Cambodia

Jenni Lipa – on learning, practicing, and giving back

Cambodian Community Dream Organization (CCDO) works to improve conditions in villages surrounding Siem Reap, Cambodia by implementing three main programs: Clean Water, Education, and Health & Wellbeing.

The CCDO is making a big impact by tackling many important community issues. Cambodian Community Dream Organization, Inc. was first founded in Cambodia in 2007 by American Jenni Lipa with the sole object of building water wells.

However, Jenni quickly realized that children hold the key to the country’s future. She believes that kids deserve not only clean drinking water, but a good education, better nutrition and improved health as well.

Human Asia has the following exclusive interview with Jenni.

What was the motivation for starting CCDO?

Jenni: Life is divided in 3’s: learning, practicing, giving back. I have always given back and taken care of others, but I also have the need to make a difference.

I grew up in South Africa during the Apartheid era with no education for blacks. My father who was a prisoner of war in Germany for four years while fighting Hitler. I felt that Cambodia with the genocide and the need to educate people, that this was my calling. I happened to be there at the right time in my life.

How did you identify the need for CCDO in the community?

Jenni: We started with water wells and a wash program and then saw the need for Education. We believe in an organic community that participates with our NGO. We believe in a hand-up and not a hand-out. Each of our programs comes from suggestions from the community that we serve.

How does CCDO actually help the community with regards to clean water?

Jenni: We have built over 1,300 wells and repaired more than 200 wells in the past 11 years. We have almost saturated the area that we work in with wells. We now concentrate on providing toilets and teach about hygiene and washing hands. We have installed 400 toilets.

What have been some of the critical challenges you have overcome in your role at CCDO?

Jenni: One of the most detrimental factors to overcome was to teach the locals not to lie. To have complete transparency. They had 20 years of civil war after the five years of genocide. The Cambodians tell you what you want to hear and not the truth. It took a while and several years of education that the staff learnt to trust CCDO.

Fast-forward to the present day, how has CCDO evolved since its founding in terms of resources, reach, and results?

Jenni: We have finally broken the barrier and have an amazing team on the ground with complete transparency. We have extended our reach into the various surrounding communities. We are involving the locals in a partnership and let them take pride in ownership.

We believe in sustainability and feel that the locals need to help themselves. CCDO is showing them how to earn more. The locals pay a nominal amount for a water well and toilet. The parents donate 15% of the breakfast program in kind (rice and vegetables). Parents also supply the labor to maintain the campus.

Due to our transparency, other organizations are flocking to help CCDO with resources. The results are astounding and we are able to do more in the area.

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If someone wants to get involved, how can they contribute to the organization?

Jenni: We cherish our volunteers, but we need to gain from them, so we only take long-term volunteers who can give a minimum of three months.

Donors can certainly make a difference and can donate online at www.theccdo.org. Every donation is acknowledged.

We want to find out more about Jenni Lipa

Jenni Lipa, Founder & President of CCDO, with Leangseng Hoy, Executive Director


Jenni, please tell us more about yourself and how you met with your Executive Director, Leangseng Hoy?

Jenni: I was born in South Africa and have spent most of my life in New York. I believe in motivating others to reach their full potential.

We had several executive directors over the years. It takes a special person with passion to handle the team on the ground. Leangseng Hoy found CCDO and was willing to prove himself before he was given the mammoth task of running the organization. We share the same vision.


What has proved to be the hardest part of running a nonprofit? Has anything surprised you?

Jenni: The evolution of CCDO invaded and took over my life. I am blessed with many friends and family who have supported my dreams with small donations that mushroomed and grew into the organization today. I never took their trust for granted and always ensured that the donations made a difference. It is only recently, that I am able to continue my life without being overwhelmed. The surprise was that I have managed to create this with the help of many friends.

Looking back, what what you have done differently?

Jenni: I would have done it differently and taken it slower and not grown as much as we did. However, having the right team has allowed us to make a difference to 30,000 people.

How do you define success for yourself and your organization?

Jenni: Success is seeing the economic growth in the rural areas, and seeing the kids continuing the education and not dropping out after 7th grade.

We have 14 kids going to university and 23 high school students on scholarships. I see the parents involved in the education of their kids and the preschoolers are eager to learn.

Do you have any tips for people who want to start a nonprofit or foundation?

Jenni: There is no need to reinvent the wheel. Look around and see if there is an organization that can use your help. Volunteer and do fundraising and make a difference with an existing organization.

Thank you, Jenni.

Visit Cambodian Community Dream Organization : https://www.theccdo.org/

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