A Time to Learn and A Time to Dance:
Danny and Dee Spitler Visit the Schools
By: Danny Spitler

Finally, a flight lands again in Cambodia, and the country is back open for business. I was happy to return to Siem Reap and visit with our staff in person—this time with my brother, Dee. Although Dee has always supported SSF, he was the last of my immediate family who had not yet visited the schools. What an awesome experience for me to enjoy, not only Dee’s first experience at the beautiful temples of Angkor Wat, but his personal connection to the people and the children of Cambodia.

A Time to Learn

The goals of my trips to the schools are to assess first-hand the conditions of the campuses, listen to the needs of the staff and teachers to better serve our students, and to build relationships with the community. During this trip, we learned the oldest of our buildings may need to be replaced due to foundation cracks and roof deterioration. A new security fence is badly needed on one side of the property. Many of our original used computers have crashed and died over the years and need to be replaced. Our school bus, which was instrumental for teachers delivering assignments to students during Covid, needs new tires, and the communities surrounding the middle school are asking us to add a second bus to assist more remote students getting to the middle school. Inflation has hit Cambodia and our staff salaries have remained the same. Ultimately, we have no shortage of projects to consider as we move forward. Keep your eyes open for future fundraising, but feel free to contact me directly to find out how you may help with these needs.

A Time to Dance

On our first day at the Spitler School, we were welcomed with a unique dance performance by the students who participate in the school dance program, initiated by my wife, Pam. We are fortunate to have our long-time teacher, Ms Lida Chea Chen, teach the ancient Apsara dance to interested students.

On the final day of our visit, we experienced a raucous party as the staff and the children celebrated the Khmer New Year and the final day of school before their annual two-week April holiday. The staff all pitched in to make this a joyful day for the students with numerous games, decorations, and snacks. Dee and I were swept up in the smiles and excitement of the children as they pulled us into their games, and dances, and the tradition of smearing white powder on our faces. For a few hours, I set aside thoughts of infrastructure, staffing, and fundraising, and just enjoyed a day of happiness and gratitude.

It is always a sobering moment remembering that less than two generations ago, Cambodian teachers were systematically killed in a massive genocide while tens of thousands of children perished from murder, starvation, disease, and a brutal civil war. Yet, I am incredibly grateful we could share in the schools’ Khmer New Year celebration—a happy moment to stand back and watch hundreds of smiling faces and healthy children, led by a caring staff of teachers.

Life-Changing Experience

by Dee Spitler

I finally had the opportunity to visit Spitler School in Siem Reap. The vision of Danny, Pam and Chea Sarin to build and provide a quality education program in a remote village near Angkor Wat temple is amazing. I have helped hundreds of men around the world to realize their life’s passion, purpose, and to create a mission. Mission starts with a vision, added by an action plan. As we age, often a question is, “What do I want to be remembered by? What impact can I make to help the planet be a bit better? What might be my legacy?”

Sarin had the vision. Danny and Pam joined with Sarin and “acted.” It started with strangers from two different worlds bonding. Real mission work takes risks and a certain leap of faith. A small financial donation has turned into a life-changing event for hundreds of children and their families. The reality can be seen in the eyes and the smiles of the kids. In a poor village, education is the very best chance of improving their future. If you ever get the opportunity, visit Angkor Wat and stop by for a VIP tour of Spitler School. It was a life-changing experience for me.