Stepping Stones Cambodia's mission is to make positive change, one step at a time. We work in direct partnership with local rural community members, at all levels, to identify where help is needed.
Stepping Stones is committed to assisting communities work towards a better future, by listening to needs, creating opportunities and supporting these positive changes.
Our project is based in Kok Thnot village, approximately 45 mins from Siem Reap. Here we focus on:
Providing Free Quality Education
Improving Access to Healthcare Facilities
How Stepping Stones began In Kok Thnot the only educational facility is a Government Primary School, which covers ages 5 to 12 years. After completing Primary School, the only option for secondary education is a high school which is over 1 hour away by bicycle. In terms of English Education and Vocational Training, the opportunities in this community are minimal. Stepping Stones came about in full recognition of this lack of access to education, and given the benefits that English Education brings, in terms of local career prospects, the decision to build the school was a clear one.
Fundraising and Support Grace Lutheran Primary School in Brisbane, Australia played a hugely significant role in turning the dream of building an English School in Kok Thnot into a reality. So visited Grace Lutheran in July 2010 during his time in Australia and bonded with the students over a vision of helping the children of Kok Thnot. When GLPS independently started a fundraising campaign to raise money towards building an English School, a touching theme began to develop – children helping children. Elizabeth Shobbrook, Year 6 Advisor and Teacher at Grace Lutheran formed the link between So and the school after they met whilst she was volunteering in Cambodia in January 2010. Elizabeth and her husband Doug founded Harvest Cambodia, an Australian charitable organization that works with Cambodian communities to provide growth through education. Stepping Stones have a close working partnership with Harvest Cambodia which provides ongoing support by supplying teaching resources, developing teacher training programs and placing Australian teachers who assist in training the Stepping Stones teaching team.
Marco Van Meer, a Dutch friend of the Stepping Stones Team was also instrumental in raising funds for Stepping Stones. Marco held a highly successful rope pulling fundraiser which was attended by over 200 people and even gained local media attention. It was through Marcos’ contacts that a connection was made with Homico, a Dutch NGO that supports local aid workers in developing countries. Like Stepping Stones, Homico also strongly believe in assisting local communities work towards improving their own futures. They generously donated money towards the construction of the two school buildings: four classrooms, an office and a library.
Construction Construction of Stepping Stones School began on the 4th of January 2011 with a small team of dedicated volunteers. Under the guidance of Steve Harris, a highly skilled Australian builder with over 10 years experience, the first step was clearing the plot of land and leveling the building site. With the help of the villagers, the team completed this huge task by hand within 3 days. The next stage was to lay the foundations for the two buildings. It was important to do this to the highest standard to ensure long term durability against Cambodias’ changing seasons. After the foundations were laid, the process of installing the framework began. Two days later, on the 13th of January, the team were ready to start bricklaying the walls of the first building. Once both buildings were bricked and rendered, the roof, doors and windows were fitted and Stepping Stones School began to take shape. Throughout the construction process, desks were custom designed and made under the supervision of Pat Kneale, a native Australian carpenter. A significant project in itself, Pat and the team produced 40 student desks, 4 teachers desks and 2 book shelves for the library in less than 3 weeks.
By the end of February the Stepping Stones team had added the final touches to the school building including painting, preparing the classrooms, setting up the library, as well as building a toilet block with funds kindly donated by the Rotary Club of Woy Woy, Australia. We also hired two local full time experienced English teachers to join the team. Stepping Stones School officially welcomed students on the 1st of March 2011 with everyone keen to get started.
So Sok Co-Founder and Director Kok Thnot village holds special meaning to So, as he was born and raised there until the age of 12. So’s parents did not have enough money to support him and his studies, so he went to live at Angkor Wat Pagoda. During his time there So gained independence at a very young age. He was able to complete his upper secondary education after having raised money from teaching English at the pagoda. He has held various jobs since leaving the pagoda in 2005, including hotel receptionist, builder and tuk tuk driver. So brings over 8 years practical experience to Stepping Stones Cambodia, having jointly founded a local English school in Pouk District, where he was the Deputy Director and Head of Education. So has visited Australia on numerous occasions where he had the opportunity to study, travel and learn about western culture. This experience had a profound effect on So, strengthening his dream of giving the children in his own community the chances and choices that they deserve.
Rachel Merchant Co-Founder Rachel’s homeland is Sydney, Australia, where she grew up with her parents and two sisters. With a natural flair for design and a close eye for detail, Rachel studied Graphic Design and earned an Advanced Diploma in Electronic Design and Interactive Media. She has been working in this field for the past 6 years and brings a valuable set of skills to the Stepping Stones team. Rachel also has six months experience working in an NGO setting, where she volunteered her time in a number of different roles. Rachel is well traveled, having visited many countries in Europe and South East Asia, as well as India, Nepal and Dubai. However, it was Rachel’s time in Cambodia which left the greatest impression on her. Captivated by its charm, beauty and character, she felt a strong pull back to Cambodia, not only to visit but to help. She believes that every child deserves the opportunity to better their life and improve their future.
Em Kang Co-Founder and Deputy Director Kang grew up in Svay Reang Province, Phnom Penh, where he attended Sisovath High School. He graduated in 1999 and was offered a place at University to study Marketing. After completing his degree in 2003, he moved to Siem Reap where he met his wife and they now have two children Rany and Ryan.
Kang has extensive knowledge and experience in Organic Farming, Animal Husbandry, and Sports Education, having worked in these areas for more than 10 years. He is keen to share his experience and skills to help members of Kok Thnot village improve their sustainability through education and training.