Letter to Supporters
April 4, 2016
Dear Friends, Sponsors, and Supporters;
We are writing to let you know that Cambodia Tomorrow will be concluding our education programs at the Cambodia Tomorrow School at the end of the 2015-2016 school year this August. The ultimate goal of a good NGO is to help where and when assistance is needed, but also to be able to recognize when it is time to let their constituents once again stand on their own. We believe that now is the right time to transfer responsibility for the Cambodia Tomorrow School to our friends and colleagues in Cambodia.
In 2002, four new adoptive parents asked what they could do for the orphans at Kompong Speu Orphan Center (KSOC). The answer was a request to provide English language training. We formed Cambodia Tomorrow, reached out to sponsors and, with their support, sent 24 children to the local English school.
Almost immediately, we were asked to do more because the need was so great. Adoptions had stopped, creating a shortage of cash. Rice donations were reduced. Children needed vaccines and other medical care. Nannies weren’t getting paid. Cambodia Tomorrow stepped in to fund these needs and many others. When another NGO wasn’t able to take all of our qualifying University students, we quickly pulled together a program and helped seven young men receive university degrees.
We continued to send all children residing at KSOC to a local English school, a number that by 2006 had grown to almost 100 students. In 2007, we tested the progress of the students and decided that the students weren’t learning satisfactorily at the local school. Pol Sok Ly, the orphanage director, asked us to build a school at KSOC. Before we agreed, we hired a teacher to teach in a makeshift classroom, to see if we could do a better job. Convinced we could, we raised money and in 2008, opened the Cambodia Tomorrow School on the KSOC grounds.
Since then our school has had many successes. Our teachers have provided more than an English language school to the residents of KSOC. They have also been instrumental in tutoring the older students in their Khmer public school classes allowing many to successfully pass their High School exams and gain entry into University. In the last few years, with the number of children living permanently at KSOC declining, we opened our school to nearby community students, allowing students to live at home while studying English.
However, much has changed in Cambodia in the last fourteen years. Mobile phones and computers are widely available. Roads are better. Food is more plentiful. Pay is higher. Many students who used to return to farm in their villages are now working in garment factories, in construction and on fishing boats. As a result of this economic improvement in Cambodia, the orphan population continues to decrease and the majority of children currently living at KSOC have one or more living parents. They are no longer a group of children without hope of a better life or education, but have been placed at the center by well-meaning parents.
The Cambodia Tomorrow Board met together in October of 2015 for a weekend of intense discussion — we considered our mission, current conditions in Cambodia and asked ourselves the hard question: Are we continuing to do good? Is the mission and vision of Cambodia Tomorrow still valid? Are we helping to create a program that benefits the children of Cambodia or are we creating a situation that entices parents to place their children in the center?
We were joined by a highly respected international development professional, who has facilitated localization efforts with other NGOs in Cambodia. We had earlier asked our consultant to visit The Cambodia Tomorrow School in July 2015 to make an objective assessment. What we learned was that the school was managed and run very well, but that in the context of the changing economy in Cambodia, it was likely not continuing to serve the children in Cambodia according to our original mission or vision.
While each of the board members agreed that we have accomplished a great deal for the children of Cambodia in the last 14 years, the decision was unanimous to end Cambodia Tomorrow’s administration and funding of The Cambodia Tomorrow School at the close of the 2015-16 school year.
In December 2015, Board President Elizabeth Gullam and Treasurer Scott Nichols traveled to Cambodia. In a series of meetings, they presented our decision to our program manager Sokoeun Sngin (Ken), the orphanage director Pol Sok Ly and our teaching staff. While they were disappointed to lose our financial and educational support, they were very gracious in their thanks for our work over the last 14 years. The teachers were all assured of their positions through August 2016, including a retention bonus for finishing out this academic year.
As we write this letter, there is some momentum from another NGO to continue to run the school as an English and vocational school, filling a need for older students graduating from high school and moving into the work force. Other NGOs will continue to offer university scholarships to the highest achieving students. The building facility, with its two large classrooms and two offices, will provide a space for whatever classes the director feels are most advantageous for the students.
What does this mean for you? First, we could not have sustained Cambodia Tomorrow without the financial and emotional support of our scholarship sponsors, donors and board members. For that, we are forever grateful. You have made it possible for 14 classes of students to learn new skills and open up new opportunities. Some of our students have graduated from universities. Some returned to families. Some learned a new trade. All were exposed to another language, new technology and attentive and caring teachers. Under the guidance of our Educational Director, our teachers were introduced to progressive methods of teaching that they can take with them to their next position. Students became conversant in English and adept with computers and the internet, opening up access to the world wide web of knowledge.
Financially, we are set to continue to operate the school effectively through August 2016. We will also continue to provide the additional basic needs support as we have for the past 14 years. All of this will be possible using the funds remaining in our account. We suspended our annual fundraising once we made the decision in October. However, we continued to bill sponsors through December 2015, since all students will be in school for the 2015-16 school year. Assuming we have no surprises, there is a slight chance that we may have some nominal cash reserves left at the end of August. In that event, we will determine the best possible use of those funds to support KSOC in some manner. We will continue to update you in our newsletter through this year.
We truly feel that we have accomplished what we set out to do and it is time to empower the Cambodian staff to run their education programs. We also acknowledge that there is still much work to do in Cambodia. Many of you support more than one organization, as do most members of our Board. We hope that you will continue to contribute to non-profit organizations supporting education, health, and social justice in Cambodia.
We are forever changed by our time in Cambodia. We will not forget. We value the friendships built with the students and our staff – they will stay in our hearts forever. We profoundly value the relationships we have made with all of you, our scholarship sponsors and donors. All of us at Cambodia Tomorrow extend our deepest gratitude for the support we have received from you. We absolutely couldn’t have done it without you! Our mission, Educating Cambodia’s Children, is one we now entrust to the people of Cambodia.
The Board of Cambodia Tomorrow
Scott Nichols (founding member)
Catherine MacNeal (founding member)