Alumnus starts fundraiser to give back to his home country of Cambodia

Erika Bradley

Local high school English teacher and Sacramento State alumnus Kimith So is returning to Cambodia after escaping from a Vietnamese occupation about 33 years ago.


Leaving his job at Pleasant Grove High School, So is making the move in the hopes that his donations and teaching can make a difference in improving the education of native children.


So is fundraising for laptops and tuition money for children in Cambodia to learn English at the Bospo Primary School. All money raised will go directly to the Khmer New Generation Organization, which runs the school and is dedicated to improving the lives of children through education.


“I knew when I retired that I wanted to go back to Cambodia and volunteer, teach somewhere in the country, I just didn’t know exactly when because it was far away,” So said. “I started following [the Khmer New Generation Organization] on Facebook and I would see people posting about volunteering and I talked about it for over five years and I got tired of talking about it and started doing it.”


Last month, So used, a fundraising website, to raise money that went toward helping educate children in Cambodia because many children cannot afford to pay for English classes.


“I told him because I thought it would be a great way to spread the word and allow people [to] contribute with ease,” said Jennifer Zanardi who told So about the fundraising site.


People can donated anonymously through the website, but So also had some of his students bring donations to class. He said some students have donated a dollar a day rather than buying candy at the student store.


Originally, So’s goal was to raise enough money to purchase two laptops and use his own money to buy a third, he has already raised more than double the amount with a total of $1,680.


So said children in Cambodia do not have much access to computers. The laptops would be used for school purposes and the tuition money would be for students of any grade level who want to learn English.


According to the Khmer New Generation Organization website, Bospo Primary School opened its first computer lab in 2010  with only two computers for 20 children.


“I want to actually, physically carry the laptops [on the plane to Cambodia],” So said. “I figured that was manageable and whatever is leftover that I don’t spend on the laptops, I’m going to pay for the tuition for the kids at the school.”


So said English classes are not paid for by the government and supplementary classes cost $50 per student. The students attending Bospo Primary School often live in villages where many are poor.


“I’m hoping to pay for maybe 12 to 14 kids [to take English classes],” So said. “ I want to select the kids because I will be teaching [in]

Cambodia for four weeks over summer]. I’m looking for kids who are serious about it.”


Kathryn Yue, a former student of So, taught in Cambodia for several weeks in the summer of 2012.


“Mr. So’s donation is incredible,” Yue said. “Cambodia had a huge setback in their country’s development because of the civil war and revolution in the 70’s. Many of the schools we visited considered having access to computers a huge privilege.”


According to So, the country gets a lot of tourism by English speaking visitors.


“Cambodia relies on tourism right now and knowing English can really help them in getting jobs as tour guides or working in the hotels or restaurants,” So said. “If you’re poor, you don’t have access to [computers] because you can’t afford it.”


Another former student, Chase Porter, said he thinks the fundraiser is a great way to expose children to technologies and resources they would not ordinarily get.


“This fundraiser is a great way to help Mr. So make the most out of his already planned volunteer work,” Porter said.


Currently, So has 37 supporters and hopes to gain more before his fundraiser ends. He will be accepting donations at through the end of the May.