In 2003, Alan Lightman (founder and chairman) and his daughter Elyse visited Cambodia and began a project in a small village outside of Phnom Penh called Tramung Chrum. In 2004, Alan met a Cambodian lawyer named Veasna Chea, who told Alan that when she was in university, she and a few other female students lived in the six-foot crawl space between the ground and the bottom of the school building because there was no housing for young women. Male students could live in the Buddhist temples or rent rooms together, but those options were not open to women.
Veasna’s strength and determination inspired Alan to create the first dormitory for women in Phnom Penh, which was completed in July 2006. The second dormitory, on the opposite side of the city and closer to many universities, was completed in December 2009.
Over 60% of Harpswell students have continued on to graduate school and over 40 graduates have gone on to study abroad.