The Dyer Family Friendship School
From 1975 to 1979, the Khmer Rouge political organization ruled Cambodia, eventually destroying the education system and orchestrating a mass genocide. It is estimated that between 1.7 million and 2.5 million people were killed, including the majority of the country’s teachers. Since then, education has remained a pressing need in Cambodia, particularly in rural areas.
Phil Dyer, the owner of Sterling Real Estate Group, served in the US Navy in Vietnam in the late 1960s. Soon after Dyer left Southeast Asia, the Khmer Rouge took over, targeting the educated class, including teachers and government officials. “I was saddened and outraged that no one was willing to help these people,” Phil said. In 2005, he learned about the Cambodia Rural Schools Program and decided to fund the construction of a school. The organization assists organizations and individuals in constructing or adopting a school and providing essential needs such as computer training, English lessons, vegetable gardens, and more.
The building is a new five-classroom structure that replaced a thatched hut with a palm frond roof and no sides. The new school is 6500 square feet in size and made of solid concrete. In December 2005, Phil and his family attended the grand opening. The school initially had 99 students and three teachers. Sterling oversaw the construction of a well, a vegetable garden, and a computer with a satellite link to send and receive email. They’ve also hired more teachers and a nurse, as well as provided housing for the teachers, nurse, visiting teachers, and other visitors to the school.
“I think education is the base, the fundamental thing someone needs to have a chance. Unless you have an education, you’ll always be on the low end of poverty,” – Phil Dyer