This is Clare Rutz reporting from Phnom Penh in Cambodia.
I received a phone call an hour before my scheduled visit at The Sharing Foundation in Phnom Penh. The director of the project wanted to confirm that I had a car with a roof to get me there because the rainy season decided to live up to its name and dump water on the entire city. I explained that I was actually planning on just climbing on the back of a motorbike in about five minutes. He recommended my visit for another day and I thanked him for his intentions on keeping me dry. Forty-five minutes later I arrived looking as if I had just taken a swim. The rain has never really bothered me, and I was especially looking forward to this visit.
The Sharing Foundation can be found in a small village that acted as a nice break from the capital of Cambodia. Dirt roads that were lined with houses next to the water and fishing gear, motorbikes, and families shielding themselves from the rain were the main attractions in this simple town. When I pulled up to the orphanage thirty little children greeted me at the entrance. It was the hour for reading, but I was too much of a distraction for any real work to get done. There are 74 children residing at the orphanage, many of which are living with HIV, but smiling nonetheless. The children were obviously well loved and looked after with 21 nannies on the premises. All the children go to school and are encouraged to continue their education for as long as possible or necessary. This year The Sharing Foundation supports 38 university students, with their first 7 graduating. After touring the facilities of the orphanage, which included a doctor’s office and playground, I returned back to the reading children. Their curious eyes and big smiles would encourage anyone to stay awhile to play, but I had to move on. This was only a fraction of what The Sharing Foundation did.
The next stop was the sewing project, which was an opportunity for women to train and work in garment manufacturing. I climbed the stairs to what looked like an ordinary house to a room filled with diligently working women. They smiled widely as I entered and were more than happy to show off the work they were doing at the time. They explained to me that now when they apply for a job at a factory they will be paid a higher salary than normal because they have training. I thanked the women for their hospitality and we jumped back into the jeep to visit the agricultural project.
The rain was still coming down and the road to the fields was thick with wet mud. We drove carefully to the workers who were still working hard despite the pelting rain. The program allows the poorer families of the village to come and work in the fields for a consistent salary if they agree to send their children to school. Parents often keep their children from school in order for them to work or help around the household. Too often the importance of education is just not understood, but with the help of this project the benefits of children attending school is explained and enrollment is required.
The projects I visited were only three of the sixteen The Sharing Foundation is comprised of, but the work that was unseen should be mentioned. The other projects support pregnant women with HIV/AIDS, university students, children at the state run orphanage, and there is also an English program for all the children in the village. It would be enlightening to see the village without the help of The Sharing Foundation. Many families are moving out of poverty because of this tiny non-profit tucked away in this small community. I truly hope that in ten years I will return back to this same village and meet the adults who had been educated by The Sharing Foundation. The village will have inevitably changed, and because of the projects I visited and GlobalGiving donors, I believe it will be for the better.
When asked what she would tell her friends about this project, Clare said: "Great: They are making a difference."