Riding the 2021 Rollercoaster


Young people take part in Spean Chivit's discussion groups


This year has felt a bit like being at a theme park – and the main rides have been the rollercoaster and the dodgem cars, with an occasional visit to the House of Horrors.

I don’t know about you, but we’re relieved we’ve made it to the end of the ride and we can get off. Can you relate? Has your year been more like a gentle spin on the merry-go-round or the thrill of the Wipeout?

I had thought we were cruising along nicely – lapping up the candy floss and taking all the adrenalin, shocks and surprises in our stride. But just like the end of a day at the theme park, we’re skidding into the end of the year exhausted, drained and wanting to sit in a dark room. This year has been tough. Emotionally tough and financially tough and the cup is running dry. I know we’re not alone.

But if nothing else, Cambodia has taught resilience. And the ability to twist and swivel and to just get on with things. And for the most part we have done this. So, it seems like a good opportunity to reflect on what we have achieved, despite the challenges and surprises, and the difference we have made.


Our discussion groups were casual conversations, held in a safe space, covering important topics. We started with sex. It was popular and there were so many questions. And, not surprisingly, in a country where the topic is largely taboo and resources are limited, there was a demand for more. We also talked about body image and body shaming and LGBTQI+ issues. We stopped these sessions when Covid took hold. We are hoping to re-start them in 2022.

Outcomes and impact:

4 Discussion groups over 2 months.

5-10 attendees at each session. Mostly female.

Feedback: Great vibe, great environment, good topics, would like more men to join, love to hear other people’s thoughts, feel safe and confident to speak, opens thinking and helps reduce judgemental thoughts.

Ideas for future topics: sex, gender, geography, nutrition.

Young people take part in Spean Chivit's discussion groups


Our workshops were very small, invite only. We covered a diverse range of topics and hope to grow this in 2022. Our topics for 2021:

  • Creative Writing
  • Budgeting
  • Writing CVs and cover letters
  • Introduction to Photography


The Ponheary Ly Foundation – we provided our workshop room and hangout space for PLF when Covid restrictions meant a large space was needed for social distancing.

Writers and Readers Festival: Angkor International Festival of the Arts – we provided creative writing workshops, culminating at the festival with participants’ short stories read to the public. Feedback from participants and those attending the readings was fabulous, with most impressed with the creativity demonstrated by participants.

APTBY (A Place to be Yourself) – we are working closely with APTBY and so excited that they are now located at Spean Chivit. We will have more information about this in the New Year.


We featured in Salt Magazine in Australia. Read our story here.


We continued to run the community garden and Siem Reap Food Loop, community composting project. We grew okra, eggplants, round egg plants, louffa gourd, cucumbers, chillies, lemon grass, basil, moringa, aloe vera, morning glory, bananas and more. The majority was given to people in need.


We were thrilled to have some young Cambodians join us to volunteer in the garden. We love that young people want to give back and we think that volunteering helps build a sense of community and understanding. We are aiming to expand our volunteer program in 2022 and get more young Cambodians involved in the garden and developing the centre and its programs.


With Cambodia one of the most vaccinated countries in the world and leading the way in opening up to tourism, Siem Reap has a sense of rejuvenation, hope, anticipation and excitement as we careen towards 2022.

We’re leaving the theme park behind as we step into the new year – rejuvenated and excited about the possibilities. We already have some awesome things lined up for 2022. Stay tuned for more information in the New Year.

Love what we’re doing? Then we’d love your support

We are thrilled at the success of the programs we have run throughout 2021, despite the challenges. And so thankful to those who have donated time, money and advice, which has managed to keep us going. You can provide support in many ways. Here are a few:

  • Become a seed funder and help us grow strong roots
  • Sponsor our library
  • Sponsor our creative development programs
  • Sponsor our life skills workshops
  • Sponsor our community garden
  • Share this blog post
  • Like and follow our Facebook page
  • Like, comment and share our Facebook posts

For more information, email us at: info@speanchivit.com

You can also follow us on Facebook.

Wishing you a safe and happy New Year and hoping 2022 brings new light to you and your loved ones.