Draper family starts nonprofit organization to help Cambodians living in poverty
Sep 05, 2019 12:17PM
By Stephanie Yrungaray
Chantha South (far right) poses with children in a village where Vision Cambodia donations helped drill a well to provide fresh water. (Photo Courtesy of Rob Brunt)
By Stephanie Yrungaray | [email protected]
A bucket list vacation to see Buddhist temples became a life-changing cause for a Draper family.
While on vacation to Cambodia, Rob and Erin Brunt were paired with a tour guide named Chantha South. South told them how he had escaped horrific living conditions as a child slave. Through his courage and tenacity, South was able to receive an education and make a life for himself. The Brunts learned that South was using the extra money he earned as a tour guide to drill wells and provide fresh water for children living in rural villages. They immediately offered to pay for a well to be drilled and were able to see it completed while they were on their vacation.
“When the well was finished the whole village was there and they were so grateful,” Rob Brunt said. “They had a big celebration and my wife and I looked at each other and said, ‘What are we doing? We should be doing more of this and less of other things that just aren’t as important.’”
After returning home to the United States, the Brunts got right to work, and their nonprofit, Vision Cambodia, was born. Together with Rob’s business partner Troy Peterson, South in Cambodia and the entire Brunt family, Vision Cambodia continues to offer relief to Cambodians and has expanded beyond well drilling to include funding safe baby births, building schools, sponsoring students and building farms and greenhouses.
“Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world,” Rob Brunt said. “The vast majority of villages are rural and they live in a situation that we can’t even fathom. Lots of the people don’t have electricity or even access to clean drinking water.”
Since their first trip to Cambodia four years ago, the Brunts have returned 10 times to the country, sometimes bringing others with them on humanitarian trips. With help and donations from the volunteers, hundreds of wells have been drilled and six schools are now built and operating.
“A lot of what we started doing happened organically,” Rob Brunt said. “When we were there in villages working on wells we saw other problems that needed resolutions and we started brainstorming.”
The Brunts’ neighbor, Todd Skousen, got involved after hearing about Vision Cambodia. His family donated money to build a well and he was also able to travel to Cambodia with his 18-year-old son. He said the experience was life-changing for both of them.
“After the well was finished there was a guy there who was 60-something years old and he was drinking fresh water for the first time in his life,” Skousen said. “Watching that changed me. I knew there was a bigger purpose here.”
Brunt said they try to make the humanitarian trips very affordable and aren’t doing it to make any money.
“We want people to have an experience there that ties them in and makes them care,” Rob Brunt said. “Troy and I and the other people involved aren’t running this because it is our own little project. We want to involve as many people as possible. We are happy for help.”
Brunt said they have had a lot of support from friends and family in Draper.
“A lot of people in Draper have committed their time and resources,” Rob Brun said. “About a third of the people who have gone on humanitarian trips have come from Draper and around 50 wells were drilled from money donated by Draper residents.”
The Brunts hope is that Vision Cambodia will continue to grow and become self-sustaining to pay the overhead of native employees in Cambodia.
“There are millions of people in Cambodia that live in poverty,” Rob Brunt said. “We figure we will keep expanding what we are doing and try to alleviate some of the problems they have because of poverty and the lack of infrastructure and education. We are doing our best to help individuals.”
On their website www.visioncambodia.org the Brunts have tried to make it simple for people to donate money toward the different ongoing projects. A donation as small as $30 can fund a baby birth and any amount of money can be put toward the bigger projects like building a school, which costs $5,000. Additionally, they are happy to bring people along to Cambodia for their own humanitarian experience.
“Once you are there and interact with people and see how grateful they are for the services you’ve done, you make a real connection,” Erin Brunt said. “The people who go to Cambodia are inspired and come back and tell their neighbors. It helps spread the word about our work.”
For more information, you can follow Vision Cambodia on Instagram @visioncambodiaorg or send an email to [email protected]