Local activities in Siem Reap

Discova’s New Community Development Projects in Cambodia

June 21, 2022

Our Discova Educational Travel (DET) team has been working with the Knapor community near Siem Reap, Cambodia, for 10 years now, providing infrastructure and educational support where needed. We’re happy to say that the community has developed significantly in that time, so much so that we feel that we can take a step back here, but not before building a much-needed learning hub. This month we began building the hub for the local extracurricular ‘Forest School’. 

What’s more, together with Grasshopper Adventures, we’ve identified another commune in the Siem Reap province that we would like to help. The Trei Nhoar commune consists of 10 villages who struggle with access to clean water, safe sanitation, quality education and economic stability. We have a couple of projects in mind that we would like to develop here towards the end of 2022. 

What does that mean for your travellers? Your student groups can directly contribute to the success of these projects by participating in the fundraising, building, and development process. Chi Ngo, our Educational Project Manager, and Sopheak Chheang, our Educational Travel Operations Executive, reveal how visiting educational travel groups can make a big difference here. 

A Learning Hub for Knapor’s Forest School

The Knapor Forest School was established in 2018 by a local teacher in the village. His aim was to support education in the community by offering free extracurricular English classes and raising awareness on environmental issues amongst local children.  

English education in Cambodia
Kong Bun Lous, the English teacher who started the Forest School, shows Discova staff the forest that is such an important part of life in Knapor

 

The school is located 35 kilometres northeast of Siem Reap, and so far consists of one wooden building and a basic toilet. There are approximately 60-80 students aged 8-15 years old who are currently enrolled here, and parents typically earn their income through farming, fishing, and manual labour. The district is classified as disadvantaged and low-income, and parents often cannot afford to pay formal tuition fees. 


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Our local DET team in Cambodia delved into the impact the school has had and its relevance for the community, and even recorded a brief video to highlight the work done here so far (above). The Forest School has been a great solution to lack of access to education in the Knapor, and we want to invest in its impact by building a learning hub that includes a library and sheltered English classroom. With the help of donations made by previous visiting student groups, and left-over funds from our Walk for Water campaign, we want to achieve the following:  

  • Building a 18m2 library and a 42m2 sheltered classroom with walls 
  • Enhance students English reading skills 
  • Create an informative and supportive learning environment 
  • Educate local students on the importance of protecting the environment and keeping the surrounding area clean and hygienic 
  • Provide equal opportunities for learning 
 

We’ve seen this community grow so much in the past 10 years. Local villagers are able to provide tourism services and sustain their own income, and many of the community’s environmental and economic challenges have been overcome.  

Discova community development projects in Cambodia
One of the many locally-led activities travellers can experience when visiting Knapor is sticky rice making

 

While we will continue to work with the community by connecting them with travellers and monitoring its progress, the learning hub will be one of our final concrete contributions to local development. While construction will soon be complete in around August, the influence will be long-term, with local students receiving quality educational support year on year.  

Community Development in Trei Nhoar 

Our partnership with Grasshopper Adventures brought us to the Trei Nhoar community. One of Grasshopper’s team members had become aware of Trei Nhoar’s challenges after visiting his mother in-law in a nearby village. Chi Ngo then went to the community herself to speak with the local community leaders and was shown around. “We wanted to work with the community because we could see that it was struggling, but that there was a lot of potential to develop and work with Discova in the long-term“.  

Community development near Siem Reap
Chi (third from left) and Sopheak (far right) meet with local authority members to discuss potential projects to develop in the Trei Nhoar area

 

We identified the following disparities between the average quality of life in Trei Nhoar compared to that of Siem Reap: 

 

Underprivileged communities in Cambodia

 

Having seen the challenges that the communities faces, our DET team decided to focus on Sustainable Development Goals for three areas of improvement and awareness in the community:  

  • Education: Quality education and gender equality 
  • Economic: No poverty, good jobs and economic growth, innovation and infrastructure, sustainable communities 
  • Environment: Climate action, life on land, clean water and sanitation 
 

With these goals in mind, we want to begin helping the community by: 

  • Providing toilets for the villages (about 25% of villagers here do not have their own toilets) to improve sanitation, general hygiene and health 
  • Build a water filtration system for each village 
 

Sopheak points out that while there’s enough water during the rainy season, it is dirty and typically not safe for drinking (yet villagers have no choice but to). “The problem is really during Cambodia’s dry season from October to April, when there is not enough water for the whole community”.  

Beyond infrastructural support, we also want to economically empower the community. Sopheak and Chi have already trained local villagers to become service providers, so that they can offer cultural activities in the project sites that student groups will visit. Thus, by the end of the year when the student groups finally arrive here to help, they can also participate in cooking classes, rice planting, sticky rice making, basket weaving and more, which are all taught by people from the village.   

 

What impact can student groups make in both of these communities?

A big part of making these projects a reality is fundraising. In Knapor, donations made by visiting school groups has made the building of a learning hub possible, and will serve to help pay for teaching and educational material support. “Up to 50 students will enroll in the English class, and donations will be used to pay for the teacher’s salary”, Chi says. This means that local students can continue to benefit from free English education in the long-run.  

 

 

Community projects near Siem Reap
Visiting student groups directly help to build Knapor's learning hub - the foundation for the hub has already been dug and construction has begun

 

Visiting student groups are currently already getting hands on by helping with the construction process of the learning hub, and more groups will continue to do so until construction is complete by about August.  


Community activities in Trei Nhoar
One of the activities that will available to visiting student groups is rice noodle making


As for Trei Nhoar, visiting students groups will be part of a long-term development process for the community. It may start out with raising funds for the necessary toilets and water filtration systems, but will carry forward into elevating the villages’ economic position. With each new project that is envisioned here, educational groups can directly help with construction, but also raise the local villagers’ incomes by participating in cultural activities. 


What are Chi and Sopheak’s personal wins from working with these communities?

Chi has just recently returned to Vietnam, having spent three months in Cambodia working on bringing these projects to fruition. 

 

 

Cambodian born and raised, Sopheak has been involved in community development since he was in Grade 12. While these types of projects may not be new to him, he never tires of it. 

 

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and stay at the forefront of new product offerings, Discova behind-the-scenes, destination news, travel trends and thought leadership articles from our on-the-ground experts