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Same Same But Different–A Different Way To Give

Posted on by samesamecharity

I’ve always wanted to give back. It’s exciting to help people in need.

A few years ago I wanted to do something big to give back. I found a great organization in Cambodia that was helping children in need, educating them and feeding them. The most exciting part was that, once the kids turned 18 and headed back to the streets, this organization raised money to send them to university or trade school! I thought this was cool. Kids who had nothing were given the life-changing chance to get more education.

After some initial planning, I wanted to see this place for myself. I rounded up some friends and we flew to Cambodia. We had 4 days to meet with government and nonprofit leaders and design a project that would get more kids educated.

We arrived in Cambodia with no luggage (the airline didn’t find our bags until we left to return home) and our guide took us shopping for new shirts and shorts. The store was nothing more than a tin shack butted up against and old building. Blake joked that he had never been second hand shopping in a third world country.

It was a great team effort. We came up with a plan to build a hotel that would allow our Cambodian partners to generate their own money for tuition. A few days later we were back in Canada and we went to work. I began sharing my vision to others and getting as much advice from experts as possible. I found many great volunteers who helped brand, strategize, and fundraise. After nearly 18 months we raised $100,000 to build this multipurpose hotel in Cambodia.

Len Walker, who I had never met before, came highly recommended as someone who could oversee the construction. He graciously donated his time and flew to Cambodia to make this dream happen. He was invaluable in rallying the community to help in the construction. He did things the best way–used local labour, paid equal wages to men and women (the men were surprised to see females getting paid equivalent wages), and scrimped and saved to build a beautiful 7000 square foot building with limited funds.

Rather than simply applying the donated money to scholarships for high school graduates, we collaborated with Cambodian government and NGO leaders to design an innovative way to make these donations perpetual.  This hotel allows our friends in Cambodia to earn their own money for scholarships. With hotel rooms upstairs, and classrooms on the main floor, we can house guests throughout the year. A group of 10 people staying for a week generates enough money to send a student to university for a year!

This wouldn’t have been possible without so much help from generous and talented volunteers around the world. I’m happy to have been a part of such a great project that will help people for years to come. We’ll be able to send kids to school for years to come. It’s our way of making our donor’s money work overtime to send as many kids to school as possible.

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