Our First School in Cambodia is Open!

Thanks to so many of you who have supported our fundraising efforts, the school we’ve been building in Cambodia is now finished and open!!!

Read on to see photos, find out more about the school and how we did it. 

Wow what an experience and it’s not over yet…

It doesn’t seem like twelve months ago when I told Duncan Ward from Classroom of Hope that I wanted to sponsor the building of a school in Cambodia.

I’d spent several years following my last humanitarian trip to Rwanda in 2014, searching for another charitable project to get involved with. Having discovered Duncan’s work through an organisation called B1G1 I knew I’d found the ideal challenge. I had no idea how I was going to raise the funds, but being an eternal optimist I thought it must be possible.

Duncan told me about another sponsor who had brought together a team of people to raise the funds. This gave me hope the perfect team would emerge from my wonderful family, friends, business network and community. And it did. Thanks to them and all our supporters we’ve pulled it off. Phew!

It doesn’t seem real yet and I’m sure it won’t until we’re in Cambodia in January 2020 attending the official school opening ceremony. 

Where is the school?

Srei Krosang Village, Trapeang Prasat District, Northwest Cambodia. on the border with Thailand. 

How many pupils are at the school?

274 (135 boys, 139 girls). One of the things we were keen to ensure was that girls would be equally represented at the school which is one of the reasons we chose this school. 

Our journey in photos

Providing jobs through the three-month build… 

I felt so humbed and excited when I first saw this photo of our school in Cambodia. I’d considered the impact of the school in terms of the pupils, teachers and community once the school was built. We’d also talked about the use of local contractors to help build the local economy. But it was only when I saw this photo that it sank in. We’d provided jobs to a team of people for three months.

Nothing prepared me for the excitment of seeing photos of the finished school.

From this…

An old wooden building with only two classrooms…

To this…

Our School in Cambodia

A permanent school with five fully furnished classrooms and a toilet block

A special blessing…

A classroom being taught by a female teacher. Again seeing this was a reminder that in building this school we’ve not only provided a child-friendly school with spaces conducive for learning, we’ve also helped secure jobs (the local district has pledged to employ and pay the teachers). 

These children are the future of this community and it’s wonderful to know through having a better school with toilets these children are likely to live happier, healthier and more prosperous lives. 

How much did it cost?

The original target was £35,000 (approximiately US$50,000) but we ended up building a larger school so the total build cost ended up being £45,000 (approximately US$63,000). 

How did we raise the funds?

As soon as I started mentioning to friends that I’d decided to raise funds to build a school in Cambodia, people started asking to join me. After only three months I had a team of eleven adults and two children. 

Anyone can raise and donate funds to the cause here. However, everyone in the core team, who wanted to come out and visit the school, was responsible for raising £3,500.  

There have been many ways we’ve raised the funds including running fundraising events, selling fundraising products (candles, bracelets and silver rings), fundraising raffles/auctions, carol singing, sky-diving, offering services to clients for donations and inviting donations on the bottom of invoices. 

We also had a couple of wonderful funding partners:

In December, Work for Good, an organisation that helps businesses raise funds for charities in the UK, ran a pre-Christmas promotion pledging to match donations made through their platform up to a certain value. It was great timing as we’d just delivered a fundraising event and had funds to process. We were fortunate to receive match funding of £5,000. 

By June this year, the team had raised £38,083 as you can see here. This excluded a couple of off-line donations plus gift aid that took the total raised by the team to £41,223. But this was still short of what we needed to pay the team in Cambodia. I was away on holiday when the balance was due and set the intention to be open to receiving a donation from an unexpected source. That same day a charity called The Acts of Kindness Collective approached me and offered to be our funding partner to make up the difference.

I’d started working with The Acts of Kindness Collective at the end of 2018 when they set up fundraising pages that enabled us to collect sterling donations (Classroom of Hope is an Australian charity). One of the co-founders Justin Cava-Jones had also been incredible in registering with Work for Good (only a few days after his son was born) which helped us secure the match funding from them. I met up with Justin while visiting Bali earlier this year and knew they were a perfect fit. Justin already felt like part of the team and so I accepted their kind offer with deep gratitude.

We are still raising funds to minimise the funds needed from The Acts of Kindness Collective–if you feel inclined to do so, you can donate here

Our team members

We’ve been supported by so many people–thank you if you’ve been involved!

The following people are members of the core team who will be joining me to visit the school in Cambodia in January:

Alisoun Mackenzie, Paul Winkle, Bernadette Petrie, Angela McCusker, Laura Thomas (with daughters Olivia and Lilly and her partner Justin Badden),  Jackie Forbes, Alastair Forbes, Jennifer Main, Caroline McLuckie, and Mel Sherwood. 

A huge thanks also to Kim Macleod, Lori Leyden and Brooke Emerson Scharfstein who made significant contributions. 

Who were our partners?

Selecting brilliant capable partners critical to delivering a project like this. 

Our main charity partner is Classroom of Hope. They are an incredible charity with whom I look forward to working with again. Here’s a photo of me meeting the founder Duncan Ward with his wife Nicola Courtin when I was in Bali earlier this year. They run the charity with a small support team. We’re delighted to have sponsored their 50th school.

Other notable partners who helped make this happen include:

Work for Good – as mentioned above. 

The Acts of Kindness Collective – as mentioned above. 

Child’s Dream – the partners through Classroom of Hope responsible for the selection, building and long-term monitoring of the school. They are ranked 65th in the top 500 NGOs in the world for their work in increasing access to quality education, providing higher education and health projects in Asia. 

Our Impact

My mission is to have a positive impact on the lives of 100,000+ people–by making it easy for womenpreneurs, leaders and changemakers to have more impact in the world.

As I often talk about, there is a difference between contribution (in this case raising funds) and having an impact.

Many lives will benefit from building this school, not just for those in Cambodia but also those of us involved in the project. I’ll be sharing the impact this project has had on the lives of our team members in another post. Here I share some of the anticipated local commiunity benefits. 

The total impact of us building the school cannot ever be fully established but we know it includes the impact of having provided:

  • Construction workers jobs for three months while building the school.
  • Securing work for three paid teachers for the school (and work experience for a further two voluntary teachers).
  • Child-friendly primary school education for an estimated 750 pupils over ten years (the minimum life expectancy of the school). 
  • It’s anticipated that attendance will increase now the school provides a more comfortable and better-equipped space for learning. 
  • Cambodia is one of the worst countries for human trafficking. Helping girls attend school reduces the likelihood they will fall prey to sex trafficking. 
  • A toilet block (with four toilets) for better sanitation and reduce the risk of hygiene-related illnesses.
  • Increased health and prosperity for all the school pupils plus the 421 families in the community (population of approximately 1,847). 

Once we’ve visited the school and spoken to pupils, teachers and members of the community we’ll be in a better position to share the impact our new school is having. 

Want to join my next fundraising team?

One of my intentions is to have a positive social impact in line with the Global Sustainability Development Goals. Particularly those relating to tackling poverty (1), providing quality education (4) and through partnerships (17).

Building this school in Cambodia, in the way we’ve done it, feels completely aligned to the legacy I’d love to leave and I’d love to build another school. That said doing so is a huge committment, both timewise and financially. 

I’ve therefore decided to take a break and wait until I return from our January trip before deciding if I’ll do it again.

I’m also exploring opportunities through Classroom of Hope for future projects. 

One of the things that will influence my decision will be whether there are enough womenpreneurs who’d like to join me.

If you are a womenpreneur, changemaker or leader who’d be interested in joining my next team, please register your interest HERE

P.S.  Check out my TEDx Talk Isn’t Business an Opportunity to be Kind HERE. 
Often described as one of the most authentic and inspiring souls you can meet, Alisoun is on a mission to improve the lives of 100,000 people–by making it easy for womenpreneurs, leaders, and changemakers to have more impact in the world.

Alisoun’s keynote talks, training, mentoring, and best-selling books  and Heartatude: The 9 Principles of Heart-Centered Success have favorably changed the good fortune of thousands of people worldwide. She loves doing humanitarian work, fundraising and living by the beach in Scotland.

Alisoun is has written the following free resources:

  • Ebook: 101 Ways To Attract Great Clients, With Heart, Integrity & Social Impact (click here)
  • Ebook: 52 Ways to Raise Funds for Charities and Social Causes Through Your Business (click here)

You can connect with Alisoun here:

  • Alisoun Mackenzie Facebook Fanpage – click HERE
  • Womenpreneurs Doing Good Facebook group – click HERE
  • Linkedin – click HERE
  • Twitter – @AlisounMac
  • Youtube – click HERE.


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