Brittany’s Battle for Cambodia

Tue, 07/17/2007 - 3:35pm
By: Andrew Widener

Brittany’s Battle for Cambodia2 With her parents, Mary and Steve, at the dinner party.

On February 1, 2007 World News with Charles Gibson broadcast a report from Pailin, a village in rural Cambodia, about the Overlake School, a facility that has been financed by students at a school of the same name in Washington. Fortunately for the 300 or so children in Cambodia who will at some time in the next year begin attending a new school, Whitewater High School rising senior Brittany Enterkin was tuned in that evening. The report’s portrayal of the plight of Cambodian children and the altruism of the students from Washington so affected Enterkin that she embarked on a fund raising campaign that has been both monetarily lucrative and personally transformative.

Born in Atlanta and raised in Fayetteville, the daughter of Steve and Mary, and the youngest of four children, Enterkin was motivated to join the cause based on her own circumstances. “I’ve been given everything,” she said. “I always felt I somehow needed to give back.” Her compassion for the downtrodden is not without practicality, however. “If I can provide a child with an education, they don’t have to go into sex trafficking.” She explained that a reconstituted education system will help Cambodians overcome the daily calamities of land mines, the AIDS epidemic, and insufferable poverty and malnutrition, not to mention the horrifying legacy of Pol Pot, the former dictator, who left the country in ruins after a spree of mass murder 30 years ago.

Shortly after seeing the segment on ABC, Enterkin contacted American Assistance for Cambodia (AAfC), the non-profit organization that coordinated the development of the Overlake School and has built 366 others since its Rural Schools Project began in 1999. She spoke with Bernie Krisher, the founder and director of AAfC, who, after an illustrious career in journalism that included the chief positions in Newsweek and Fortune’s Tokyo bureaus, now works in international aid and development in a capacity he called “time-and-a-half.” In 1993 Krisher, a survivor of the Holocaust, moved to Cambodia and founded American Assistance for Cambodia and The Cambodia Daily, the country’s first English-language quotidian, which he continues to publish.

Brittany’s Battle for Cambodia1 With Bernie Krisher, the founder of American Assistance for Cambodia.

Enterkin and Krisher met in Atlanta in May when Krisher was in town on business. They conferred for several hours at the InterContinental Hotel in Buckhead, and they each have the highest praise for the other. Krisher said his new friend is one of a very few teenagers who have become so involved in the Rural Schools Project. He described her as “an unusually bright, energetic, and passionate young lady who knows what she wants and is determined to get there. Moreover, she has a very humanitarian strain in her character.” Enterkin said in simple and admiring terms, “I don’t know anyone as amazing as he is.”

Counseled on fund raising and the mission of AAfC and the Rural Schools Project, Enterkin set out to raise the required $13,000 to build the school. (The Asian Development Bank provides matching funds of the same amount for each school.)

At first she found it “really frustrating” that her parents, for whom the school will be named, were concerned she was undertaking too much work, but her resolution did not flag. She conducted car washes and collected individual contributions. The Whitewater High School National Thespian Society, of which Enterkin is a member, donated the proceeds, totaling around $2,800, from its production of “The Secret Affairs of Mildred Wild.”

The greatest success came with a dinner fund raiser at Southside Church in Peachtree City. Enterkin organized the event, the ambition, formality, and magnitude of which befitted a hostess of a more experienced stature than the 16 year old. She called it “a very, very stressful night in my life,” having served as emcee and scurried between the kitchen and the dining room in high-heels. The result was well worth it, though, as the sale of $50-a-plate tickets raised $7,000 while additional donations and the silent auction, replete with goods and services provided by local businesses, brought in $5,000.

Sara Crawford, a friend of Enterkin’s since middle school, decided to organize a concert to help out the campaign. “I became involved with Brittany’s project the minute I heard about. She had been doing a lot of fund raising already, but with my connections with bands in Athens I knew if we could pull off a concert then that would help bring in enough money for Brittany to achieve her goal of $13,000,” she said in an email sent while on holiday in Portugal.

With the help of her brother Alejandro, Crawford arranged for four Athens bands, The Empties, The Pendletons, Freeze Tag, and Les Napoleones, to perform alongside two local acts. Around 100 people showed up on the Sunday evening in June when it took place at Christ’s Church at Whitewater in Fayetteville, and they listened to the bands on lawn chairs and blankets and ate wings and threw the football as the sun set.

“The concert’s pretty much the icing on the cake,” Enterkin said as The Empties played and some devoted fans from Athens danced before the stage. Having already accumulated $12,500 as the concert took place, Enterkin was assured of reaching her goal. Reflecting on the success of the evening, Crawford said, “With this project I really put things into perspective, and it helped me realize how one person can make a difference.”

Enterkin has now raised $15,500 and will be able not only to construct the school with the Asian Development Bank’s matching funds but will also fund a garden to grow produce and provide the children a healthy meal, a well for much-needed clean water, and an instructor qualified to teach English. There will be money to maintain the facility and monitor its performance. After the opening ceremony, the school will be donated to the village. Krisher said he is confident Enterkin will continue to raise money to provide more opportunities for the Cambodian children, which can include computers, internet, books, and a school nurse.

When asked how the process of raising thousands of dollars for charity has influenced her outlook, Enterkin responded rather maturely and avoided the hyper-optimistic platitudes one might have expected to hear. Having thought everyone would greet her cause with unabashed enthusiasm, she said she has become more realistic, become acquainted with the apathy of some of her friends and the blatant hostility of some businesses to the cause (around a dozen refused even to give her an audience). There have been pleasant surprises, too, as she exceeded her original goals and encountered multitudinous demonstrations of generosity. Enterkin admits to doing “just normal teenage girl stuff,” but as she prepares for her senior year and plans to attend The University of Georgia to study law, she can take pride in having vastly expanded the prospects for several hundred children in the Cambodian countryside.

For more information on American Assistance for Cambodia and the Rural Schools Project, visit

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Submitted by wildcat on Fri, 07/20/2007 - 8:17am.

Very impressive job, Brittany!

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