Our story begins in 2002 when we, Alex & Ann Soldner, responded to a need for qualified and committed volunteers to help in the rebuilding and recovery of Cambodia. Firm believers in the adage that “the best ability is availability”, we have sought to invest our time, resources, experience and talents to help any situation or person, as best we can.
The parents of 8 children (and now 5 grandchildren), we had lived and worked in Southeast Asia for the past 25 years in such countries as India, the Philippines, Hong Kong, and Thailand. During that time we’ve helped established community homeschooling cooperatives, participated in disaster relief for flood and landslide victims, organized teacher trainings and seminars, developed curriculums and led English camps and courses for rural students. Ann served as a natural labor coach, assisting many women through healthy, natural childbirths, and also developed a program to prepare abandoned preschool children for adoption abroad, eliminating the main causes of reactive attachment disorder and earning an award from the Thai Prime Minister.
Since coming to Cambodia, our heart has always been “for the children” and our desire has been to provide the same standard of love, nurturing and development to the children and young people we work with, as we would want our own children to receive.
The first project we initiated was “Family Time” with the children from Kolap-4, an orphanage under of the Ministry of Social Welfare. Each weekend for 4 years, the children came to our home for a morning of fun creative activities and a healthy lunch. We found sponsors for many of the children to cover their basic needs, provided scholarships to international high school for several and worked on sourcing dental care for all.
Through that project we began a partnership with ASPECA and their dedicated dental team. In the following months we traveled with their mobile dental unit, providing free dental care and dental health classes to thousands of children in schools and orphanages throughout Cambodia.
While traveling with the dental mission, we met the director of Phum Thnal Primary school in Siem Reap, and began a partnership with the staff and students there. We listened to the teachers as to what the greatest needs were and began a project to meet those needs. In 2005 we built a teacher’s office and counseling room, and began free English classes during the lunch period. In 2007, we renovated a classroom and installed 20 computers so that English and computer classes could operate all day. In 2008, we facilitated the building of a 3 classroom building for the school, thus enabling English and computer classes to run simultaneously, and provide 200 students with free English and IT training daily. In 2014, we expanded this successful model to another public primary school, Sandan, where we have installed an IT lab and hired teachers to provide another 200 primary school children with daily English and IT instruction. We are currently operating and supporting daily classes for 400 children.
As we developed our rural education programs, we were introduced to CCPCR, a local Cambodian organization dedicated to the rescue, recovery and reintegration of child victims of human trafficking, sexual abuse and domestic violence. We began a partnership in 2006 to assist them in their excellent work. Over the years we have raised the funding to cover a large percentage of the operations budget for the Phnom Penh residential shelter. We provide trauma informed training to the staff and caregivers and conduct weekly creative art therapy sessions to help the children recover and build up their resilience.
Along the way, we have also noted the great need for local language publications and tools both for children and for parents, teachers and caregivers. To this end we have translated children and adult books, powerpoints, seminar materials, magazines and radio programs aimed at inspiring and motivating children, parents, teachers and caregivers.
We firmly believe that Cambodia’s future rests in the hands of the young men and women who are motivated to reach out to others and use their talents and abilities to improve their communities. Therefore we partner with Cambodian organizations and individuals who are likeminded, using our time and resources to help them succeed.