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This Mother’s Day, help a Cambodian mother

This Mother’s Day, we are reposting this appeal from Journeys Within Our Community because we can’t think of a better way of saying “thank you” to moms everywhere. We hope you’ll consider donating…

Our mothers are heroes. From the moment we’re brought into the world she cares for us; she strives to give us every opportunity, encourages us to pursue our dreams and is not afraid to tell us when we are wrong! She is the role model who encourages us to become the individual we are today, teaching us values and morals to live by and always standing by us when we feel the rest of the world is against us. This is the case throughout the world, whether you live in the US, Europe or Cambodia! Our mother wants us to be the absolute best we can be.

However, despite improvements over the past decade the sad truth is that in Cambodia many mothers cannot give their children the same opportunities and head start in life that others receive elsewhere. Cambodia still has one of the highest infant mortalities in Asia with 25 children per 1000 births not living beyond 5 years, highlighting the importance of access to proper services and healthcare to mothers and their children, especially in rural areas.

Mother's Day in Cambodia

This is why JWOC is working directly with and training rural women to overcome such hurdles, so they can give their children every chance to maximize their health and prospects for the future. With the support of village chiefs and a trained midwife, we are working with women to deliver maternal health training in areas such as family planning, pregnancy and mother/infant health in an engaging and informative way. In 2016, JWOC aims to deliver training through our scholarship students to over 300 women across 5 villages, a service most would not have access to or be able to afford in rural communities.

So on this Mother’s Day here at JWOC, we are not only celebrating our own mothers but also the millions of mothers throughout Cambodia who are putting their children first. With your support, we can help more women within Siem Reap province, just $30 can provide a woman with maternal health training, a donation of $300 would cover training for half the women in a village and $500 training for a whole village. With each donation you will receive a special project report within six months that allows you to see the positive impact that your generosity has had on the health of rural Cambodian mothers and their children.

On this Mother’s Day, I would invite you to consider not only celebrating our own mothers, but also celebrate the determination of Cambodian women by making a donation that will give them and their children a fair opportunity in life.

Donate now.


Luang Prabang Film Festival: Taking the Show on the Road

By: Nicole Long

This past December, Journeys Within had the pleasure of supporting the Luang Prabang Film Festival (LPFF) first annual road show. JW supplied the LPFF road show with a private van and driver to transport the project’s representatives to bring four films onto the big screen for the people of Oudomxai, a province in northern Laos.

The LPFF was founded in 2009, bringing films created by Southeast Asians or with a Southeast Asian theme to the locals (and tourists) in Luang Prabang, Laos.  Laos has made very few films over the past few decades and not until 2008 had it even produced an internationally-recognized feature film. Even though the people of Laos are heavy consumers of films from around the region, they have yet to produce much themselves.

The aim of the project is to generate a film industry in Laos, promote and celebrate films produced in the region, and to inspire and educate Lao people on film and its industry.  In addition to showing selected SE Asian films over a four day period in nontraditional venues (Luang Prabang has no functioning cinema), they hold lectures, workshops and special programs throughout the year.  To reach more people beyond Luang Prabang, the LPFF travels to two neighboring provinces with four films from the festival in late December.

This past December was the first time the festival was able to bring the films to towns in Oudomxai and Xieng Khouang (eastern Laos, near Vietnam) provinces. Journeys Within believed in the LPFF mission and helped this project by supplying transport over a four day period. I happened to interview one of the festival’s organizers, Dirk Lloyd, who went and set up the road show in Oudomxai.  Unable to join the group myself for the first LPFF road show, I wanted to know how he felt about how it all went and its success.  Below are some excerpts from our Q & A:

1.   What is your official title for LPFF? 

I was the Assistant Director.

2.  What was your role in the LPFF roadshow? What were the responsibilities that were entailed to make this all happen for the first time (for the LPFF)?

I managed the roadshow but none of it would have been possible without Somboun Keoduangchit, the local official from the Ministry of Information and Culture who facilitated the entire event.  Apart from simple logistics, the bulk of preparation entailed meeting with government officials for each of our stops, and helping them understand exactly what we wanted to do and what we needed from them in order to be able to do it.  Most of them were keen to host such an event, so they granted the necessary permission and assisted us in finding suitable venues for the screenings.

3. What was the goal of this roadshow? 

I suppose the roadshow shared the same goal as the LPFF at large: to promote the regional film industry.  In particular, however, I felt the roadshow reached people who perhaps had a lesser degree of access to international cultural events, due to living in the provinces.  The roadshow events were entirely attended by locals, in contrast to the main festival in Luang Prabang.

4. Why was Oudomxai chosen as a destination for the roadshow?

Oudomxai is one of the most important towns in northwestern Laos, as it lies only 100 kilometers from the Chinese border on the principal highway north from Luang Prabang and forms the most prominent traffic junction.

5. Who went to Oudomxai for LPFF’s first roadshow destination from outside of the destination? Would more (or other) people have made it more helpful to carry out the goal?

The only people who traveled to Oudomxai from outside were Somboun, Blaine Johnson from the Projection Foundation, and I.  It could have been useful to have had another person or two along, but we really didn’t need much more assistance than that.

6. What films were shown? And why? 

We showed At the Horizon (Lao), Lao Wedding (Lao), Queens of Langkasuka (Thai), and Panya Raenu (Thai).  These films were shown because we needed to screen films that would be understandable to the local Lao population who showed up to see the films.  The majority of the films shown in Luang Prabang were foreign films subtitled in English, without a local language option, and therefore inaccessible to a large percentage of the local population.

7. The projector and seats available were smaller than in LP, correct? Was it enough?

All technical equipment was generously provided and operated by Blaine Johnson of the Projection Foundation, and was more than sufficient for the venue.  We had approximately 300 seats available, and on the second night this was insufficient, as a significant number of people ended up standing or watching from their parked motorbikes.

Not enough seating was solved with patrons sitting on their motos

8. Where were the films shown?

The films were shown – appropriately enough – in front of Oudomxai’s old, defunct cinema theater, which now houses the local Ministry of Information and Culture.

9. How did you get word out to the community? Was notice of the showing just the day before or had there been signs up previously? Was this method effective?

This was probably the greatest shortcoming of the undertaking, in that there was virtually no notice given to the community prior to our arrival.  There were, presumably, radio ads that ought to have been aired in advance of the screenings, but apparently they were never prepared or played.  Closer collaboration with the local government officials might have helped this happen.  There is always a certain level of opacity when dealing with provincial bureaucrats, and certainly my own limitations regarding the language barrier didn’t help.  I had to rely on secondhand sources for all information, and in the end the word didn’t get out the way it needed to.  We also had no banners or signs for the event, which we could have hung at the entrances to the venue in the days leading up to the event.  All of these omissions can be easily rectified for future events, and greatly increase the number of people who will show up to see the films.

10. What was the outcome of the showings? Roughly, how many attendees?

The first night was, understandably, sparsely attended, due to the aforementioned lack of notice.  However, word of mouth is apparently a strong tool in Oudomxai, because the next night we had approximately 400 people show up, including an entrepreneurial-minded woman who set up a small vending stand with assorted snacks.

11. What films seemed most popular? 

Although I would dismiss it as Hollywoodesque action/fantasy detritus, Queens of Langkasuka seemed to be the biggest hit.  They all seemed drawn to the action, with the children particularly mesmerized by all the CGI of flying warriors and sea battles.

The kids were transfixed

12. Were there any films that seemed to turn people away? Perhaps you observed that certain times of the showings had more people attending?

I think we could have thrown anything on and the locals still would have stuck around to watch it.  As soon as we fired up the projector and had images showing on that big screen, mobs of people gathered to see what was on.

13. What was a highlight (for you) of the roadshow? Do you believe it was successful in reaching its goal?

The highlight for me was just to see the genuine delight from all of the kids who were most likely seeing a film on the big screen for the first time.  They really were transfixed.  I believe that in spite of limitations the roadshow was a success, and generated a lot of interest from locals who would like to see it continue.

14. Did it seem that people became very interested and expressed excitement for possible roadshow next year? 


15. Any suggestions you think would be helpful for next year’s planning of the event? Do you think it could have been better with more visits to roadshow locations before the showings?

We visited each location once, approximately 2 months prior to the event.  It is possible that a further visit could have helped ensure that adequate advertising and notification was taking place, though I’m not convinced it would be that necessary.  It’s also rather taxing to cover those punishing roads more than once.  I think that the line of communication just needed to be a bit clearer and more consistent.

Perhaps the greatest improvement would just include better support for the events in terms of advertising and promotion before the roadshow occurs.  Better funding would obviously allow more of that to be accomplished, but we also needed to do a better job of thanking and including the sponsors we did have, so that further contributions would be encouraged.  On that note, thank you Nicole and Journeys Within for providing transport for us and all of our equipment to and from Oudomxai!  You were a big part of helping us pull this event off, as was Phu Bia Mining, who funded the roadshow.

Action movie on the big screen was a kid favorite

LPFF is an innovative and exciting project that can help to change the face of film in Laos and produce a new generation of film artists. Please follow this link to discover more about LPFF and how you could help to support their projects. http://luangprabangfilmfestival.org/

Thank you from Journeys Within and JWOC

Dear Journeys Within guests,

This month, Conde Nast Traveler Magazine voted Journeys Within Tour Company and Journeys Within Our Community (JWOC) as one of five winners in their
World Savers Awards. We are so honored that the work we are doing in the community is being honored and we wanted to take this opportunity to thank you for making it possible.


When Brandon and I first moved to Cambodia we were shocked by the poverty and wanted to help, but it was because of the encouragement and support we got from guests that we were able to start JWOC. From the start Journeys Within guests wanted to help the people of Cambodia and Southeast Asia. In those first few months we were asked so many times by guests what they could do to make a difference. This involvement from guests was the motivating source behind the creation of JWOC and the idea that travel could be a force for good and could go above and beyond in changing lives.


To date JWOC has installed over 180 wells, allowing nearly 4,000 people access to clean drinking water. We have sponsored over 50 students through University and watched these amazing students embrace the idea of community involvement with their volunteer time. We have given microloans to over 150 families, giving them the opportunity to get themselves out of poverty and create a better life. When disaster struck in Cambodia and then in Myanmar we were there with our disaster relief fund and we rebuilt villages in Cambodia destroyed by fire, giving hope to families that had lost everything. In Myanmar we provided emergency food and are now supporting an orphanage. We recently opened a Laos office and are currently giving scholarships for future teachers. Our language schools have over 300 students each week and our photography workshop is giving young people an opportunity to learn a valuable trade as well as teaching confidence and creativity.


These numbers and the changed lives they represent are all thanks to the amazing support we have had from our guests.


Conde Nast will be holding an awards ceremony on September 23 and we have decided to fly out Narla Phay, the first graduate of the JWOC scholarship program and, as many of your know, our afternoon and evening manager at the B&B. He is currently the country advisor on the JWOC board and works for JWOC in the mornings and the B&B in the afternoons. We thought that he would be the perfect person to help accept the award with me on behalf of Journeys Within.


Narla is arriving September 11 and we will be doing a press tour before the awards ceremony on the 23rd. At the moment we will be visiting San Francisco, Sacramento, Truckee, Los Angeles and Orange County, Washington DC and New York, where the ceremony is. I am thrilled to be able to show him the U.S. and as you can imagine his excitement level is off the charts! Part of our trip will be promoting the B&B and the Tour Company, but we are also hoping to do some fundraising for JWOC. With that said if anyone is interested in hosting a dinner on JWOC’s behalf, having a cocktail hour, a tea party, or has a book club, rotary club, school or church that we could present to, both Narla and I would really like any opportunity to get the word out and tell people about what we’re doing and why we’re doing it.


If this sounds like something you might be interested and willing to do please feel free to email me at andrea@journeys-within.com. We already have some schools, rotary clubs and churches that we are planning to present to, but the more we can get out there the better.


In closing, we would like to send out a heartfelt thank you to everyone that encouraged and inspired us to start JWOC and those that have contributed to the JWOC projects. When we first started JWOC we came up with the motto, “See a Problem, Solve a Problem,” and because of your support this motto has become a reality.

All the best and happy travels,

Andrea, Brandon and the Journeys Within team

A letter from a volunteer

Below is a letter written by a student from Loyola Marymount University about her experience volunteering with Journeys Within Our Community.

“Joining Journey’s Within Our Community for two weeks was one of the best experiences I have had in a long time.  From the moment our plane landed in Cambodia, I immediately knew I was in for a different
experience.  For two weeks, we visited several of the JWOC projects and got to know the scholarship students overseeing the various projects: Clean Water, Language Schools and Micro-Finance program.  I
was so impressed with the scope of programs that address such crucial areas in Cambodia.  One of my favorite volunteer placements was teaching at Wat Thmei.  Working alongside the teachers, we got to read stories, practice grammar and pronunciation.  The best part of classes was just getting to know the kids, sharing our stories and hearing about theirs also.  Before we knew it, we were alternating words in
Khmer and English.  I really looked forward to going to Wat Thmei in the afternoon.  One of the students won the hearts of all the volunteers.  She brought us personalized bracelets with our names on them.  She said it was a gift for us.  Witnessing the grace and dedication of the students was the best gift I could have received. For me, it represented that JWOC time and resources were invested in the right place:  the people of Cambodia, the youth that can pass on the information and work ethic for future generations.   My experience volunteering through JWOC has undoubtedly changed me and I plan to
keep in touch with the organization.  I’m excited to see how it will continue to develop. “

Village life

One of Siem Reap’s many squatters’ villages is a short walk from the Journeys Within B&B. JWOC built its first wells there and I went to check it out with Brandon and some volunteer students from Loyola Marymount University. Brandon wants to get a business started that the JWOC scholarship students can run themselves, so we went into the village to research business ideas and assess the need for different services.

There are places blocked off where potential roads will go if they’re ever built, but for now the village is connected by a sequence of dusty tan trails. Some structures are built with corrugated metal or wood and seem relatively sound, while others are thatched with palm leaves or draped with tarps.

Because of the nonprofit projects most of the villagers have seen Westerners, but it’s still a treat for them when we arrive. They all know how to say “hello” and as soon as they spot you a harmony of hellos hits you from all angles. Groups of kids rush over wanting to show you things, while the shy ones gather to watch from a distance. I was just another giant white lady with a camera, but with this kind of welcome you would’ve thought I was Brangelina.

The kids love to get their picture taken and they’ll follow you around in hopes of getting their chance. Their favorite part is seeing themselves on the photo playback screen and they run away giggling as soon as they see their faces on the monitor.

As we walked back to the B&B—a short distance from poverty to luxury—I tried to imagine living without a toilet or electricity and what it must be like to put what little money you have into a “house” that could be destroyed any day.

What really resonated with me was the overall mood of the village. For all their hardship, the people were in great spirits. Everyone was smiling, the kids were running around and playing in the rain, the adults were chatting and playing cards. I expected it to be a bit more somber, but it was actually pretty upbeat.

Maybe they’re making lemonade, or maybe it’s just a Cambodian thing. I don’t think I’ve witnessed a happier, friendlier group of people anywhere. Each country has a different draw: gorgeous beaches, great food, beautiful sights, and although Cambodia has all of those things, the real draw is the people. Their smiles and good hearts are the reason you want to return.