Empowering a New Generation of Leaders in the Developing World

Overview | Students | Program | Leadership Residents | Facilities and Hall of Great Women

Harpswell Dormitory and Leadership Centers for Women


New video about Harpswell

First dormitory and leadership center CLICK HERE!

Menghun tells her life story CLICK HERE!


Dormitory and Leadership Center at Teuk Thla

Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in Southeast Asia, still devastated by the civil war and brutal regime of the Khmer Rouge in the 1970s. Among other atrocities, the Khmer Rouge killed almost all of the educated class of Cambodia. Even today, only about 2% of Cambodians have a university education. Education and visionary leadership are the best hope for the future. Furthermore, studies by the World Bank and other international organizations have concluded that the most effective way to help developing countries is the education and empowerment of their women. Unfortunately, with regards to higher education, women in Cambodia are at a disadvantage relative to men. Almost all the universities in Cambodia are located in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, but most of the population lives outside of these cities, in the provinces, and the universities do not provide housing for their students. The lack of housing is not a serious problem for male students, who can live free in the Buddhist pagodas or safely rent apartments. However, such options are not available to women. Thus, for the simple reason of not having a safe place to live while they are attending university, most young women in Cambodia are blocked from higher education.

In July 2006, working with a Cambodian team, the Harpswell Foundation completed construction of a dormitory for Cambodian women attending college in Phnom Penh, the capital city and seat of most universities in Cambodia. This first facility is located at Boeng Trabaek. In December 2009, we completed a second facility in the Teuk Thla area of Phnom Penh. Our two facilities are among the first dormitories for university students in Cambodia and the first dormitories devoted exclusively to women. The facility at Boeng Trabaek houses 36 women, the facility in Teuk Thla, 48. Our two facilities are not attached to any single university. Our students attend fifteen different universities in Phnom Penh.

Leadership seminar in the Hall of Great Women at the facility in Teuk Thla. Leadership seminars are given twice a month and bring together all students from both facilities.

Our students are chosen from around the country on the basis of their "intelligence, ambition, and leadership potential." Most of them come from poor farming families in rural communities. In addition to providing our students with free room and board and medical care, we give them a rigorous in-house program of English classes, computers connected to the internet, leadership training, and discussions of national and international events to develop their critical thinking skills. We also help them get summer internships, scholarships abroad when they graduate The mission of our facilities, written in both English and Khmer on plaques near their respective offices, is "To empower a new generation of women leaders in Cambodia." Our goal is that within fifteen or twenty years, our graduates will be government ministers, heads of law firms and hospitals, directors of NGOs, and business leaders and entrepreneurs.

Although it will be many years before we can measure the true success of our project, there are some preliminary signs. Within our first two years of operation, our students were first in their class at the major universities in Cambodia, the Royal University of Law and Economics, the Royal University of Phnom Penh, and the National University of Management. In our first three years of graduates, about 43 students, 15 have received scholarships for post-graduate studies in the U.S., and all the others have received jobs in law firms, businesses, NGOs, schools, and newspapers.

The funds for building the two Harpswell Foundation Dormitory and Leadership Centers for University Women were donated by over 100 individuals. Financial contributions are still needed to fund the ongoing programs of the two facilities, about $200,000/year. The total in-country cost per student per year is $2500. This cost includes food, medical care, university tuitions, salaries of staff, all utilities and operations of the two facilities, 24-hour security, and teachers for our substantial in-house academic program, equivalent to a university degree.In the U.S., this cost would be 20 or 25 times larger. All contributions are tax deductible. Please help. CLICK HERE!

© The Harpswell Foundation 2008
last revised 9/12/16