How One Bike Can Put A Rural Village On The Path To Success
By Glenn Croston
When Bill and Nancy Bamberger from San Diego first visited Cambodia as tourists in 2002, they were struck by its long history, the warmth of its people, and the devastation that was still evident from long years of violence and neglect. A whole generation of educated people had been killed or fled the violence of the Khmer Rouge, holding back the growth of Cambodia today. To help reverse that trend, the Bambergers created the Cambodian Village Fund, supporting education in the rural village of Kaun Khlong.
The Bambergers’ 40th anniversary was approaching soon after they returned to San Diego, when Nancy talked with her new hairdresser Chanra Chheum, who was born in Cambodia and had come to the U.S. as a teenager to escape the violence. Chanra had recently visited Kaun Khlong, where she still had family, and had bought a bike for the village for $40. There was little transportation there other than walking, and a simple measure like a bike could make a difference for many. “People in the village could share it. Kids could go to school and people could do little errands,” said Bill when I talked with him. Forty dollars, 40th anniversary; it was a sign. For their anniversary, Bill and Nancy decided to buy the village a second bike.
A single bike may not sound like a big deal, but soon word spread with their friends in San Diego who wanted to buy a bike for the village as well. One thing lead to another and they had an anniversary party with their friends. People bringing money for the fund rather than bringing a gift, and the party collected $2,500 for the village. “It was really a shock,” said Bill.
This was more than they had expected and the money went far in Cambodia, buying bedding, blankets, food, mosquito nets, and bikes, and uniforms for students, with another round of fundraising. When they went to the village to help deliver the supplies, it was the first time they had been there, and they thought at the time it would be the last. “We thought it would be the end of it,” said Bill. It wasn’t.
“It was an amazing experience, a big celebration, and the kids are so appreciative,” said Bill. “The mayor was there. There were speeches, and when the kids went home, a school administrator walked with us to a plot of land, and asked if we could help to fill the land, leveling it. It would cost $4,500. We got home, talked to friends, and after eight months or so had money to do the fill.” When the fill was done the next step for the fund was a big one. “As soon as the fill was done, then they asked if we could help build a school. We said we’d see what we could do.”
To read more, click here: Cambodian Village Fund