This project started to take shape when the chair of the Department of Business Dr. Dewayne Thompson and assistant professor of Business Guy DeLoach went on a trip in 2009 to Cambodia with the People for Care and Learning.
This organization has been offering classes to village children and is a major presence in Cambodia.
The trip included a visit to the Tonle Sap Lake, a floating village of about 1 million ostracized Vietnamese people. The people living on the lake share a common story of suffering — they have been banished from the mainland and forced to live in abject poverty and plight.
Cambodia is known for its sex trade of young children as many parents sell their children due to indebtedness brought on by local lenders. Seeing the problems from a close range, Thompson and DeLoach decided that something had to be done to break the cycle of poverty, and the idea of a sustainable village model entered a period of incubation and hope.
“When we returned, we decided to offer a course consistent with our experiential learning model but with a purpose to alleviate the suffering of a few,” said Thompson.
“While our efforts are modest, we have 13 students involved in developing four business plans that we hope can be implemented to break the cycle and create the sustainable village.”
Katie Rowcliffe, Blake Kernea, and Jacob Brown are working on a soy production project which they hope will allow them to provide a nutritional meal for the Tonle Sap children. These students also have concrete plans of Soymilk production and including “okara”, a soymilk byproduct, in some of the local food to provide an effective source of protein for children.
Kayla Smith, Ginny Stewart, and Justin McComber are developing a business plan to produce solar energy to power refrigeration for the barge and to create other revenue-producing enterprises.
Integrated farming is the project being developed by Morgan Adams, Andrea Mouser, and Jared Houghton. This is a green initiative that includes building fisheries, pig farms, and other agricultural plans designed to provide a source of income for families.
Cait Kooistra, Kristine Tuck, Lauren Thompson, and Alan Ponce are working on the microenterprise and microfinance project. They hope to loan money for personal needs and to create business opportunities.
“An alumna, Bilguun Boldbaatar, is an advisor to the teams,” said Thompson. “BB, as she is better known by, is from Mongolia and has tacit insight.”
The project has a clear vision in incorporating locals and tapping into the local resources and partners, as the goal is to make life better for Cambodians’ families, including those on the Tonle Sap Lake.
“Students have individuals who serve as advisors to help navigate through the more difficult and technical aspects of each project,” Thompson said, further adding that the students have also presented their projects before technical advisors and to potential donors.
As the students, with support from the Department of Business, embark on an eventful journey to change lives in Cambodia one family at a time, their project seeks to enact St. Francis of Assisi’s compelling charge to all Christians: “Preach the gospel at all times, and when necessary, use words.”
“The goal is to change lives by showing the people of Cambodia the love of Christ manifested by, quite literally, teaching them to fish,” Thompson said.
The tireless individuals in the Cambodia project are applying their expertise to alleviate poverty halfway around the world. If the buildup to the program, enthusiasm of the team, and support from sponsors is any indication, 13 Lee students and many Cambodians, including those on Tonle Sap Lake, are about to have a truly life-changing encounter.