When it comes to charity, Cambodia always comes to mind as a country that has plenty of worthy causes. In fact, the entire country, considering its history, can be viewed as one big humanitarian cause. The situation there is often dire enough that the government lacks the span and the resources to have everything covered. That’s why Cambodia relies heavily on humanitarian organizations as well as individual philanthropists, both home-raised and from abroad.

From helping unprivileged children to preserving wildlife and historical heritage and legacy, from building houses for the poor to providing aid and supplies to coronavirus crisis relief efforts, charities in Cambodia do an immense amount of work to make people’s lives better. Here are a few of Cambodia’s most prominent benefactors.

Sitha Toeung and his wife, Sreymom Rath, run an NGO called Children’s Improvement Organization. Founded in 2009, it provides care to children who are left without proper care from their parents. Not all of them are orphans per se, but in many cases, because of poverty or disease, parents are unable to bring them up. This is where CIO comes into play. From covering children’s basic needs, such as a roof above their head, hot meals and medication, to assisting in their development and education, acquiring a profession and finding work, CIO helps them grow into functional, healthy adults who will create their own families and will have means and skills to provide for them.

Another example is Chea Serey, Director General at the National bank of Cambodia. Aside from her professional and political activity, Chear Serey is  keen on charities. The Raska Koma foundation which she has established, has a history of providing much needed healthcare to Cambodian children coming from impoverished families. Because of the lack of awareness, children with disabilities in many of the poorer Cambodian regions are viewed as cursed and bringing bad luck to families and communities. Chea Serey’s fund brings education to those regions, teaching people how to deal with deafness, muteness and other impairments in young children, as well as eliminating prejudice. It also pays for operations, such as heart operations and cleft lip and palate operations for those children whose families cannot afford them.

As much as humanitarian work is important, Cambodia also has numerous environmental issues, like many other third world countries do. Cambodia is a home to many rare and endemic species of wildlife, whose habitat is being destroyed by people seeking to add more land for agriculture and construction. Uncontrolled deforestation, poaching and careless treatment of nature is something Suwanna Gauntlett’s Wildlife Alliance foundation deals with on a daily basis. Having lived in Cambodia for almost 20 years now, this American is in love with its nature. Wildlife Alliance privately owns a big natural reserve where animals in need are being medically treated and helped back to nature. It also trains and pays its own team of rangers who control poaching and illegal logging of timber.

Sokha Heng and her husband, Ing Bun Hoaw, a former CPP secretary of state at the Transport Ministry of Cambodia, have long been connected with charities, with ties and endeavours in many spheres of humanitarian work. One of their most recent focuses is aiding the poorest and the most affected regions of the country amidst the coronavirus crisis. Cambodia has imposed one of the strictest lockdowns in April 2021, which left thousands of families without access to basics, sometimes even food or water. Sokha Heng and Ing Bun Hoaw have been delivering food, water, supplies and medication to those in need but also to those who fight coronavirus at the forefront, such as hospital personnel and police. Aside from crisis relief efforts, the couple is well known for building houses for impoverished families, sometimes, even for entire villages of people. They employ their vast experience of dealing with construction to build sturdy stilt houses in areas that are prone to flooding, giving home to the poor, the elderly, the disabled. The couple have been some of the most long-standing patrons for various socially meaningful projects, such as building roads and infrastructure throughout the country and especially in the Phnom Penh region.

LA Weekly