Written by Christiana de roo
In this category we introduce outstanding travellers who are on a mission to change the world for the better. This read is meant to inspire you and others. Perhaps you’d do the same, follow your dream.
Below we’d love to share Ineke’s story.
Ineke has been travelling since she was a little kid. Like many Dutch, she went camping in Europe a lot. In 2000 she took her first intercontinental flight: to Thailand. After some travelling through South America – Mexico and Guatemala – she came back to Asia in 2006, when she did Laos, Vietnam and…Cambodia. “That’s the year I was sold to the country.”, as she claims now. She did travel more of the world after that epiphany. She went to China, Chili, Bolivia, Peru. But eventually missed the country that she fell in love with too much. So she went back to Cambodia in 2008. She figured out that it’s quite easy to work as a volunteer there, so she did that for a month in 2009. And again in 2010, when she volunteered and lived there for 2 years. She’s been permanently living in Cambodia since 2017.
After finishing her studies as a schoolteacher, and working in schools, Ineke realized she didn’t really like what she was doing. “During that time there were too many teachers! Contrary to these days in the Netherlands, it was very difficult to find a full time contract. Meaning that I mostly worked as a substitute teacher. Not very satisfying.” Meanwhile. Ineke got even more into traveling through her sister, and finally fell in love with Cambodia. So much so, that she couldn’t stop thinking about it. After a few years of visiting countries, she wanted an even more meaningful experience, and decided to start volunteering.
An idea is born
Ineke’s years of experience with volunteering in Siem Reap all revolved around education. As she’s been involved in educational projects since 2009, she began to develop ideas for herself after a while. Ineke saw an unfulfilled need she wanted to meet. Although education in Cambodia is free, a lot of children can’t keep up with the pace of public schools. Mostly due to a low quality of teaching. Non-dimensional, homogenic – a lack of individuality. Meaning that a lot of kids eventually drop out, with all the consequences that follow. Because of this, a lot of private schools are set up in and around the city of Siem Reap. But as with most private schools, they are too expensive for the vast majority of Cambodians to afford. Moreover, the private schools all work with different curriculums, meaning that the quality varies a lot.
In her quest to help the children of Cambodia learn at their own pace, Ineke decided to go for a sustainable pathway. The plastic pollution problem is severe in South-East Asia. There’s a lack of recycling systems, and also a lack of knowledge. So Ineke combined her wish to fulfill the educational need with the pollution problem. She started her company Panha Sabay, with which she recycles plastic waste into educational toys. Since they’re self-correcting, she manages to help children learn tasks like learning Khmer and beginner maths in a playful manner. No wonder Panha Sabay’s slogan is: learning is fun! One of Ineke’s biggest wishes for her company is to reach those children who, for multiple reasons, can’t keep up with public schooling and are not included in the programs of NGO’s and private schools. Another of her goals is to open more recycle workshops throughout Cambodia. Currently she has established a first recycle workshop in the Kokh Thnot Village. She wishes to not only contribute to the schooling system in Cambodia, but also to offer steady, paid jobs for locals. “Although the local community doesn’t fully understand what we’re doing, their help is heartwarming. We often get used plastic water bottles to recycle. Moreover, locals like the idea of a little ‘toystore’ in their village.”
“At night in my dreams I visualize Panha Sabay as a thriving company, with a small plastic recycling workshop in many villages, where plastic waste is collected, sorted and shredded. After which we can make educational toys out of it. Or provide shredded material to other plastic processing companies. And, occasionally, I even dream that this could also be a good thing outside of Cambodia.”
For more information, visit http://www.panhasabay.com
Or pay Ineke a visit, in Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia.