by Alexandra Huzyk ’20
As we approach the holiday season, it becomes easy to get lost in the search to find the perfect gifts for your loved ones. Perhaps this year, you might consider spending your money on something with a greater impact.
On Wednesday, November 29, Lela Biggus ’18 provided students and staff at Providence College with an opportunity to buy ornaments and other small items. The proceeds of these sales, and the donations made in peoples’ names, will sponsor a team in the Angkor Wat International Half Marathon. The runners in this race seek to raise $25,000 to support Caring for Cambodia; a non-profit non-governmental organization which provides free education to children in Cambodia.
Caring for Cambodia, a program that began in 2003, was created by Jamie Amelio after she had traveled to Cambodia to see the temples of Angkor Wat. During her visit, she was approached by a little girl who asked her for a few dollars. When the girl was asked what she planned on using it for, she replied that with those few dollars she would be able to pay for and attend school. Upon visiting the schools, Amelio was appalled by the conditions. Biggus explained that the mass genocides that took place previously, from 1975 to 1979, left the country in disrepair, and “left young people without role models or teachers.”
Not only did Amelio’s experiences in Cambodia put the various disparities into perspective for her, but it also inspired her to create a program that would provide the children with the education they needed and desired.
Fast forward 14 years after her trip to Cambodia, and Amelio’s dream has begun to take shape. Twenty-one schools have been built within this time period, providing education for nearly 6,600 students. The primary goal, Biggus said is, “to get Cambodian youth into school, and then get them into higher education.” Caring for Cambodia also provides students with meals, clothing, health care, clean water, and gender equality programs.
For many college students, with tight budgets, it is important to understand the impact that their money can have elsewhere. The money that Caring for Cambodia receives is put towards constructing and maintaining school buildings, and funding teachers’ salaries, and training. Donations also provide students with health and dental needs, bicycles, and uniforms.
Biggus, an intern for Caring for Cambodia, was connected with the director of this program through the Global Studies Department at Providence College. “As a global studies major, I’ve always been drawn to causes having to do with education, especially those framed in a caring and thoughtful way,” said Biggus.
Part of why Biggus was so drawn to this particular program was that Caring for Cambodia not only provides children with an education they would not have had otherwise, but it also serves the greater community. As a product of Caring for Cambodia, communities, not just a select few individuals, benefit from clean water and the creation of public libraries.
Biggus said, “My awareness of the non-profit world and the ethics behind these NGOs informed my decision to support this organization.” This global awareness, which she attributes to the global studies program, has helped her to make educated decisions on whether or not an organization is being responsible in their actions. Often, there is plenty of criticism regarding humanitarian interventions, especially programs and initiatives implemented by the United States. Biggus said, “I believe education is the key to social advancement, and not just a useless humanitarian effort,” if done in a thoughtful way.
If you would like to donate to Biggus’ fundraiser, which will go toward supporting Angkor Wat International Half Marathon, visit https://www.youcaring.com/caringforcambodiainc-1010130.
You can also visit Caring for Cambodia’s website to learn more about their work, or donate to them directly: http://caringforcambodia.org/.