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Charity making a positive splash into a new business

Jason Boken / Khmer Times Share:
Children enjoying the facilities provided by ICF Cambodia. Supplied

A nongovernmental organisation (NGO) based in Siem Reap that helps to support Cambodian families by covering basic needs such as food, medicine and education has opened the first state-of-the art wakeboarding park in Cambodia.

International Christian Fellowship (ICF) is a nonprofit organisation that is built on the foundation of the Christian faith. It offers weekly celebrations for children, youths and adults. In addition to its church celebrations, it brings hope to the community through social projects.

Through the ICF Sponsorship Programmes, ICF support families by covering basic needs such as food, medicine and education. It currently has a team of 20 social workers who take care of families on a daily basis during the week.

The ICF campus is based in Siem Reap and has been open for more than six years. It was founded by Swiss natives ND (sic) and Sophal Strupler in 2014 after a visit the year before left them heartbroken by the cruel history of the country, the effects of which are still being felt today. This visit left them with a desire to help Cambodian families improve their education levels, lifestyle, and relationships with one another.

Out on the man-made lake wakeboarding at ICF Wake Park. Supplied

The mission for the NGO is to break the cycle of poverty by empowering people to achieve their full potential and equipping them to carry their knowledge and experience out into their families and communities.

It prides itself on serving a safe community area for children and young people in the surrounding villages.

In a protected, supervised atmosphere the locals can engage in sports and acquire basic knowledge such as gardening, woodworking, swimming or English lessons. In addition, the campus offers free clean water to the community.

ICF Cambodia relies on sponsorship to keep the NGO running. Through the support of these sponsors it is able to include more than 500 youngsters in their Child Sponsorship Programme, send out 10 trucks weekly to bring them to the centre, prepare more than 10,000 meals a month, send 22 children to excellent private schools and employ in excess of 20 case-workers to work closely with different families

Earlier this year, the NGO opened Cambodia’s first wake park. This project will allow ICF to generate financial resources enabling it to further social projects and offer new training and job opportunities for young Cambodians.

ICF is also set up around Europe in places such as Switzerland, Germany and Albania. Not all but some of the other ICF locations have a side-business attached to support the charity but usually a coffee shop. Nothing as big as a wakeboarding park.

Wakeboarding is a water sport in which the rider, standing on a wakeboard (a short board with foot bindings), is towed behind a motorboat across its wake in order to perform aerial manoeuvres. Although the rider is usually towed by a rope behind a boat, he or she can also be towed by cable systems and winches. The latter is the system used at ICF Wakeboarding.

The wake park in Siem Reap includes the wakeboarding area, a man-made beach and a bar and restaurant.

ICF had to import all of the equipment from Europe and even had one of the biggest wake cable system companies (Wakeparx) come over to Cambodia to help set it up.

The cost to set up the wake park has not been revealed but the cable system installed by German company Wakeparx cost $350,000 alone. Multiple private donors invested in the set up of the park because they loved the idea of the NGO having its own business to be more self-sustainable.

ICF Cambodia has sponsors from 13 different countries. They donate in five different areas: Sponsoring a child, sponsoring food needs, sponsoring education, sponsoring health needs and also sponsoring a truck to collect locals.

Without transportation, the children from the villages would not be able to join in any of the activities and would miss the opportunity to learn and grow.

ND Strupler said: “We were helping so many people before COVID-19 but now things have exploded. Right now we are supporting more than 250 families within our programme. This is a huge number of people we feed every day.

“We have now been providing emergency packages. This is a reaction here in Siem Reap to thousands of people losing their jobs overnight because of the virus. People have had to sell their tuktuks, motorbikes and are down to nothing. Our approach, though, has always been holistic, meaning we will give you help now but we are not going to let you off the hook. We are going to teach you step-by-step to be self-sufficient by giving you the tools to do so.”

“This wake park is also going to make our NGO more self-sufficient. We will always rely on sponsors but this new business will play a major part in helping Cambodian families in years to come.”

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