Breaking the cycle of poverty



This summer, professors from Florida Atlantic University will be embarking on a self- financed relief mission to an orphanage in the Southeast Asian nation of Cambodia.

The all-volunteer team will be transporting donated dental supplies, sporting equipment and prescription eye-glasses to the orphans at an orphanage/school located on the outskirts of the city of Siem Reap.

Kathie Coelho, the retired school nurse who organized the week-long mission to Cambodia, will be traveling alongside Professor Rhonda Goodman, Professor Charlotte Barry and Professor Beth King of the FAU College of Nursing.

The group has already collected over 200 pairs of donated prescription eyeglasses for the Cambodian orphans. Additionally, the volunteers will be purchasing sandals upon arrival in Cambodia for every orphan, using donated funds.

Their goal is to save and improve Cambodian orphans’ lives. AIDS/HIV has impacted the Cambodian population enormously, claiming the lives of over 100,000 people and leaving 43,000 orphans as a direct result, according to

“I want to make a difference, We live in such a place of abundance I feel so blessed that it’s my responsibility to give back to the world, and bless others less fortunate than myself,” Goodman said.

The volunteers will be departing for their relief mission to Cambodia on July 9.

Professor Rhonda Goodman is currently raising donations for the orphans through the Trail Blazer Foundation, a nonprofit, tax-exempt charity.

The foundation’s website claims its mission is “to create and empower the rural villagers of Cambodia by providing them with appropriate technologies to create self-sustaining programs.” Its focus is on water, school, construction and community development projects designed to foster healthy families, sufficient food and sustainable incomes for the people of Cambodia. All monetary donations to the Cambodian orphans are tax-deductible.

Dr. Goodman and her fellow volunteers will be transporting the donations of prescription eyeglasses, sporting goods and dental products in their luggage, at their own expense.

The school/orphanage is very basic.  There are four bamboo classrooms set within a small, walled compound. Outside the classrooms, there is space for the children to play during breaks.  The classes are made up of approximately 8 to 20 children, with ages ranging from 4 to about 16.

Additionally, the volunteers will be educating the children on preventative health measures such as the benefits of wearing proper footwear to avoid contracting the deadly but preventable disease known as hookworm.

According to the Trail Blazer Foundation, nation of Cambodia has one of the highest mortality rates among children. One in every seven children dies before the age of five, many from preventable diseases.

The nurses will also be teaching the orphans the necessity of cleanliness through proper daily hygiene and hand washing. The group of volunteers will also be performing vision screening tests and educating the orphans in proper dental techniques.

Professor Goodman has already purchased bicycles in Cambodia via telephone for $35 each. She will be donating them to the orphans of Siem Reap upon arrival at the orphanage. She is also purchasing a commercial sewing machine using donations to the orphanage.

The Trail Blazer Foundation currently has a trained seamstress in Cambodia; who will be manufacturing school uniforms for the children of the village, in addition to teaching other women in the village how to manufacture their own clothing.

“School nurses are naturally givers and caretakers—it goes with the territory. I am looking forward to traveling to Cambodia and experiencing the cultural diversity of the tropical paradise, while also helping save children’s lives” Coelho said.

Individuals interested in contributing donations in the form of funds or prescription eyeglasses to aid the orphans of Cambodia may bring their donations directly to room NU 325 on the Boca Campus on or before July 3. They may also contact Professor Goodman directly through the FAU college of nursing.