At the heart of our work (and first in our logo tagline!) is the word ‘Together’. We need strong and dedicated partners which share the same ethos that we have to help change young lives for the better. The Friends-powered partnership the TREE Alliance works hard in Cambodia (and other countries) to ensure that youth have opportunities for gainful employment and learning, and we aren’t the only ones carrying this mission forward. Battambang, the second largest city in Cambodia, experiences many of the same problems TREE and Friends-International initiatives are addressing in Phnom Penh,Siem Reap and Sihanoukville- at risk youth with limited opportunity, discrepancy between skills taught in school and those needed on the job, and limited understanding of opportunities for economic improvement. In Battambang, one of our partners there, Soksabike , is working hard to tackle these issues through their student-led bicycle tours.
Soksabike has developed an award-winning bicycle tour that harnesses tourism as a force for positive community development – just like we’ve done with Tree Alliance. Soksabike ensures that tourism dollars go back into the local community not only through their youth vocational training program but also their community development initiatives. All families and small businesses that work with Soksabike have input into how the tours change and develop and are compensated fairly for their time spent with guests. On top of this Soksabike is working hard to minimize environmental impact by using reusable water bottles on the tours, running the tour by bicycle rather than tuk tuk, and by recycling their used bicycle tubes and tires through another of the Tree Alliance partners – Friends ‘N’ Stuff.
For an example of the positive impact travelers have when working with Soksabike, look at Ah Pum. Pum is a nineteen year old student at a local university. He came to Soksabike as a shy student with limited English language skills but with a desire to learn about Cambodian heritage. After months of hard work and training, Pum is now a confident young tour guide, leading tours all on his own. His infectious smile and positivity continuously draws in visitors and local families. Soksabike’s training program has not only allowed Pum to improve his English, but his confidence and cross-cultural communication skills have progressed more quickly than could have been expected – he’s even done some presentations about responsible tourism and guiding all in English! Pum will have the world at his feet once he finishes the program and will certainly move on to great opportunities.
All travelers with Soksabike get to be a part of this amazing learning process. The opportunity to learn from and engage with customers while training (with the assistance of a senior guide of course) is what makes Soksabike’s program so successful. So not only do clients get an amazing tour, but they also make a difference in the lives of local youth, just as when you visit Tree Alliance restaurants, where you are supporting youth in training, or shop at Friends ‘N’ Stuff outlets around the country, buying products made by their mums and dads which helps to support the family!
(You can find more information on how to be a responsible traveler, and how to engage with great initiatives like all of these at the ChildSafe Movement website.)