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Last Call to Support JWOC’s 2015 Race 4 Change

As we enter into the season of giving, our thoughts turn to ways we can help improve the lives of others. With the recent conclusion of our second annual Race 4 Change, our hearts are warmed by the impact we have made as a team through our efforts for JWOC.

Our team collectively ran and cycled over 900km to raise awareness for JWOC’s initiative to promote economic, educational, and improved health opportunities for Southeast Asian communities in need. The opportunity to impact the lives of the people who live in the places where we have the privilege to visit and work has been a gift to us. Read on to learn more about why our team participated in the Race 4 Change and what it means to them.

Andrea Ross, CEO

“I decided to participate in the Race 4 Change for a few reasons. Most importantly, I wanted to fundraise for JWOC to help us to continue into 2016 with all of our projects running strong and supported. I also wanted to train and run with the amazing team I have here in the US so we could not only come together as a team, but feel connected to our amazing team in Cambodia as well!”

“JWOC has come so far in the last 10 years and we have had an impact on so many lives. Just seeing our scholarship students and what they have accomplished inspires me to want even more for our community and our country.”

(From left to right) Courtney, Andrea, and April of the Journeys Within Truckee, Calif. office. Daisy, our Boston Terrier, was there too!
(From left to right) Courtney, Andrea, and April of the Journeys Within Truckee, Calif. office. Dazy, our Boston Terrier, was there too!

April Cole, VP of Sales

“I ran in the Race 4 Change for JWOC because I am inspired by the work JWOC does in the community, and even more so by the students who attend the JWOC education programs. These individuals know and appreciate the value of education. I have noticed that many of the younger scholars even head to JWOCs free classes after attending their government school! They are incredible children and adults who work very hard and are so grateful for the programs/opportunities that JWOC provides. I love JWOC’s new motto – Learn today, Lead tomorrow – this is what these scholars are doing. I will continue to ‘race’ however many miles it takes to keep supporting JWOC and the students!”

Courtney Ridgel, Booking Coordinator

“When I visited JWOC I was struck by how each person attending the free classes was determined to make a change in their own life for the better.  Aside from fundraising to help further these opportunities for people in Cambodia, I wanted to make a positive change for the better in my own life.  Running has never been my strong suit so I felt that running a half marathon would really help me to grow in an area that challenges me, in addition to improving my overall health.  So, here’s to health and self-improvement!”

Vin Kebblewhite, Regional Director of Operations – Cambodia & Vietnam

“I chose to cycle in the race because it’s a fun way to support JWOC and a beautiful way to experience Angkor – an early morning bike ride with the sun rising over ancient temples! Not a bad Saturday morning! For me, JWOC is not just an awesome organization doing amazing work; it’s also one of the great benefits of working for Journey’s Within Tour Company. I moved to here to work towards positive change for Cambodia, so it’s great working for a tour company with an active focus on philanthropy.”

Narla, Vin, Naida, and Kanika of the Cambodia office.
Narla, Vin, Naida, and Kanika of the Cambodia office.

Naida Dizdarevic, Ground Operations Manager (JWGO)

“The reason I chose to ride in Race 4 Change is because it was a good way to show support for JWOC. I think that JWOC is doing amazing work and I’m proud to be working for a company that takes responsibility to support the countries it works in.”

Narla Phay, Concierge and Customer Service Director

“The reason I chose to ride in Race 4 Change is because JWOC gave so much the local Cambodia communities. I was a scholarship student who graduated from the JWOC Scholarship Program. I continued on to a very successful life after I graduated from college and was enabled to support my family. The program itself helps its students directly and as an indirect result, their families as well.”

“There are many wonderful programs that JWOC is doing to make the local community in Cambodia better, so I believe giving back is the key to setting a good example for younger generations. Without JWOC my life would not be as good now!”

Narla riding his bike through the finish line in Cambodia.
Narla riding his bike through the finish line in Cambodia.

Makara Put, Country Director – Cambodia

“I like all kind of sports, especially running. I ran in the Race 4 Change for the second time because I am a former scholarship student of JWOC. Race 4 Change is a way that I can help JWOC in return by helping to raise funds. I wanted to show the people who donate and other scholarship students that as humans we need to understand the cycle of life – by this I mean that we should live for others as others should live for us. When we help each other, we smile together, and that is the real happiness!”

Makara of the Cambodia office.
Makara of the Cambodia office.

Kanika Peou, Accounts Manager

“The reason I chose to ride for Race 4 Change is because it was a good way to show support for JWOC and to thank JWOC for their hard work in Siem Reap to help our community, local people, and children. I think that JWOC is doing amazing work to help and develop education for our younger generation and local villagers. I am so proud to be a part of the company and the amazing Journeys Within team.”

Kanika and Narla of the Cambodia office.
Kanika and Narla of the Cambodia office.

Donations for the Race 4 Change will be coming to a close soon. We invite your support of JWOC’s wonderful cause and sincerely thank you for contributing to an effort that can truly change the world.

To donate or for more information about JWOC and the Race 4 Change, visit www.journeyswithinourcommunity.org. For more information about Journeys Within, visit www.journeys-within.com and follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

A JWOC success story: Sophin Sophary

Journeys Within Our Community supports giving 74 students access to higher education each year. Sophin Sophary was one of those students and one of only 2 women from her village to ever go to university. Here she shares a little about life since graduation …

Sophary mine
Name: Sophy Sophary

Age: 27

Hometown: Kor Koh village

Date of graduation: July 27, 2010 from Build Bright University

A former waitress at a Chinese Restaurant near the night market, Sophy is now the operations manager of Cambodian Self Help De-mining (CDHD). As a scholarship student, she volunteered a as a teacher in a free school program during her studies. Her current job role entails her helping people in the very poor communities and rural areas by helping to make them safe, educating the villagers and providing health care.

In her own words …

As I am a country side woman , I would like to share that in 2010 I am the second women in my village to graduate from university. Because women rights and roles are so strict, plus cultural conditions especially in the country side area, women are not encouraged to go to school.

Most parents think that their daughter don’t need to study because it’s useless. Women are taught to stay home and take care of children. This idea causes very, very bad violence in the family. I am the one who face that problem so I won’t have to see it anymore .

Now I am a de-miner and bomb disposer at my charity. I would like to advocate and to advise women that you don’t give up. Try to catch an opportunity to go to school, and you can do same thing as the men ….

How has the JWOC scholarship helped you:      

  •   I could eat good food — JWOC always called all scholarship for dinner meeting. Before I would just stay in my small room and eat 1 egg in a day with Fish source.
  • I could finished my school which pushed me to see the challenges in our society.
  • Showed me how huge the world is.
  • Make me stronger and more confident
  • Show me the direction of my life and the way I should go
  • Teach me about how to work and help people in community

What is your advice to our current JWOC scholarship students:     

  • Try your best in school — you will no regret in the future!
  • Study the subject you like and within your own ability.
  • Try to get involved in community activities by volunteering — it is a good practice and you will use that experience in your future job.
  • Keep your good attitude.
  • Keep your Scholarship Opportunity in your hand till you graduate.

What have been your notable achievements since leaving JWOC:

  • Raise my payroll.
  • Continue master degree.
  • my attitude has changed — I am more responsible.
  • support 3 poor kids in my home village
  • have sent 1 of my young brother, 1 of my young sister and 4 of my cousins to school in Siem Reap.

Congratulations Sophy from the JW team on all your success and on your undoubtedly bright future!

Planning the Perfect Day

Here a guest reviews her experience planning a once in a lifetime trip with Andrea for Conde Nast Traveler


I wanted to share the following feedback regarding Andrea Ross. She is an amazing agent, who deserves to be on your list, which is how I found her. THANK YOU!

Our family consists of mom, dad, and four boys ages 14, 11, 8 and 8. My husband and I have traveled the world with our kids. We have been to six continents and our kids have been to five. We used Andrea Ross in June 2012 for our family trip to Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Our trip was almost three weeks long. Andrea was meticulous in her planning. She worked with me from the beginning to plan a trip that would be fun and educational for our active family.

She included meals with local families. My children were able to sit on the floor in homes and enjoy a meal with these families. We visited villages, swam in Hal Long Bay, learned about land mines, Pol Pot, gave alms to monks at 4:30 am, visited a food market (bugs, blood blocks, or worms anyone?), relaxed by the beach and learned so much more than you can teach in a classroom.

I really enjoyed visiting the Cu Chi Tunnels. We were able to meet with a man, Mr. Nam, who fought against the Americans in the war. He was missing an eye and arm due to battle. We had total access to the area and were able to ask Mr. Nam ANYTHING regarding the war and history… and he answered (This experience was similar to visiting a Nazi concentration camp…you are glad you went for the education, but you never want to go back.) Afterwards, we followed him to his house and sat with his family and had dinner and tea. When we said goodbye to Mr. Nam and he gave my 8 year old twins a big hug. We also enjoyed meeting the family of “The Girl In The Picture”- Kim Phuc.

In Laos, Andrea arranged for us to ride elephants, and not in a pasture. We crossed a river, went through the mountains and jungle, something my children will never forget. We also had what I consider a most perfect day…Andrea set up a wonderful chicken curry lunch beside the Kuang Si Waterfall in Laos — Disney could not have designed a more beautiful and peaceful place!

We were the only family there and were able to enjoy it’s beauty. Afterwards, my family enjoyed climbing a tree and swinging from a rope into the water all afternoon. We had had something else planned, but our guide knew it was an amazing day and let us stay as long as we wanted to. You can see from my son, Cooper’s face how much fun that day was. Andrea had planned “the perfect day” for our family — we will remember that day forever.

In Cambodia, we stayed at her hotel, Journeys Within, which was wonderful. The staff treated us like family, they even search for and found the Laura Croft Tomb Raider DVD for us so we could watch it the day before visiting Angkor Wat. They also brought us yummy fresh popped popcorn to our room during the movie. Who does that? Andrea Ross makes it happen. I could go on and on about the little details that Andrea paid attention to for my family.The things that made me a raving fan of Andrea were the following:1. Andrea listened to what I WANTED and made suggestions. She never forgot that it was “our” trip and I never felt like a million people had done the same trip.2. Andrea stayed within my budget.

3. Andrea will fix a mistake if needed. I understand that travel brings challenges, especially when you are planning a multi-country three week trip for 6 people, four of whom are children. When we ran into a snag at the airport, what could have been a huge issue turned into no issue at all because Andrea and her team can make things happen.

4. Andrea hires great people who know what they are doing. Every single time we landed at an airport, someone was waiting with a smile. They were there to make sure we had a great time. If my kids were just too tired from a long flight, they switched the schedule around to accommodate us — these are little things that can make a good vacation GREAT.

5. Andrea is very open to feedback, both good and constructive.

6. Andrea communicates.

7. Andrea plans the most AMAZING adventures! Our family came home feeling like we had really learned about the cultures of the countries we visited.

I cannot recommend Andrea Ross highly enough. Other agents should strive to reach her level of service. I have already recommended her to friends, who visited Myanmar over the holidays. Bottom line — the picture of my son (above) sums up what my family thinks of Andrea Ross.

— Molly, traveled in 2013

Ask Andrea: Why would it be better to book through Journeys Within vs. just booking online? – April Senica

First of all, great name, one of my favorite people in the world is named April:) Thanks for your question, I actually think it’s one that people wrestle with a lot since online deals are so prevalent now and really you can book most of your holiday online. I think there are a few good reasons that travelers book through Journeys Within versus online and here’s my top 10:

1. We are regional experts. This is really #1. We live and breathe Southeast Asia so chances are we’ve stayed in the hotel, tested out the tour and trained the guide, which means no bad surprises for you when you get there. It also means we can offer experiences that aren’t necessarily available to the mass market and are only available to those “in the know”.

April and Andrea at dinner with Mr Nam, a Vietnam War Veteran, and his beautiful family, a Journeys Within Exclusive Tour.


2. We often can get better deals. Hotels offer us upgrades, discounts and special offers which we can pass on to our guests.

3. Websites lie. I visit a lot of hotels and am often absolutely shocked at what I get…views are photo shopped, fish eye lenses are used to excess and sometimes the room on the website doesn’t even exist! While sites like Trip Advisor can help you make an informed decision there’s nothing quite like local knowledge and someone who tried it out before you.

We visit hotels like this, so you don't have to!

4. Our guides! We truly have the best guides in the region, they’re dedicated, kind and love their countries, so they can pass this love on to our guests. They are a key part of our team and they are a major part of the experience.

Our wonderful guide Khoa in Vietnam introduces Brandon to Longan rice whiskey!

5. Time is precious. The truth is that most people in America get two weeks holiday a year and they want to make it count. As we all know, planning as you go sounds nice in theory, but in reality it means you waste most of your vacation trying to book a flight, a hotel or figure out what you want to do next. To make the most of your two weeks have it booked ahead of time and then arrive and relax, knowing that other people are making sure it all goes according to plan.

6.  Medical emergencies. The truth is that things can go wrong and in the last 8 years we have had guests suffer from heart attacks, broken ribs, broken hips and just in our family alone a large gash on the head, bronchitis and chicken pox! When you get sick while traveling, especially in the third world, it can be incredibly scary and we know this. Our guides, drivers and team are trained to help any guest that finds themselves in need of medical assistance. We know clinics, hospitals and in some cases, the doctors themselves. I’ve had two babies in Thailand, taken guests to hospital in Cambodia, gotten my kid stitches in Vietnam and had a wound cleaned in Laos. The bottom line is, when you are feeling your worst, you want the best.

No one wants to get sick on vacation, but in developing countries it's even more important to know where to go and who to ask for!

7. Hidden costs. We often have guests telling us about the “great deal” they found at a hotel. If it’s better than what we can get we are really honest and encourage them to book it…often we then hear back from them because the deal wasn’t for that time of year, didn’t include huge amounts in tax or just wasn’t what it appeared to be. This is okay when they figure out ahead of time, but a real bummer when they arrive at the hotel only to be hit with additional costs, with us, our price is THE price, the end.

8. We take you on ONLY off the beaten path! While the internet is a pretty amazing trip planning tool I guarantee that the homestay at Narla’s house, our village tour and even the volunteering we can include in a tour, aren’t online, these are only available because we’re there and we have found the unique adventures.

A homestay in Cambodia...definitely not available online!

9. Booking travel can be a full time job. Most of us don’t have enough time for all the things we try to fit into our lives so while planning a trip can be fun, it can also be incredibly time consuming…searching websites, checking rates, figuring out flight schedules, all of this takes time and energy and a lot of our guests would prefer to pass that job on to a professional and just review what we plan to make sure it’s perfect.

10. Last, but not least, one of the biggest reasons to book with us is for when things go wrong. When our guest dropped his passport in a cave and had to get a new passport in Laos or when the Bangkok airport was closed or when a flight is delayed or cancelled you’ll see a lot of people panicking…our guests however will know what the options are and will be taken care of. We got permission to fly the guest to Bangkok to get a new passport where our guide met him and took him to the embassy and made sure he was well cared for. When the airport closed we got guests new flights, we arranged overland transportation and we adjusted itineraries on the fly to make sure no vacation was ruined and any hotel or flight mishap our team is there to make sure it gets solved. A lot of travelers have felt they didn’t need us, until they really needed us and then they were glad they had us:)

Our amazing team at our directors meeting in Cambodia - 6 countries, 1 team!

Another LA Times mention!

Susan Spano went on a trip with Journeys Within last fall, and this is her latest article about that trip. We are so appreciative of her kind words about Journeys Within and JWOC. Make sure to visit the LA Times Travel section online to read more about Cambodia. Below is the article Susan wrote about Journeys Within.

By Susan Spano

Special to the Los Angeles Times

May 15, 2011

Reporting from Siem Reap, Cambodia ——

Fifty years of civil war have left Cambodia a desperately poor and damaged nation with about a third of its 15 million people below the poverty line and a per capita gross domestic product of $739 a year.

When Brandon and Andrea Ross started Journeys Within, a tour company and B&B just outside Siem Reap, in 2003, they also were struck by the living conditions, especially in the countryside where people lack clean water, healthcare and all but rudimentary education.

Living here made Brandon, an American who grew up in Park City, Utah, appreciate his good fortune. At the same time, it changed him fundamentally. “I can’t go back to seeing things the way I did before,” he said.
The Ross travel enterprise, which offers special trips in Southeast Asia, such as a 30-day descent of the Mekong River from Yunnan Province in China to the delta in Vietnam, morphed into a charitable institution when the couple noticed how little money it takes to do big things in Cambodia. As Brandon explained, during a drought one year he saw women carrying water long distances and wondered about the cost of digging a well: $350.
Contributions from guests allowed the couple to develop Journeys Within Our Community into a U.S.-registered nonprofit organization that, along with digging village wells, provides university scholarships, free language classes and micro-loans for small businesses in Cambodia. Journeys Within travelers who contribute can take part in the programs by meeting students and visiting villages with new JWOC wells.
The organization has an annual budget of $180,000 and is kept small and locally rooted, with the Rosses, who now are the parents of two little girls, as its eyes and ears.
The couple became fascinated by the period from 1975 to 1979 when millions of Cambodians died at the hands of the Khmer Rouge or succumbed to famine and disease. In trying to understand the tragedy, Brandon and Andrea talked to survivors and visited places where the infamous history of the Khmer Rouge unfolded — stopping points on the itinerary they designed for me in October.

I took the Khmer Rouge tour to learn how the unimaginable happened in the little Southeast Asian nation, but along the way I found out something more pressing: how much is needed to right the wrongs and give the Cambodian people the same bright future everyone deserves.

Journeys Within Tour Co., bed and breakfast and charitable organization can be reached at (877) 454-3672 in the U.S., 011-855-123-7801 in Cambodia or at http://www.journeys-within.com

To read more stories about Cambodia, from Susan Spano and others, visit the LA Times Travel section online