Friday, December 25, 2015

First impressions of JWOC

Standing in the visa line in Siem Reap after arriving in a swathe of sunshine and tourism, I knew Cambodia was going to be very different from my previous country of residence, Bangladesh. Having traveled through Cambodia before, I knew a little about the country’s history and culture; and as the nostalgia pulsed through my veins in the immigration queue and my passport was being stamped, I was very much ready to make Siem Reap my home and take on a new challenge.

I was excited.

Let me provide some context: Siem Reap is a town built upon tourism. The temple complex of Angkor Wat draws in visitors from around the world to come and view its spectacle. This is great for the local economy, bringing in what I imagine is millions of dollars, which in turn should have a positive impact on the socio-economic development of those living in and around it. However, given that Cambodia is a developing country, we know that is not always the case.

Those who have visited Siem Reap know that as well as the five-star hotels and resorts, there is still visible poverty and inequality amongst many Cambodians who are looking to benefit from a portion of the millions available.

This is where Journeys Within Our Community (JWOC) comes in, providing a range of services and programs in and around Siem Reap, to make sure local residents can improve their quality of life. Through innovative programs based in the heart of the community (Scholarships, Free Classes and Community Support), JWOC has managed to create a rapport and understanding within the community beyond any traditional NGO.

Knowing this, I was still quite nervous on my first day (as most of us are); however, after walking into the community center for the first time, all my nervousness quickly subsided. Students were playing tag. What could be more natural? Phew!

This initial experience perfectly sums up JWOC and the aura that exists here – the enthusiasm and professionalism of the scholarship students and staff we have is exemplary and clear to see by all involved. I was lucky enough to arrive in Cambodia just in time to ride with the students on the 30 km “Race 4 Change” Angkor Bike Ride and to then celebrate their achievements at the graduation party. I have since experienced their fieldwork in villages, their classroom teaching and witnessed JWOC’s ability to transfer such enthusiasm and work ethos into the programs.

You may walk into JWOC with a frown, but nobody walks out with one!

From the first day at JWOC up until now I have found myself engaged in every aspect of an exciting and vibrant organization filled with youth enthusiasm and spirit; and, with the 10th anniversary of the organization coming up next year, a celebratory mood.

As the Communications and Fundraising manager, I have the responsibility of highlighting and showcasing JWOC in the best way possible, both outside and inside our walls. And as far as I can tell, JWOC is already doing this for me!

So as the nostalgia in my veins runs out, I find it being replaced with optimism and anticipation for the coming months.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

Final Science Presentations!

Earlier this month, students of our Free Classes science curriculum recapped the topics they've learned in a final presentation! Twenty-six students participated, each one choosing a topic among the twelve lessons. Topics included Plants, Animals, Food Chain, Environment, Hygiene and Health, Nutrition and Human Body, and more. Parents and previous science students also joined in to show their support!


 "It was a great time for them to show what they have learned from here to their parents and everyone. I was so proud of what they have done!"  - Teacher Nesa

Saturday, September 12, 2015

JWOC goes Back to School!

Here at JWOC, we believe that education is the key to success. It lays the foundation for opportunity and growth, both personally and professionally, for students of all ages. This year, over 1,000 students have enrolled in JWOC courses spanning from English to Science to Computer Literacy. In addition, our library has hosted a number of community learning activities like drop-in art classes, kindergarten classes and a variety of trainings - all free to our students. And with each course our Free Classes program offers, our hope is to instill lessons that transcend the classroom and bring about positive change within the community. 

Eng Kea and students at International Youth Day, August 2015

One of the many JWOC staff that helps make this hope a reality is Eng Kea. He is our Free Classes Assistant Manager for Program Development and a scholarship student who has been volunteering in Free Classes for four years! At just 22 years old, he has made a lasting impression on the program and a huge impact on the lives' of the students he teaches.

"The reason why I love Free Classes is because of the Free Classes' vision... it is similar to my goal that I want to be an English Teacher at University who can share knowledge and experiences of teaching to the children and people in my own community and the world."

Eng Kea currently teaches our Way Ahead and Smart Choice classes, which are part of our English language curriculum. Way Ahead is our longest running children's program that brings together language lessons and grammar with games and songs for students aged 9-15. And the Smart Choice series is for students who have finished Way Ahead but aren't quite old enough to join our adult classes. To learn more about our Free Classes offerings, you can visit our website!

We're so happy and lucky to have Eng Kea and the many other staff and scholarship students working within the Free Classes Program. They help our vision come to life. And as we enter this new academic year, we want to strengthen our collective impact on the students we teach and support a community so eager to learn. Your donation can make a huge difference in our students' lives. Give the gift of education and support the students who attend JWOC's Free Classes today!
Thank you so much for your continued support of JWOC. Looking forward to this new year of Free Classes!

Sunday, August 30, 2015

Our View, Our Story - JWOC Scholarship Student Photo Exhibition

Last Sunday, friends gathered at New Leaf Book Cafe to celebrate the incredible photography of JWOC Scholarship Students. 

In partnership with PhotoForward, an international media arts programme, JWOC scholarship students participated in a two week photography workshop where they learned skills in digital photography, editing and visual storytelling. The result: a catalog of captivating images of the world around us, seen through the eyes of our scholars. 

Each image embodied a different aspect of Cambodia... the determination of working villagers, the serenity of the countryside, the hustle-and-bustle of daily life. The photographs inspired conversation among guests, who had the opportunity to provide feedback for each image. 

The evening also included funny poses and smiling faces in the photo booth and a candid behind-the-scenes slideshow of the students at work.

A huge thank you to our sponsors PhotoForward, Dream Photo Tours and New Leaf Book Cafe for making the night possible!

For more photos of the event, keep scrolling!

(all images courtesy of An Sarout and PhotoForward)

The Scholarship Student Team
Click the image to read their thoughts about photography and their community!

Our View, Our Story

Photo Booth Fun

Certificate Ceremony

Our Fantastic Sponsors

Friday, August 14, 2015

From Scholarship Student to Program Manager - As Told By Lita

We are amazed every day by our scholarship students. The hard work and dedication they show for both their studies and volunteer work with JWOC is inspiring. We are always eager to see the incredible things they will do after university, especially the impact they will have in their communities. With that, we are extremely proud and excited to welcome our very own scholarship student Lita to the JWOC team as Microfinance Program Manager!

A bit more from Lita...

Hello! My name is Vuth Lita. I was born in Kampong Cham province and moved to Siem Reap city in 2005 with my family. Since graduating high school in 2011, I have been pursuing a degree in Finance and Banking at University of South East Asia through the JWOC Scholarship award. 

This opportunity has helped me to be able to volunteer as a Credit Officer with JWOC since 2011. At the same time, to gain various experiences, I worked as an Assistant Accountant at Provincial Department of Rural Development for three years. After that, I worked as an Accountant at Fragrance Angkor Hotel for six months.

During my volunteering time as a Loan Officer at JWOC, I controlled the process of credit and saving related transactions from the advertisement period through to collection. I also promoted JWOC’s products and services to the clients and other stakeholders. 

In 2014, I became a Loan Officer Team Leader. My obligation has been coaching and training the team members on product knowledge and credit assessment skill. 

I really enjoy helping people who have no enough money to extend their businesses and to increase their standard of living. If they can run their business smoothly, they can afford to send their children to school. 
This means I am able to help children access educational opportunities as well.

I’m very happy to have this chance to work in JWOC as the position of Microfinance Program Manager. I hope that I can help scholarship students with their experiences in microfinance and help people extend their businesses.

To learn more about our Microfinance Program, please visit our website here
And to stay updated on all things JWOC, like us on Facebook!

Sunday, July 05, 2015

Reunited with the Free Classes Program

JWOC scholarships change lives. Through their 4 years with JWOC, our scholarship students give back to their community by serving as the volunteer staff for JWOC’s programs, which allows them both to grow as individuals and to have a huge impact on their community.

Our "Bringing Our Graduates Back” event will see ten of our former scholarship students return to JWOC to spend a day volunteering on our programs to raise funds and awareness. We are attempting to raise a total of $10,000, which will enable our Clean Water, Free Classes, Microfinance and Community Support programs to continue delivering critically needed assistance to our communities.

We invite you to support the initiative by following this link

This week, we will meet the 3 graduates who came back to volunteer with the Free Classes Program.

Borey, Piseth and Tep have all gone on to become successful members of the community and are truly great people. It was fantastic to see them back at JWOC working alongside our current group of scholarship students.The former scholarship students were matched up with current teachers and went through the lesson plan for the class ahead. Using the skills they first learned at JWOC and have honed since they began their professional careers they took an active role in classes, overseeing students work and running activities and games. Here’s what the graduates had to say about coming back to work with JWOC.


Borey Chhoeung graduated from JWOC in 2014; he now works for GoGlobal as the Assistant Principal.

‘’The reason I want to come back and volunteer for JWOC is because they helped me so much through my bachelors degree and I learnt so much. I just want to help JWOC as much as possible. JWOC is my second home and the only place that has changed my life. My advice to the current students:  Help JWOC, help your community and you will help yourself. Help JWOC as much as possible because you will learn great life lessons. I certainly did.”



Tep Morn graduated from JWOC in 2013. After spending 4 years volunteering on the Free Classes Program he moved on to become an English teacher at the Salariin Kampuchea Organization. Tep is a dedicated teacher who appreciates all the teacher training that was given to him during his time at JWOC.

“I learnt so much through the monthly seminars and teacher training workshops, it has got me to where I am today and given me a huge opportunity in life. I am looking forward to come back because JWOC is such a huge part of my life. I want to share the skills I have learnt with the current scholarship students. I know the Free Classes Program has grown so much since I was a scholarship student, I am looking forward to seeing the impact it has.”


Piseth Has graduated from our scholarship program in 2009. Since then he has achieved great things in his local community and is now the operations manager for Possibilities World.

“JWOC helped me gain useful and practical experiences that changed my life. Completing higher education and developing my skills has enabled me to get a better job. I want to come back to JWOC to see the current breed of scholarship students giving back.  My advice to the current students, commit yourself to your volunteering and you will get a deep sense of satisfaction from every experience, it will give you a broader outlook in life and give you a platform to achieve great things.”

Keep following to hear from the other graduates who came back and volunteered with us at JWOC.

Please donate and help us raise $10,000 for JWOC’s programs.

Thursday, May 28, 2015

JWOC welcomes Faina to the team

Dear Friends of Journeys Within Our Community (JWOC),

Today, JWOC announces a change to its Siem Reap, Cambodia leadership team.  I am delighted to welcome Faina Gersh as JWOC's new Managing Director (MD) and sad to bid farewell to Alex Plummer who is JWOC's outgoing MD.

Alex has completed her contract with JWOC and is moving onto the next chapter of her career.  She has been JWOC's MD for the past 2 years and prior to assuming the role of MD, she was JWOC's Education and Volunteer Manager.  Under Alex's leadership, JWOC's programs continued to thrive and serve its beneficiaries and supporters.  Notably, Alex has deepened scholarship student alumni connections with JWOC through mentoring, career days and establishing a new alumni advisory board.  She has supported the use of technology in education by helping refresh JWOC's computer lab and bringing software into the classroom to more effectively teach English and Science.  Alex helped her staff implement a science club for youth and make improvements to all of JWOC's educational offerings particularly to classes for children under age 8.  We will miss Alex and wish her all the best as she continues along her professional journey. 

Let me introduce Faina to you.  She is passionate about service, travel and culture, which is what brought her to JWOC. She is originally from the Ukraine, having immigrated as a child to the US, Faina comes to JWOC from the San Francisco Bay Area of California. Her professional experience is in the medical and legal fields and she has a variety of non-profit experience ranging from development, fundraising, child advocacy, hunger/meals delivery and animal welfare. After traveling through South East Asia she fell in love with Cambodia and decided to settle long term and bring her business, entrepreneurship and non-profit experience to JWOC. We welcome Faina to the JWOC family. 

We are fortunate to benefit from such talented and passionate MD leadership at JWOC.  As friends of JWOC, we appreciate your on-going support and connection to our organization.  Please feel free to reach out to me, Faina and/or Alex to share your suggestions and thoughts about JWOC.


Jane Price

JWOC Executive Director 

Saturday, May 09, 2015

Revisiting previous clean water villages

Seng, our Clean Water Program Manager, discusses the recent revisit to previous clean water village and how this helps to refine JWOC's programs for the future

Making time available to return to our previous Clean Water villages is an important aspect of the Clean Water Program. It enables us to recognize what has changed in those villages and what the project can do more to support the needs of the villagers. It helps us evaluate the program so we can be more effective as we continue to deliver access to clean water and hygiene education to villages in need.

The aim of the revisit was to assess the villages current access to clean water, their hygiene practices, access to clean drinking water and their sanitation needs.

We chose seven villages, DuonKeov, Brasat Char, Doun On, Antangkon, Ta Kam, Pong Ro, and KorkBeng, to revisit because it had been more than two years since we had initially started working with them. They are all around 30kilometres from JWOC and the size of the villages vary from 150 – 350 families. All the villages that we revisited were primarily farming villages which grow one rice crop per year with many of the villagers leaving to work illegally in Thailand.

Kouk Beng, which is the latest village on the revisit list, had really positive results. All JWOC wells are being used, they’re working properly and have enough water all year round.

We reported a number of well breakages, but the breakages are small and the wells are still operational. One positive aspect of the revisit was that villagers were fixing their own wells. In Kouk Beng we found that all the villagers had made repairs to the wells and all were all operational.

Many of the villagers continue to still use filters from JWOC, we found that a few families had bought new filters. A small amount of villagers were drinking water directly from the source without using a filter, their reason for this was that they weren’t aware of where to get a filter from. We provided villagers with contact details for purchasing new filters. Upon evaluation we have decided to add extra training components regarding water filter usage. We are investigating why some villagers still choose to drink directly from the water source but in the meantime, we have updated the trainings to make them more interactive. Furthermore, we have improved the visuals that are used in the flip charts so the scholarship students convey the important information regarding water filters in a more engaging fashion. We have also included an understanding checklist into the trainings. 

In terms of hygiene knowledge acquisition we have seen most practicing well, 69% mention at least 3important activities to wash their hands before eating, before preparing food and after using the toilet especially they use the soap most of time when they are washing their hands. Most of villagers are brushing their teeth every day, 95% stated that brushing the teeth every day is important.

What we have found in the villages is really important information that helps us refine the program for the future. We are always looking for ways to improve the program and analyzing and assessing our previous work is the best way to move forward. We will continue to help communities help themselves as it is the way that can bring about sustainable change.

As the Clean Water Program Manager I would like to thank everyone who has made our program possible, our communities cannot improve without your support, thank you!

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