So much of what Trailblazer Foundation does, as a rural community development NGO, is focused on breaking the cycle of poverty. One way to break this cycle of poverty, especially on a generational level, is to ensure that children have the opportunity to go to school. This is an almost daily practice that most of us take for granted for our kids. However, a formal education is not always an option for families living in Trailblazer’s geography of focus.
Although constructing new schools has not been a main focus of Trailblazer Foundation’s work since our inception, we have received requests and the necessary funding to build 6 schools and 2 libraries in the last eleven years. These schools have been well-received enough – by local villagers and the Cambodian government alike – that in a Fall 2015 meeting, Trailblazer’s Board of Directors voted to include school construction as one of our four major programs. This is a fitting decision, given that the organization’s first project ever, in 2004, was building a school.
As we have in the past, moving forward Trailblazer will build schools in response to a request from District officials, as part of the District’s Integrated Workshop process (see "Our Story" for more details). When we complete the construction project, and as part of the school inauguration ceremony, Trailblazer signs the deed over to the appropriate government agency. This is how we ensure the school can fully launch, and stay open for the local students. The government is then responsible for providing the teaching staff, paying the staff, and providing the Cambodian curriculum.
Additionally, because our schools are government schools, they qualify for food support through the United Nations World Food Program (thereby addressing, at least in part, another programmatic area of Trailblazer’s – food security).
Finally, Trailblazer works to reduce another barrier to education by providing hundreds of bicycles to our partner villages, so students can travel to schools within their district. This is particularly true of students in Junior and Senior High School, as not every village has one of these schools (they are often shared between villages). Without a bicycle, many students would simply drop out because their secondary level school is just too far away.
School construction is Trailblazer’s biggest single expense. The construction cost is now $75,000 (up from $65,000 in 2016), and all other associated costs can increase the total cost by $10,000-$15,000. Adding to this challenge, two of our major funding sources – philanthropic foundations and Rotary clubs – typically do not fund this type of infrastructure project.
However, some things are worth waiting for. Such is the case for Trailblazer’s next school, which we now plan to build in 2018. The very good news is that we already have initial verbal funding commitments totaling 75% of the construction cost. That is a great start for the new year.
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