La Jolla woman campaigns for a school in rural Cambodia

Nicole M. Sahin
Nicole M. Sahin

By Kirby Brooks

Supplying a young girl in Cambodia with just $10 a month can make her the breadwinner of her family, help to eradicate poverty, and probably keep that child out of the sex trade. This is the message Nicole Sahin of La Jolla is trying to get across through her partnership with American Assistance for Cambodia. Established by a journalist to provide opportunities for Cambodian children, the program seeks to stop the disturbing cycle that places children, girls in particular, into the sex industry.

Sahin, senior director of the international business consulting firm, High Street Partners, has made it her mission to raise funds to start a school for children in rural Cambodia to provide them with an education that will allow them to live a life they could otherwise only dream of.

Sahin has visited more than 50 countries and circumnavigated the globe twice. She said her travels provided her with a window on how others live. “My trips have made me see how much further money can go in other places,” she explained. “I want to show that you can make a huge difference with something that is so attainable.” Her excitement is infectious.

She has recruited a team of seven inspired women to help her build the school. Their goal is for each to raise $2,500 to 3,000. Her team is comprised of Denise Hummel of Carlsbad; Sayaka Adachi of Vista; Los Angeles-local Mary Murphy; Carolyn Taylor Meyer, who lives up the coast in Monterey; Bostonite Jeannette Van Der Velde; and Casie Gambrel, an expat living in Australia. Since May 26, they have collectively raised $7,000.

“I’d been thinking about this for a long time, and once I recruited these women, I knew it was possible to build the school,” Sahin said. “There are two tools to eradicating poverty: educating women and having a well.”

In Cambodia, 10 percent of children die before their first birthday, and many of these deaths are related to waterborne diseases. “The school is just the beginning. It will have a well that will provide access to clean water. We don’t think about something that simple, but access to clean water there is key,” Sahin insisted.

The Asian Development Bank will match funds raised for the construction of the school. It’s estimated the total cost of the building, with 3 to 6 classrooms, desks, chalkboards, and materials, is $19,000. Funds will also provide for a nationally certified teacher for two years, as well as a computer, solar panel to power the school, and a bookcase full of texts.

The school’s opening ceremony is slated for spring/summer 2012. Once the school is up and running, however, Sahin and her team’s work will still not be done. These ambitious women plan on arranging microfinance opportunities in the village, as a way to provide work opportunities for graduates and to stimulate the economy in the targeted village.

To Connect

• Donations can be made through

• E-mail Sahin at

for the address for checks made out to: American Assistance for Cambodia, a 501c3 nonprofit



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