Cambodia: famous for its natural beauty and cuisine, but infamous for the atrocities of its past and the current levels of aid required to help in recovery. Landmines, and other unexploded ordinances are littered throughout the country; the shadow of the Khmer Rouge rule during the late 1970s still lingers in the background. Now, Cambodia is in development mode, with many local villages and towns still dependent on international financial and human aid.

What do you know about Cambodia? Besides being a warm country in Southeast Asia, the home of the famous Angkor Wat temple, and a country with a history of massive killings that went on during the infamous reign Khmer Rouge, it’s also home to a great NGO called PEPY.

‘PEPY’ (Promoting Education, emPowering Youth), is a charitable organisation that is dedicated to increasing the capacity of the local populations to further develop their own communities. Working alongside organisations and local government structures, the focus is on the education and empowerment of youth. This isn’t a specific ‘teach English’ charity, but one that seeks to re-affirm the national identity and culture of Cambodia.

The NGO, PEPY Cambodia, is partnered to a tourism branch called PEPY Tours. This is also a leading organization in the way of Responsible Tourism. Responsible tourism is a form of tourism that minimizes environmental and social impacts and tries to improve the overall economic and educational condition of residents. It also aims at educating tourists and provides meaningful connections with local people. Instead of staying in hotels, we’ll be staying with people, and instead of cars, we’ll be riding bicycles on one of PEPY’s bicycle tours.

PEPY’s tours guide visitors through not only the Siem Reap region, home to the amazing Angkor Wat temple complex and beautiful villages, but also to large minefields remaining from the civil wars. It is worth mentioning that whilst most of the minefields have been cleared, there are areas that remain dangerous with mines and other forms of ammunition. PEPY’s guided tours seek to raise awareness of the situation faced by local villages and communities as they look to live life as best they can.

Our group is made up of JETs from all over Hyogo-ken: Emily, Kameron, Miriam, Nohea (from the USA), Katie (Canada) and myself (New Zealand) and will be lucky enough to spend a large part of our Christmas and New Year holidays touring, volunteering, and giving financial and human aid in one of those areas.

Our trip will be a 6 day ride beginning in the Siem Reap area. We will be doing some of the tour by bicycle, allowing us to well and truly see Cambodia up close. Highlights will include Angkor Wat and the surrounding temples, Khmer architecture, dedicated landmine museums, and participate in a home-stay with rural families in Cambodia. Our itinerary sees us take in the natural beauty of the country side, famous temples and ruins and generally gain an appreciation for Cambodia and her people. Equally, if not more importantly, we also get to see firsthand where the fundraised money goes. Visits like this allow us to comprehend what PEPY does for and how they help in Cambodia.

The costs associated with the trip are in two parts. The tour itself (food, accommodation, bicycles, guides and so-on) is taken care of by us participants, but the second part is the fundraising, financial part. The money raised goes directly to PEPY Cambodia’s programs in education and clean water efforts. The idea behind fundraising is both that tourists leave behind money that continues to do good after they have returned home, and also that the process itself of raising the money thus broadens awareness in the home country of the traveller to Cambodia. We Hyogo-based Cambodia-bound JETs have already begun fundraising in our respective parts of Hyogo, with eikaiwa classes, clothing sales, music concerts, Thanksgiving dinners, and even getting in on the world famous ‘Movember’ events. Several group members also took part in the semi-annual Himeji PEPY bike ride, visiting local sites and admiring the autumnal colours all whilst raising money for PEPY in Cambodia.  However, as is the way with fundraising, we always appreciate more help as we work towards our financial goal of $2400 USD that we will donate to the organization alongside our own tour.

Seldom does one get to fundraise, donate, and then go and see first hand how their contributions are used to help the chosen cause. This PEPY Bicycle Tour, as well as the generosity of others in helping donate, allows exactly that.

Please help us achieve our goal to contribute and experience the work of PEPY in Cambodia.

Donations can be made here:

www.indiegogo.com/JETs-Riding-Across-Cambodia