Building a school the right way: A Camborea NGO Fundraiser

education is sparse in Siem Reap's Plung Village
Currently, education is sparse in Plung Village.

What difference does one more school make in a land where so many schools are being built by numerous NGOs? To the skeptical or those who have a difficult time deciding which project of which NGO they want to support, it is a valid and important question. But knowing the story and the people behind Camborea NGO will surely help!

The brains or, more appropriately, the heart of this endeavor is Christophe Baillet, a Frenchman who used to build airplane parts back home, before moving to Cambodia permanently nearly 7 years ago. Christophe did not start Camborea NGO immediately after coming to Cambodia, in fact he worked as a volunteer for many NGOs in Siem Reap and through the course of his work he met his future wife, Sina. When he visited Sina’s village of Plung in the Leang Dai Commune – an area that is not even named in Google Maps – and saw the state it was in, he knew exactly what he wanted to do. So it was the love of Chris and Sina and their passion for the land that gave birth to Camborea NGO in 2016.

Camborea is what one could describe as a customized and community-specific NGO where, instead of having an agenda and have those blanket all the needs of the community, they assess first what the community needs and then build their cause. For Plung village and the surrounding neighborhood, the NGO came up with three focus areas – water, healthcare and a community garden.

Camborea NGO's Christophe Baillet
Christophe Baillet (middle), manager of Camborea NGO helping out Olivier Crusoe (right) of OrganiKH Farm by providing them with trees from Camborea NGO’s very own community garden.

Well and good

Camborea NGO is not a layered organization, they do not have a Board of Directors or a CEO or CFO, behind the curtains, it is just Christophe and Sina. And for a small NGO, they are certainly no pushovers. Even with the limited manpower they have – Christophe and, oftentimes, just a handful of locals were able to complete 23 deep-water wells (each costs USD 550) since year one of operation.

50 foot water well
Digging a 50-foot deep well in the village.

The NGO is a charity but not the cliché-type. In his Frenchman’s words, “We are not saving them” so the approach they employed is that wells are built in the vicinity of 4-5 homes and the households that benefit have to contribute rice (usually 10 kilos) and some money (typically USD 1 – 5) which is sealed in an envelope that only Christophe knows the amount. This is not a payment for the well but a move for sustainability and one that empowers the community to say that they built the well. More importantly, the rice collected is kept in storage for when there are food shortages and is given back to the community in time of need.

Community around the water well
The Camborea NGO deep-water wells are a great source of life. The organization works with Water for Cambodia to ensure sterility.

The other focus of Camborea is a community garden, a project launched to address the lack of crops that are grown in the area. This is also an effort in educating the villages on how to grow vegetables in a sustainable way so that they can grow their own once they have the proper expertise.

Camborea NGO's community garden
The community garden in Plung Village.

And finally, healthcare which is always a primary concern in any area. Here, the organization provides the essential needs such as treatment of wounds and light issues so that they do not turn into serious diseases.

Nurse Sokun and a patient
Nurse Sokun comes to Leang Dai Commune every Sunday to see patients and treat them.

The Camborea School Project

So where did the school project come about? Camborea was doing fine, focusing on the essentials and they had already expanded their well-building project to a neighboring village, but when Plung officials came knocking on their door asking them for help, they could not say no. After all, the NGO does pride itself on being customized for the community.

With funding from previous donors already allocated to other projects, for example the construction of the 23 water wells, Christophe had little choice but to take his campaign to Crowdfunding where he hopes to raise USD 6,000. The amount will be used to purchase a good plot of land on which the school will stand. Just Giving is the online platform Camborea has chosen to house their campaign and hopes that this initiative will gain the much needed traction so they could start with the project immediately.

Camborea NGO school fundraiser
School in a neighboring village.

Project Features

  • Enhanced Cambodian curriculum – the school will be built next to the Community Garden that links to the children’s education, teaches them about the importance of nature & biodiversity and helps them to set up their own garden at home;
  • Expansion – initially set up as a primary school, the long term plan is to expand to include secondary education;
  • Kindergarten facility – essential for women who need to work while their children are being cared for;
  • Healthcare Services – the health center will be moved to the school to equip children with more knowledge on their health and on disease prevention;
  • Culture preservation –  there will be workshops to preserve local handicrafts and to protect the culture and beliefs of the village so they do not disappear
  • Water well – the dollar contribution of the villagers from the construction of their wells will be used 100% to fund the school’s water well

This is an all important cause for a community that gravely needs this. Camborea NGO is not just any other charitable institution, it sits at the center of the community and close to the hearts of the villagers they help. Christophe and Sina take no salaries and need to work for a time in order to provide for the daily needs of their family, so that all donations are given back and spent properly for the community.

Should you wish to donate, then please visit the project’s crowdfunding page where you will find more useful details and the progress of the initiative:

Camborea NGO – Contact details

Camborea NGO: In the heart of the community