At a Glance
Friends Fun Fair, Dec. 5, from 9am to 4pm at the Mith Samlanh center on Street 13.
The Mith Samlanh organization is hoping to wipe out its debt and have some fun at the same time.
The local NGO is holding a “Fun Fair” on Dec. 5. The activity-filled event is aimed at raising money to go toward paying off the US$1.135 million it owes for the land it occupies on Street 13.
Paying off that debt will allow Mith Samlanh to pour all of the revenue it generates into the organization’s many programs.
“Our goal is to be 100 percent self-sufficient,” says Amirtha Martin, fundraising manager for Friends International, which provides technical support to Mith Samlanh.
The NGO had originally started renting the land in 2000. But rising land prices in Phnom Penh prompted the owner to sell the property in 2006, says Martin, sitting on a recent afternoon at Friends Restaurant, a Mith Samlanh initiative that offers culinary skills training to street kids.
“At the time there was a spiraling land market,” she adds.
Finding land big enough to accommodate the organization’s programs proved a difficult task. The only property large enough that the NGO could find was out in Toul Kork, but Martin says that location wasn’t suitable.
“Street kids wouldn’t travel all the way out there,” she says.
So Mith Samlanh borrowed the money to purchase the land it had been renting. ANZ Royal lent the NGO US$2.1 million, and with some additional help from other donors, the organization was able to buy the property for US$2.5 million in 2006, Martin says.
In the meantime, while some of the revenue raised by the organization is used for Mith Samlanh’s programs, most of the money goes toward paying off the bank loan, she says.
Raising money for an NGO in Cambodia hasn’t always been easy. As the country’s economy has grown in recent years, Cambodian NGOs haven’t been receiving as much international aid as other developing countries.
“Cambodia is not as much in need as Africa,” Martin says.
And the global economic crisis hasn’t exactly helped matters, as individual donations have dropped during the downturn, she adds.
Still, the NGO has managed to meet all of its deadlines for its loan payments.
More recently, a U.S. donor has boosted fund-raising efforts with a promise to triple any money raised by Dec. 15.
“If someone gives us a dollar, he’ll give us three,” she says.
The organization is hoping to raise US$300,000 by Dec. 13.
Mith Samlanh offers a wide range of programs to assist young people up to the age of 24. Aside from the culinary training offered at the Friends Restaurant, the NGO also offers vocational training for tailoring, laundry, welding, electronics (TV, stereos, etc.), electricity (wiring), mechanics (cars and motorcycles) and hairdressing. The organization also offers streets kids courses in life skills and basic English.
“Our whole aim is to reintegrate them back into society,” she says.
As well, the NGO provides assistance to the young people’s families.
Another Fun Fair was held earlier this year as a flea market. But the December event promises many more activities.
The Fun Fair will feature bands and will include performances from the Mith Samlanh break-dancers and local Khmer hip-hop artists. As well, the event will feature craft making, clowns, jugglers and special guest appearances throughout the day.