In 2013, I used my birthday money to establish a four-month sewing program in Siem Reap that aimed to train women in a skill that they would use to break the cycle of poverty.

Five years on, and this program has expanded into a 10-month program that trains women extensively in sewing, life skills, business skills and farming. Human and Hope Association has seen 43 women graduate, with most tripling their income after graduation. In 2017 alone, three sewing graduates used their income to replace their bamboo palm-leaf shacks with stable brick homes, resulting in a safer environment for them and their families.

Having supported many women in our community to move their way out of the poverty bracket, Human and Hope Association is now expanding our reach to Puok, a district located 20 – 30km from Siem Reap. As these women are living in poverty, they need to borrow motorbikes from their families and neighbours to attend our daily classes. This is where you come in. I am asking my family and friends to once again dig deep and help me raise funds to provide petrol to the rural women attending our sewing program. My goal is to raise $3,000, which will fund the petrol allowances and ensure we can reach 12 rural women living in poverty.

These petrol allowances are crucial in ensuring the women stay in the full 10-month program. This will be achieved by forming a relationship with a petrol shop in our community, who will provide petrol to the students each week, capped at an amount according to our calculations.

Although Siem Reap has many organisations offering support to Cambodians, rural areas like Puok doesn’t. With this program, we aim to change the opinions of the rural poor that educating females is a waste of time. An opinion we often face when recruiting students for the program is that being a caretaker is the priority, and there is no need for education.

However, research from UNICEF shows that mothers who have had some education are more than twice as likely to send their own children to school as are mothers with no education. By providing education to females over the age of 16, we are challenging the stereotype that women shouldn’t be educated. We are also creating good role models who show that women can be both educated AND a caretaker, and are increasing the likelihood of their female children being enrolled and remaining in public school.

So please, help me achieve my birthday wish of training women in rural Cambodia. A donation of $25 can ensure one woman living in rural Cambodia can access our program for a month. All donations over $2 are tax deductible.