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It’s 2006, an electric air fills a guesthouse in Siem Reap as adventurers exchange travel tales. Not only are they discussing the best time to see Angkor Wat, another thought weighs on their minds - the number of street children they have encountered since arriving in the Kingdom of Wonder.

Youngsters, some barely 10 years old, on the streets begging, selling postcards or simply asking for powdered milk to feed hungry baby siblings. Their innocence hides sinister truths of limited schooling, poor social welfare and parents caught in the poverty trap.

Troubled by these thoughts some visitors change their course and stay a few more nights, the nights turn to weeks, months and even years to see if they can, in any which way,  help to get these kids off the streets, get an education and break free of the poverty cycle ruling the generations before, spanning over 40 years since the Khmer Rouge.

Brief history of Cambodia's brutal past.

Coming, literally, from two different directions and backgrounds Tanya and Jo meet whilst volunteering and soon their input and impact increased as they spend their time cycling from school to school to children’s centre to youth training schemes teaching English, 3 or 4 km apart. They became very familiar cycling on orange dusty roads passing lush green paddy fields amongst ibis, cows and water buffalos. The significance of these rides played a huge part in this story, spending much of the time chatting through thoughts and ideas, leading to the creation of HOPE – Harnessing Opportunities through Play and Education.

Tanya and Jo in the beginning.

Having met some amazing and motivational people during that year they knew they wanted to do more, so they put their heads together to understand how best they could help.

It took a year of planning but after plenty of chocolate, coffee and determination not to re-invent the wheel they decided to set up a fundraising arm in the UK to support established organisations with similar ethos and goals to themselves. The support would be helping financially, underpinned by mentoring and networking. Putting focus on the children that were soon to be adults, where support was clearly limited.  

Having registered the charity as a UK Trust in 2008, Tanya and Jo – HOPE’s newly appointed Trustees, committed to raise funds and awareness for pro-active charities in Cambodia, working only with organisations concerned with the development of vulnerable children and young adults.

And defined it's charitable objectives as:-

To help young people, especially but not exclusively through leisure time activities, so as to develop their capabilities that they may grow to full maturity as individuals and members of society.

To act as a resource for young people up to the age of 25 living in Cambodia by providing advice and assistance and organising programmes of physical, educational and other activities as a means of:

(a) advancing in life and helping young people by developing their skills, capacities and capabilities to enable them to participate in society as independent, mature and responsible individuals;

(b) advancing education;

(c) relieving unemployment;

(d) providing recreational and leisure time activity in the interests of social welfare for people living in the area of benefit who have need by reason of their youth, age, infirmity or disability, poverty or social and economic circumstances with a view to improving the conditions of life of such persons.

Hope's first commitment was to the Sangkheum Center for Children, an orphanage where both Trustees had both volunteered. Hugely motivated by the observation of Sangkheum’s then Director ‘what’s the point of taking them off the street in the first place only to put them back on the street 10 years later’.

This was the driving force behind the decision to focus on the needs of young adults at the center, address the familiar challenges of teenagers around the world and develop with the awesome team at Sangkheum - Nathan, Christian and Vanthat the needs and terms of course content for their young adults to support and enable them to transition to independent living. Discussions revolved around completing education, further education, English lessons, vocational training, university courses, IT Skills, managing money, career options, cooking, basic life skills and sex and health education.

Sangkheum was also the inspiration behind our name - HOPE in Khmer is Sangkheum. Check out this video that was made in 2008 by the young adults that inspired us.

The Young Adults that inspired the creation of HOPE.

HOPE officially launched in Cambodia on World Responsible Tourism Day in November 2008 alongside ConCERT and in that evening successfully connected local NGOs with hospitality and tourism businesses. Starting conversations about collaboration, employment and placement opportunities and vocational training courses for young adults, a network strong and thriving today.

Initially, HOPE looked to friends and family for funds to get really started and were floored by the breadth of support we had from the start. See our amazing Engagement gallery of those who have been significant in our 10 year journey!

The initial Young Adult Programme started waves of conversation through the charity sphere and soon, other organisations were asking for course material which was readily shared so each individual organisation could either replicate or adapt to suit their needs, something of which HOPE readily and enthusiastically facilitated.

Sharing the course material was something that organically came about and as HOPE’s funds grew, so did the opportunity to fund more course material and employ teachers and project managers to facilitate further opportunities for young adults at other organisations.
This reaction kick started HOPE’s fundraising in the UK and gave us the courage to start grant writing to tap into other money away from family and friends.

Having secured some reasonable funding enabled some of the young adults to achieve some fairly unique things...

Not only have the funds helped youngsters up the employment ladder (and in some cases relatively high), more importantly forge a sustainable livelihood for them and their new families. Some of the projects HOPE supported have successfully contributed to global research and significant work in family first care strategies shifting child care away from institutional care and vocational training for young offenders in prisons, which has had unprecedented impact on non-re-offending.  

We're proud to say that we have helped over 220 young adults and celebrate the positive impacts that HOPE funders have helped to achieve. 

Read on to see HOPE's success in numbers, our outcomes, our achievements, what we've learned from the past ten years and who helped us along the way.

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