt’s child sponsorship program.  Corrine chose to sponsor a girl in Cambodia.  Earlier this month, she had the exceptional opportunity to meet her!  A Holt intern already wrote a blog about their meeting. Here, Corrine tells her own story…

Corrine exchanges gifts with Srey Lam, the 12-year-old girl she sponsors in Cambodia.
One-and-a-half years ago, I sat in a full stadium with music blaring, people singing, and lights shining.  All of the sudden, a quiet hush flowed in from the front to the back as all the lights went down to a single spotlight.  As the strong voice echoed in the stillness, I sat forward in my seat, my eyes riveted to the stage.  The testimony of one man brought tears down my cheeks and a whisper to my ear.  “Go and sponsor a child.”  Now, I made hardly any money with which to support myself, much less someone else. However, I knew I could not resist that still, small voice of the Almighty’s because of the power behind it.  So it was there at a concert that God challenged me to give His money that He had bequeathed to me to a child who was way less fortunate than I.


Six months later, I strode on the high ground of a railroad track on the last leg of my journey.  As I stepped onto the trail which entered the small village, I was greeted by many people from a small village in the heart of Cambodia.  One of the first people I saw was the little girl whom God had called me to support.  A great smile crept onto her face as her inquisitive eyes stared up at me.  Even with the language barrier, non-verbal communication radiated between us.  Thankfully though, we were able to carry on a short spoken conversation through an interpreter who also read to me the letter she had written.

It was amazing and heart-wrenching to have the privilege of seeing Srey Lam*, my sponsor child.  To see the small hut they called home with a single mat surrounded by mosquito netting was saddening when I think of the luscious bedroom I am blessed to have.  I have always heard that we are spoiled here in America, but now I know it to be true.  What struck me is how we have so much and are still unhappy and want more.  In Cambodia, they have next to nothing.  They are doing well to get enough food to eat for their next meal, and still, they smile.  They are so willing to give and share their best with us regardless of the fact that they have so little.  Oh, that we could learn from their example.  Although not wealthy by American standards, I am a millionaire to them.  I know that I have been moved to share the abundance that God has given me.

In Cambodia, Holt International works with their local partner organization, Pathways to Development, to provide food and necessities for vulnerable families — such as building restrooms or getting the family animals so they can make money.  They have worked hard and have built and are now running a rice bank from which needy families can borrow until they have their own harvests, and then pay back with a little interest on what they borrowed.  This keeps the families alive until their own harvests come.

It was so amazing to see the work that Holt International and Pathways were doing with these families to make a difference in their lives.  I went there to see what was being done with the monetary gift I was giving Holt, but discovered something much better.    The gift was not the money I send to support Srey Lam and her family, but the knowledge that God is using me to further His kingdom. She was precious, a gift of God to me, and I’m so glad I had the opportunity to meet her.  God is so good!

* name changed

To learn more about Holt’s child sponsorship program, click here.

For more information about Holt’s work and history in Cambodia, click here.

For the first time ever, Winter Jam is coming to the West Coast!  Holt needs volunteers to sign up new sponsors. See tour dates and sign up to volunteer here!

A Heartfelt Encounter in Cambodia

A Holt sponsor meets her sponsored child.  A Holt intern meets the children and families she set out to serve.

In the coming months, Oregon State University student Lauren Fletcher will shine the spotlight on our work in Cambodia, as she completes a three-month IE3 global internship with Holt partner organization Pathways to Development. Lauren, a human services major, just arrived in Phnom Penh.  And already, within her first few days, she accompanied Pathways staff on a journey to visit sponsored children in rural Takeo province.  Here, she also witnessed a truly extraordinary event — the meeting between a young woman named Corrine and the 12-year-old girl she helps support through Holt’s sponsorship program.

Corrine meets Srey Lam, the girl she sponsors through Holt.

Yesterday was a big day for me. Mr. Born, Mr. Chenda, a sponsor named Corrine and her sister and friend gathered at 7am for a journey to visit the child Corrine sponsors through Holt International. Corrine’s sister has been working in Phnom Penh, Cambodia for the last seven months.  When Corrine decided to travel from her home in Kentucky for a 10-day visit with her sister, she made sure to dedicate a full day to visit the child she began sponsoring this past summer.

The drive to the child’s home lasted about two hours, and concluded on a rough, hard-to-access road through rural Treng district.  Along the way, I saw many people planting rice. Born explained that local farmers will help one another to plant and harvest each other’s rice. To sell their produce, farmers keep bamboo stands alongside the road, where sellers sit and wait for customers in hammocks tied between the poles of the stands.

Once we arrived at our destination, Srey Lam* — the sponsored child — and her family walked up to greet us with hands traditionally placed palm-to-palm before their faces.  Because of the language barrier, we walked towards Srey Lam’s home in silence, but this did not inhibit communication between us. Everyone wore smiles on their faces, especially Srey Lam’s mother and father, while the younger siblings looked on with curiosity. Sitting in the shade of their home – an elevated hut – the thick, sweltering air of Takeo province almost felt bearable. A couple dozen people gathered around us, with gentle smiles gracing their faces.  We sat in the shade, happily sipping raw coconut juice directly from the coconut – through bendy straws inserted into their centers! Continue reading “A Heartfelt Encounter in Cambodia”