The town of Kampot sits alongside a river and is well known for two things: peppercorns and sunsets. We love both, so a stop there was a must on our Cambodia itinerary.
The peppercorns and sunset were not hard to find. We arrived to the Mad Monkey hostel just as the sun was starting to descend, casting a pink glow throughout the sky. And on the tops of all the tables sat pepper grinders. But we’re getting ahead of ourselves here…
One of the primary reasons we chose to stay at the Mad Monkey Hostels throughout our 3 weeks in Cambodia is their dedication to bettering the local communities. The location in Kampot supports an education project that will change the lives of countless youth in an area of need.
Before we introduce this inspiring effort, a bit of background information on education in Cambodia is essential.
We learned a troubling statistic upon entering Cambodia: 95% of children in the country are enrollment in primary school (great, right?!). But when it comes to secondary education, the enrollment drops to just 20%. Twenty percent. TWENTY PERCENT.
This hits us where it hurts. I (Katie) taught for two years in an inner-city high school in Miami, and I could talk for days about the importance of education, especially in impoverished areas. Don’t tempt me. And we both spent a year teaching English in South Korea, which only strengthened our passion. To hear that only a fifth of the country’s youth makes it through high school is heartbreaking.
The aspect that’s especially hart to swallow is that the Khmer Rouge (the group that was responsible for the murders of nearly one forth of the country) banned education and executed all of the intellectuals in the country. It’s painful to see that although there is much progress in Cambodia, education is still an area that reflects the results of the regime that brought demise to this country.
But there are small glimmers of hope. And one of those glimmers is the Sala Monkey School in Kep, a small seaside town just 20 kilometers from the Mad Monkey hostel in Kampot.
Sala Monkey School is still in the creation process, but its founder, Tracy Settler, imagines it to be a place where the poorest children in the region are able to receive a top-notch education. In fact, their website proclaims that the school will set “a new standard in rural education”. Settler predicts that Sala Monkey will educate some future doctors, engineers and tech entrepreneurs that will change Cambodia as we know it now.
Settler lists her position at Sala Monkey School as founder, teacher, principal, friend, fundraiser, mother and mentor. And she’s not exaggerating.
Taking on so many roles allows her to make many big decisions for this new school, but she doesn’t make them alone. Settler has invited the local kids to help make many of the important decisions – from the school’s name to the color and design elements of their classrooms. Allowing the students to be a part of this process gives them ownership of their education and the building in which they’ll be learning.
Photo Captions: Top Left: Many students have put their name on the waiting list to be enrolled at Sala Monkey school. Bottom Left: One of the classrooms that will soon be occupied by many excited students! Right: One student who is very excited to learn! All photos courtesy of Tracy Settler.
Mad Monkey Hostels have played an integral role in making this school a reality. They have raised financial support in creative ways, including Bar Crawls for hostel guests. To date, they have raised more than $1,500 for Sala Monkey, with goals of raising $5,000 by their anticipated opening in the summer of 2016. Their hope is to encourage more of the country’s youth to continue their education “so that we can give back to Cambodia and help positively impact the children who will one day shape the future of this country”. Powerful goals indeed.
How can I help?
Donations to the Sala Monkey School are welcome. 100% of the money goes straight to funding sustainable education projects for underprivileged children in Cambodia.
What's the Mad Monkey Hostel in Kampot like?
So back to the hostel itself. The Mad Monkey location in Kampot is stunning. Have a look for yourself! Walk past the pool and sunbeds and you’ll find new friends playing darts and billiards. Then step over to the full service bar and restaurant that serves up a mean wood fired pizza (our recommendation is the Chicken Amok Curry… absolutely piled high with flavorful toppings and – gasp – real cheese). Oh, and the happy hour specials aren’t bad either: $1.50 mojitos every Tuesday? Sign us up!
And what about the rooms?
The dorms are spacious, with comfortable beds and spotless bathrooms. And the plush privates are comparable to boutique hotels with a (much) higher price tag.
This was our third stay at a Mad Monkey, and once again we felt that the facilities and service were above par.
Mad Monkey Hostels invited us to stay with them at their locations around Cambodia and learn more about their dedication to supporting the local communities. This article was written in exchange for our stay at their property in Kampot. As with any sponsored post, all opinions are 100% our own.
Learn more about Mad Monkey and it’s other fantastic locations: