(1/2) ‘From the moment our feet hit the dry and dusty red Cambodian dirt our hearts and our heads knew this place would change our path forever.’ We are talking to Cassie, Co-Founder for Hearts to Harmony, Siem Reap, Cambodia. ‘In March 2012 my sister Lauren and I left home thinking a two year adventure would certainly cure our wanderlust, but like most things in life, our plans didn’t quite turn out the way we had expected.’
Our original plan was to spend three months traveling South East Asia then move on to the UK to work and travel. But from the moment our feet hit the dry and dusty red Cambodian dirt our hearts and our heads knew this place would change our path forever.
We instantly feel in love with the Cambodian people, their welcoming nature, positive attitude and infectious smiles. But the more we got to know them and their history, we had a new-found respect for their hunger for education and determination for growth.
To give back to this country who had opened our hearts so wide we started a social enterprise cafe called Sister Srey Café in November 2012 to make a sustainable impact on the local community. Our vision is to support young Khmer students who struggle to keep a balance between study and supporting their family. Each staff member is trained in hospitality, English language skills, personal development, health and hygiene and banking. We assist with university fees and international language classes. We are a stepping stone to a brighter future and a means for them to have the skills and knowledge to approach the world empowered and confident.
We then started Hearts to Harmony Foundation to help our staff’s immediate and extended families. Its aim is to enhance the lives of individuals through education, and to create a healthy and safe environment for them. We provide education scholarships from Primary School through to University. Our outreach program in rural Siem Reap consists of regular health workshops, assistance with dental care and food packages.
We currently have 46 individuals in our education programs. All of them came from different situations that prevented them from studying, such as poverty, location, gender but they all have one thing in common- a passion for growth and education. We also have 6 families in our food program, which consists of monthly food packages, and directly employ 21 people.
We often get asked about the difference in other peoples’ lives we have made but really it was them who made the difference in our lives. I love Cambodia because of the way it’s changed ME, Cambodia did nothing but exist, and yet I feel like I owe this country everything. It reawakened me, and altered the course of my life forever. I’ve learned to appreciate, and to see beauty in things I never used to recognize. Cambodia has taught me that when you take the journey to become a better person, you allow room for others to do the same.’
In Part 2 we find out how two Sister Srey staff members were inspired to help a family in desperate need. Pictured, sisters Cassie and Lauren.