Phorn Phalla’s eight-day run from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh spanned an impressive 350km. His determination wasn’t just for the thrill of the challenge, but to raise funds for the children at Branch Centre, an orphanage that cares for kids rescued from broken homes.
By the end of his journey, he’d amassed more than $40,000, ensuring 157 children without parental care would receive food and education.
Starting on July 30 and crossing the finish line on August 6, Phalla’s journey took him through a tapestry of Cambodian landscapes.
“Truthfully, my run itself is not what stands out. My focus is wholly on the 157 children who desperately need daily sustenance and education,” Phalla conveyed.
As director of the Branch Centre, locate at Phum Lech Wat in Phnom Penh’s Kambol commune and district, Phalla’s dedication extends beyond just his title.
He shared with The Post that his mission as director is to raise funds for children at the centre, who are in alternative care under his supervision.
Phalla remembered his run from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh.
As he passed through different areas, he was touched to see people on the side of the road waiting to greet him.
Their unexpected enthusiasm for his humanitarian effort greatly encouraged him, fueling his determination to reach his goal.
During the run, Phalla and his team had the intention of sleeping outdoors. To freshen up, they relied on the generosity of local villagers, often asking them for water to bathe.
This act itself, symbolic of the larger communal spirit, played a part in the journey.
Though the substantial sum of $40,000 has been raised, Phalla emphasises it only covers around 70 per cent of the annual food expenses for the children.
The figure, while seems substantial, still falls short. Every day, the facility uses up 47kg of rice for meals and allocates nearly 1 million riel ($250) for rice, vegetables, fish and meat.
“For me, it wasn’t about the run’s personal achievement. It was about securing a future for the 157 children under my care. They require not just food but a community’s support,” Phalla explained.
Today, the centre shelters 157 children, among them 24 infants who are being breastfed.
These infants and toddlers, predominantly boys, range in age from just four months to two years. The facility boasts a team of 15 caregivers for the infants and has an overall staff of 32.
Notably, 32 of the older children are pursuing university education, with Phalla having found benevolent sponsors for each.
“Our vision doesn’t stop at secondary or high school education for them,” Phalla hinted.
“My fear is if they start families without a proper education, they won’t be able to support their own children. So, we aim to see them through college,” he said.
Phalla appreciates the international support, acknowledging contributions from Cambodians residing in the US, Australia and Canada.
However, he holds special gratitude for local philanthropists who frequently visit and aid the centre, especially over weekends.
Their consistent backing and support reminds him that the community is as invested in the children’s futures as he is.
Ros Soveacha, spokesperson for the Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, praised Phalla’s dedication to enhancing educational opportunities for children and young people.
“Seeing such profound commitment to volunteering in social work truly demonstrates leadership and active citizenship.
“The ministry wholeheartedly welcomes and urges all young individuals to embrace the spirit of volunteering. By engaging in social endeavours, we can uplift the quality of life and advance educational standards for everyone,” he expressed.
The spokesperson further expressed gratitude on behalf of the education ministry, stating: “We greatly appreciate the collaboration from various ministries, institutions and development partners. This includes civil society organisations and the private sector that have all played a significant role in enhancing the quality of education in every aspect.”