A team of 11 Atlassians is headed to Cambodia to further our efforts in rebuilding education there. This is the first post in our series on the Atlassian Foundation’s contributions to Room to Read in Cambodia. Check back soon for more posts.

The Atlassian Foundation in Cambodia

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost five years since Atlassian first raised $100,000 for Room to Read. Since that time, we’ve formalized our starter license model and given more than $2.5 million to Room to Read, our partner non-profit organization (we’ll have much more on Room to Read later on in the series). Next week, 12 Atlassians will travel to Cambodia to check out the schools that’ve been built with funds from the starter license program. We’ll be posting along the way, describing the focus of the Atlassian Foundation’s efforts, the history of our relationship with Room to Read, and some stories of kids we’ve reached.

A couple years ago, Atlassian selected Cambodia as the country we’d most like to impact. Room to Read works in 10 different countries, but we wanted to make a larger impact with a single, more focused effort. We chose Cambodia, knowing that it’s a significant challenge to work to improve conditions there, not wanting to shy away from a challenge.

Today’s blog will give a little background on what some of the challenges are in Cambodia, where they are as a country, and what the state of education is there.

Cambodia today

For better or worse, most people know Cambodia for two things: genocide and amazing temples.

The impact of war on education

Over 2 million people were killed in the Khmer Rouge genocide – with focus on the educated class – back in the 1970s. From the Wikipedia entry:

The Khmer Rouge regarded traditional education with undiluted hostility. After the fall of Phnom Penh, they executed thousands of teachers. Those who had been educators prior to 1975 survived by hiding their identities.

Cambodia has been focused on restoring its education system since 1980, when the genocide ended. Imagine – not only had the entire country been ravaged by war, but in particular all the teachers had been killed. Recovery has required not only recuperation from economic devastation, but a rebuilding of the educated class from the ground up. That was only 30 years ago. That’s the challenge we’re facing in Cambodia; trying to build great educational opportunities in this environment.

I visited back in 2000, when things were beginning to open up. We were warned not to go off the beaten trail since there were land mines sprinkled throughout the countryside. Everywhere we went we saw amputees. But since then, it seems like they’ve had a big surge of economic growth. Cambodia is on a recovery path; it’s best noted by the huge growth in tourism.


Tourist boom in Cambodia

Over the last 10 years, Cambodia has made huge strides in tourism, mostly focused around visits to Angkor and the surrounding temples. The town of Siem Reap has gone from a dirt road to a thriving metropolis, and there are now over 3.5 million visitors to Cambodia per year, well up from the under 1 million in 2003.

This boom in tourism is far from unintentional; tourism has been a focus for the Cambodian government and people for years. Much of the tourist boom over the last few years is a welcome change, at least as far as reputation goes. It’s a sign that the country is on a path to changing their economic climate, which is, overall, good for their education programs as well.

Up Next

For the rest of the blog series, we’ll cover girls’ education, our partnership with Room to Read, what we’ve accomplished so far, and where we’re going from here. The twelve of us in the Atlassian delegation will be in Cambodia next week, and we’re all looking forward to understanding where Cambodia is at as a country and what the prospects of transforming education are.

Look forward to our updates from on the ground in Cambodia over the next week!

Atlassian Foundation in Cambodia: An introduction...