sustainable education for rural economic developmenT

Sustainable Schools



Sustainable Schools International (SSI) invests in sustainable education for rural economic development in Cambodia.

We partner with government schools and build social entrepreneurs and leaders. Micro-finance, in the communities we serve, develops the local economy and sustains our schools.

Our goal is to stop child exploitation before it starts.


At SSI we define sustainability as generating both human and financial resources locally to improve and sustain rural schools. With your help we create and empower young changemakers to go back to their rural communities and deliver on our promise of sustainable, quality education for all.

SSI Quick Facts

Sustainable Schools International




(Grades 1-9)
Supported Each Year


granted Each Year


Get Involved

What We Do

Sustainable Schools International (SSI) is a non-government organization that works to bridge gaps in access to education in Cambodia. Our self-sustaining model improves government schools and builds up community resilience in rural areas.

The current educational system in Cambodia leaves a lot to be desired. Lack of maintenance, low teacher attendance, and low retention rate of students all contribute to a cycle of economic devastation. 

We provide direct support to eight rural schools and higher education scholarships to their graduates.

Over a decade of experience led to the "Sustainability Circle" that now informs all of our work. Chrauk Tiek Primary School (our first school) not only maintained but increased the number of students this year. Teachers are staying in position at the school, showing a promising decrease in the turnover that is typical in the rural education system. The Community Prosper Bank Program, is specifically designated to support rural Cambodian schools and is now generating enough money to sustain the Teacher Assistant Program.

How We Work

Sustainable Schools International utilizes a multitude of different programs in order to teach students the skills they need and create a sustainable community.

SSI strives to teach students practical skills to help them function in the world, such as conversational English, taught through a program called the English Zone.

After completing a grade-9 education, students are given the opportunity to attend the Leadership Academy, which allows students to get a higher level education while learning important leadership skills that help them give back to their local communities.


Micro Loan Financing Makes our Schools Sustainable

What really makes the schools sustainable is a program called the Community Prosper Bank

It is an alumni run bank that gives micro loans to students and local business owners, with all profits made from interest returning back to the schools. 

Community Prosper Bank

How We Help

  • Physical Infrastructure

    We build or rehab school buildings, teacher housing, and utilities.

  • Job Training

    We provide relevant, comprehensive vocational training.

  • Teacher Salary Supplements

    Incentives to train and retain quality teachers.

  • School supplies

    Essential materials for learning.

  • Micro Loan Program

    Jump-start the local economy and fund schools.


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Further Reading

Bones That Float

Kari Grady Grossman | Bones That Float, A Story of Adopting Cambodia

Bones That Float—a Cambodian phrase for the sacred that rises above the suffering—is a heartbreaking tale of hope.

“This rare book, despite its harrowing truths, is an effective and hopeful call to action – a nudge to your social conscience that will have you asking, ‘What’s my Cambodia?’ ”
Angel Limb, Artsline Editor WCVE-FM 88.9 Public Radio, Richmond, Virginia


Teacher absent often

Kari Grady Grossman | Teacher Absent Often, Building Sustainable Schools from the Inside Out

In Teacher Absent Often, Kari weaves fascinating stories of learning to empower one poor, marginalized, illiterate community to sustain a school for their children. She reveals something every developed world do-gooder should know—how to help people in the way they want to be helped, not the way we think they should be helped. To read Teacher Absent Often is to feel the call to action.


Kari Grady Grossman

Author Kari Grady Grossman's life has been anything but planned or ordinary. Born in Buffalo, N.Y., in 1968, Kari grew up in Arcade, N.Y., pop. about 10,000. While studying television writing at Syracuse University, Kari wrote a screenplay about a murder in her hometown. Her manuscript so enthralled a professor that he took it to his agent who immediately signed Kari up for representation.

With dreams of becoming a Hollywood screenplay writer, Kari set off for Los Angeles in her sky blue Oldsmobile Cutlass Supreme after graduating in 1990. She learned quickly that Hollywood can be fickle. Her screenplay was sidelined while another film about the same murder was made for TV starring Elizabeth Montgomery. Midway cross-country on her road trip, the budding writer took a detour into Colorado ski country and stayed for three years. 

While working as a photographer at the Breckenridge Ski Resort, Kari met her future husband George Grossman, also a photographer. The two set off in 1991 on bikes despite the fact that Kari had not ridden since age 11 to take pictures in Alaska. After another year of dividing time between Colorado snowy peaks and Alaskan summer splendor, the couple moved to Jackson, Wyo., where they founded the Great Outdoors Photography Company in 1993. 
The Grady Grossman's quickly gained a reputation as topnotch wildlife photographers, tracking wolves and eagles among other creatures. The couple also took on increasingly challenging mountaineering treks, including up Cotapaxi in Equador. In 1998, after selling their photography company, Kari turned her focus to writing and was sent to Alaska, to cover the Iditarod for Discovery Channel Online. In 2000, Discovery sent Kari to the Mount Everest base camp for nine weeks to cover an all women ascent. 

Meanwhile, Kari and her husband had become serious about having children, only to discover that Mother Nature had other plans. By 2000, the couple had begun an adoption process in Cambodia, a country that they could hardly place on a map at the time. That soon changed.

SSI news

February 14, 2018
High School Student Gives her Heart to Humanity for Valentine’s Day
Tavia Mirassou-Wolf

There had to be a way, Zoe Drigot figured, to be both here and there – to fundraise for a local non-profit in a way that could benefit communities far away. Plus, there had to be a way to make it fun.

Read full article
January 16, 2018
Raksmey's Determination to Overcome Poverty and Social Norms
Tavia Mirassou-Wolf

Who doesn’t love an inspiring story of hard work, overcoming negative circumstances, and breaking crippling social norms? Read more about Raksmey, exploring how she was able to accomplish all of this and more.

Read full article
November 13, 2017
Part Two - From Scholar to Success: Continuing the Vision of Community Development
Jeanne Crump

Keun's ambitions extend far beyond teaching English in Phnom Penh. Between working and volunteering at the local temple, Keun is working toward his goal of establishing a learning center in his rural home village of Sre Chrab.

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November 13, 2017
Part One - Education: A Chance for Change
Tavia Mirassou-Wolf

“Growing up, my family was very poor. My parents never went to school, they are farmers who cannot earn a lot of money. To help my parents, I spent some time away from school working and farming."

Read full article