What the media is saying about us …

 Phnom Penh Post

Cambodia’s ‘unsung heroes’ celebrated in a new release

17 Kerryan Griffin and Lee Anderson

Co-authors Kerryan Griffin (left) and Lee Anderson worked together to produce Unsung Heroes. Photograph: Scott Howes/Phnom Penh Post

Cambodia has no shortage of NGOs happy to take time and money from well-meaning foreigners, but, for the donors, choosing a worthwhile organisation to support can appear to present a challenge.

Two journalists and a teacher have published a book that highlights the work of dozens of Cambodia-based NGOs whose work is less well-known abroad.

Titled Unsung Heroes Cambodia, the book launched last night at Monument Books in Phnom Penh. The store was packed with NGO workers nibbling hors d’oeuvres and sipping red wine, with dozens of copies of the book  passed around.

The title was created to pay tribute to positive grassroots development in the Kingdom, said co-author Lee Anderson, a retired journalist who has worked in Samoa.

She worked on the project – a mixture of profiles and analysis – with friend Kerryan Griffin and American journalist Shawna Hartley over a three-year period including multiple visits to Cambodia.

“We feel that quite often there are people working away in the background, and they quite often get overlooked,” said Anderson. “Yet they make extraordinary differences in the lives of Cambodians just by going about their jobs.”

Among the 40 NGOs featured are Friends International, Wildlife Alliance and Cambodia Living Arts as well as some lesser-known names and the unusual stories of employees.

When choosing which would feature, the most important requirement was transparency, said Griffin, who works as a special needs educator for adults in Sydney. “An NGO must be transparent at all times, and annual general reports must be available.” The organisations included tended to be small, with high levels of community input, she added.

“There are NGOs that have started in a community where there’s been a need, and they have grown up around that need with local input,” said Griffin.

“They’re not coming into the country, staying here for six months, starting a project, and leaving after doing what they think needs to be done but not what the Cambodian people think needs to be done.”

Furthermore, the authors said, they tend not have large overhead costs.

“They’re not paying for expensive cars and great big houses. They’re out there working quietly away,” said Anderson, who said the organisations she studied stand in contrast to large international NGOs like World Vision and Save the Children.

“They’re a really big business these days, even though they do good work,” said Anderson, who praised the big players for raising public awareness about the issues facing developing countries.

“Those sorts of organisations are doing quite a different job.”

Alan Cordory – whose Siem Reap-based NGO Grace House, which provides schooling and vocational training to poor families in three villages, was featured in Unsung Heroes – said his organisation was a good example of an NGO with a firm commitment to the grassroots.

“It’s run by a board of governors, and we work with the poor in the villages and the village elders providing education, health care and housing to the community,” said Cordory.

In addition to paying tribute to quality NGOs in the Kingdom, Anderson said she hopes the book can serve as a resource for wannabe volunteers.

“A lot of people come here and think, ‘I want to change things, I want to do something that’s good,’ and they give money to people in the streets, and there’s child exploitation because of that,” said Anderson.

“What we’re saying is that if you’ve got a talent, OK, but research your placement carefully. Be sure what your job is going to be and that you bring something to that volunteer position. If you don’t, you’re better off making a donation.”

Unsung Heroes is available at Monument Books.

Sue Guiney’s Writing Life: From Cambodia and Back Again

Unsung Heroes

What do you get when you mix an American, an Australian and a New Zealander?  or
An American, an Australian and a New Zealander walk into a bar…..
Either way, these three women are no joke and they have, out of the goodness of their huge hearts, taken it upon themselves to create a book highlighting some of the charities and NGO’s doing good works in the many impoverished corners of Cambodia. They have called it Unsung Heroes, and, I’m honoured to say, they have included a story about Anjali House, my workshop, and me. The book was launched a few days ago in Monument Books of Phnom Penh to a large crowd of NGO workers and well-wishers. You can read about it in the Phnom Penh Post article here.
There was also a fundraising launch of the book in Siem Reap. I wish I had been able to be there, but friends of mine from Anjali House certainly were, and they sent me this:

Although I haven’t yet been able to read any of it, the book, and our three-page spread called Lessons from the Street, do look beautiful.

The aim of the book is to inspire through example, to show others the how’s and why’s of other peoples’ passions and  how these passions have gone on to become concrete changes. As the authors have said:

Unsung Heroes Cambodia includes stories about very successful people who cast aside their previous lives to help full-time; others that have felt their call while being tourists or reading about the plight; those that came to help for a week; and others who donated a pair of piglets for just $25.
What they all have in common is that the outcomes are amplified to those in need far in excess of the benefit to the giver. What is insignificant to you can turn into being life saving and enriching to someone else and provide you a joy like no other.
We hope this book will remind you of the generosity and rewards experienced in your own life and inspire more.

And, of course, all proceeds go on to support the projects included. There’s a Facebook page which you can “like”. There’s a website now being finished where you can order your own copy, if you wish.

So, what do you get when you mix an American, an Australian and a New Zealander? Obviously, pretty great things.





Singing their praises

Arn Chorn-Pond singing the praises of NGOs like his own Cambodian Living Arts
Unsung Heroes Cambodia, a book focusing on the work of 45 carefully-selected NGOs in Cambodia, celebrated its launch with a well-attended event at Monument Books tonight. Two of the authors, Lee Anderson and Kerryan Griffin were on hand to welcome attendees whilst Arn Chorn-Pond, the founder of one of the featured NGO’s Cambodian Living Arts, also lent a had to proceedings with a short speech. The book is self-published and ten copies were given free to each of the NGOs featured, which include big-hitters such as CLA, Wildlife Alliance and Friends International as well as smaller, much less visible organisations. More on the book when I’ve had an opportunity to read it thoroughly. By the way, the reason for Arn Chorn-Pond’s closely cropped haircut is that he recently played the part of a monk for a new sci-fi film called Listening, which was filmed at the temples of Angkor.
Author Lee Anderson amuses the audience including Arn Chorn-Pond
Labels: Monument Books, Unsung Heroes


A little flight reading

by: Susan Kurosawa  From: The Australian   June 22, 2013 12:00AM

Flight reading

Australia in Style, edited by Therese Hall, RM Williams Publishing, $39.95; Unsung Heroes, Cambodia, Lee Anderson, Kerryan Griffin and Shawna Hartley, Unsung Heroes, $35; On Glasgow and Edinburgh, Robert Crawford, Harvard University Press, $49.95. Source: Supplied

GREAT books to read on those long trips away.

Unsung Heroes, Cambodia
Lee Anderson, Kerryan Griffin and Shawna Hartley
Unsung Heroes, $35

THIS collection of moving tales is focused on non-governmental organisations and their workers in Cambodia, one of Asia’s poorest countries.

If you have considered volunteering or just want to know how to best contribute to charities and projects, this book would be invaluable.

There are websites given for each of the featured enterprises and a clear summary of the scope of their work; projects include the Free the Bears Fund, which has rescued about 160 animals, and Riverkids, a small NGO based in the riverside slums of Phnom Penh that helps needy children and their families through educational and vocational training and the building of practical skills.

The three authors are Australians who took multiple trips to Cambodia to gather the information and write the text, and the book is a philanthropic project, with proceeds going to educational and environmental programs.



Just launched an amazing book, Unsung Heroes, written by Shawna Hartley, Kerryan Griffin & Lee Anderson. This is a great collection of 40, very inspiring stories. Books are available at All of the profits go back to making a difference in Cambodia. Congratulations on a superb publication
Photo: Just launched an amazing book, Unsung Heroes, written by Shawna Hartley, Kerryan Griffin & Lee Anderson. This is a great collection of 40, very inspiring stories.  Books are available at  All of the profits go back to making a difference in Cambodia.  Congratulations on a superb publication
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