Back in 2009, GROUND and our partner, Khiri Reach learned about Isanborei, a remote community in Kampong Thom Province, on the main road between Siem Reap and Phnom Penh. Frustrated by poverty and far from the big cities, this community had been hiding archeological treasures from the outside world. GTZ, a German development organization, brought our team to the Sambor Prei Kuk temple complex. This capital city of the pre-Angkorian Chenla Kingdom dates to the 7th century and was already under restoration by Waseda University of Japan.
We were brought in as a private partner to help nearby villages organizes community-based tourism (CBT) programs. Our role is to help develop the community infrastructure and capacity as a means to reduce poverty and preserve the cultural heritage for the local people.
“We worked hard to gain trust. I was young and feeling intimidated, but we just kept working hard with the village leaders. I can’t remember how many times we visited the community to build the program together,” says Linda, GROUND Cambodia Tour Director. “Eventually, we helped train the guides, developed the homestay program, created cultural exchange activities, and marketed this responsible tourism venture through our networks. Later, we involved our student teams in developing quality of life projects for the people. We are so proud to be a part of something so important to this community.”
Now Isanborei is one of GROUND’s ‘Core’ communities with projects ranging from house construction, teaching and through to temple restoration.