Caring For Cambodia
It was supposed to be a Girls' Weekend when Jamie Amelio and friends--then expatriates living in Singapore--took a jaunt to Siem Reap, Cambodia, in 2003. She expected to be dazzled by the temples. Instead, she was struck by a different sight--a little girl with soulful eyes who asked for a dollar.
Jamie was used to seeing children beg, but this one stopped her heart. "I asked what she needed it for and she said to go to school. I knew my life wouldn't ever be the same. She wasn't asking for money, she was asking for hope."
Jamie jettisoned her itinerary and looked into local schools, where she found a half-dozen children sharing a pencil and a termite-infested desk on a dirt floor. "I started thinking about how many pencils I've thrown away," she remembers.
Within a week she had established Caring For Cambodia, and within a month she had committed funds for an elementary school. The organization now serves 5,800 students from preschool to high school, providing meals, uniforms, bicycles, basic health and hygiene care, and well-equipped classrooms with local teachers trained by CFC. A long-term plan is to mentor parents in nutrition to break the cycle of malnutrition.
Jamie recently moved to Austin, Texas, taking along two Cambodian foster daughters in addition to her and husband Bill's four children. She returns often to Cambodia, however, determined to help make every child in the CFC schools a productive member of society--"not by giving a handout but a hand up."