ponheary@theplf.orgPonheary Ly, Founder

After surviving the Khmer Rouge regime, Ponheary returned to Siem Reap with what was left of her family. They had lost everything, including her father, an educator. Her family was thrown into a post-genocidal poverty that lasted a decade. During the time of the Vietnamese installed regime, Ponheary became a teacher and in secret learned how to speak French and English. She was sent to Moscow to learn Russian during the occupation.

In 1998 when Cambodia once again opened up to Westerners, Ponheary, being by then trilingual, became a much sought-after tour guide. During her rounds at the temples, and as tourism grew, she began seeing more and more children, out working instead of going to school. The teacher in Ponheary forced her to investigate.

She began leveraging her relationship with those who toured with her and started a project to support the return of rural children back to school and help them stay there. To do what she could to help the teachers, to provide encouragement and some food here and there.

In 2016 she was awarded the World of Children Education Award. In 2010 she was recognized as a CNN Hero, which highlights the stories of "everyday people changing the world". Ponheary believes that everyday people are the only ones who can.

lori@theplf.orgLori Carlson, President

Ponheary’s compelling personal story and her work on behalf of the children in her community inspired Lori greatly when she first met her in 2005 as a tourist to Angkor Wat.

Lori founded the Ponheary Ly Foundation upon her return to the US after their time together in Cambodia working in rural schools in order to broaden Ponheary's work. In 2007 she left her career in the publishing business to come to Cambodia and work full time with Ponheary and her family.

Since putting herself in the service of these brave and hopeful students, her days are filled with a new sense of purpose and reward.

farida@theplf.orgFarida Mot, Controller

Farida has been helping out as an unpaid volunteer since she was 17 years old and knows first hand of the struggle for education of youth in Cambodia. As PLF's controller Farida is the #1 Go-to Girl, managing the rosters, invoices, supply requests and every other imaginable administrative detail for all of our projects. She also provides oversight for all scholarship programs and controls expenses for our dormitories.

Farida is from Phnom Penh and holds a Bachelor Degree in Tourism from the National University of Management. She also has won gold, silver and bronze metals at the Cambodia National Karatedo Championship for two years.

sreynith@theplf.orgSreynith Thai, Field Director

Sreynith is PLF's most experienced field director and the housemother for the Siem Reap Girls Dormitory. Together with our Student Counselor, Sokha, she also coordinates our workshop programs for students and parents across all PLF locations.

Prior to joining the PLF staff, she was one of the organization's strongest students, simply shining in her abilities with English and Technology, including Microsoft Office and Quick Books. She overcame many obstacles to achieve her education and showed that she is one of the brightest and most determined young women to have ever come through PLF's programs.

hannah@theplf.orgHannah Najar, Operations Director

Hannah has been involved with PLF since 2014, through a study abroad experience with Union College. She returned back to Cambodia one month after her graduation to join PLF again as an intern, and has since transitioned from our Volunteer Coordinator into her new role as Operations Director.

In this role, Hannah provides leadership and oversight on all programs across our 9 locations. She also works closely with our Field Directors to manage the intersection between our ever-changing needs and our incoming volunteers.

Hannah is from from Portsmouth, New Hampshire and has an interdepartmental degree in Political Science and Economics.

sothea@theplf.orgSothea Et, Field Director

Sothea is the field director for PLF projects at Preah Vihear Province: Koh Ker Primary School, Romchek Primary School and the Srayang dormitory.

He has a military background where he trained in the military medical school and served as a medic. After 5 years in the services Sothea left and joined CMAC, a mine clearance organisation where he worked for the next 15 years. He was promoted during this time, firstly to a Field Medic and then into a Medical Officer role.

Sothea gained his great English skills from attending the ACE (Australian Center for English) in Siem Reap.

He lives with his wife and daughter in Siem Reap and commutes to Koh Ker during the week.

graham@theplf.orgGraham Smith, Tertiary Education Director

Graham was born and brought up in Scotland, UK. After graduating from University with a 1st class Masters Degree in Chemistry, Graham traveled to Cambodia to volunteer as an English teacher in a rural school for several months. He returned to Cambodia a further 3 times over the next few years before deciding to move permanently to Siem Reap to work with the PLF.

Graham is in charge of all tertiary education programs for our students, including high school, vocational training, university, and assistance with workplace preparation. He keeps track of all high school test scores and organizes tutoring, scholarship, food bank, and leadership programs for our high school students. He also manages the Siem Reap Boys Dorm.

sokha@theplf.orgSokha Khoun, Student Counselor

Sokha grew up in Siem Reap Province. Her working career started with PLF when she graduated from The PLF Urban Computer Lab and took the helm of the Media Project. During this time Sokha attended and graduated from a Social Work course from the Royal University of Phnom Penh.

Sokha's current role sees her helping PLF to be of better support to its students and the community through student interviews, counseling, and workshops. She also works closely with Graham, our Tertiary Education Director, to manage the needs of our scholarship students in High School, University, and Vocational Training.

When it comes to education Sokha knows all about the struggles students face in Cambodia. She wasn't able to start first grade until she was 12 years old because her house was too far from the school. Her determination led her to begin Grade 1 when she was 12 years old, and she successfully finished High School at the age of 26. She frequently tells students today that it's never too late to learn, and received her Diploma of English at P.U.C University in 2016.

vannak@theplf.orgVannak Los, Field Director

Vannak is the field director for Tchey and Wat Bo Primary Schools, and Khnart Secondary School.

A tireless advocate for girls’ education, Vannak and is the only person in her family of 9 to have studied beyond Grade 8. She marched into our office in 2013 to ask for help finishing Grade 12, and was awarded a PLF university scholarship shortly upon graduating from high school as one of our top scholars.

Vannak directs all PLF projects at these three schools and liaises between school administrations and PLF HQ. She is currently in her second year of studying at Pannasastra University towards a degree in English Literature.

sherry@theplf.orgSherry Trailor, Accounting & HR

Sherry handles day-to-day operations, HR, accounting, and finances for PLF.

She is a global citizen with over twenty-five years experience in HR, management, diplomacy, and accounting that spans three continents. Sherry comes to PLF from the British Embassy where she served as the Cambodian Honorary Consul in Siem Reap. She fell in love with Cambodia while traveling around the world on sabbatical as a Senior Crime Scene Investigator with The Kent Police Department in the UK. When she finished trekking the globe, she came back to the Khmer Kingdom to live.

When there is not an excel spreadsheet, report, or a book in front of her, you can find Sherry watching sports, working towards her 7th kickboxing belt, or discovering new cultures and experiences through travel.

sotheara@theplf.orgSotheara Ly, IT Manager

Sotheara joins PLF as the Instructor in the IT lab. She is Ponheary's sister and lives together with the family at 7 Candles Guesthouse. She has participated in PLF’s work for several years as “Chief Cook of Many Lunches at School”, and she is now going to be putting her computer skills to use for the Foundation. Srei has been deaf since age 14 but speaks English, Thai, French and her mother tongue fluently although she has never been to school or been taught in formal classes.

She has a deep understanding of what it means to be denied an education and her work with the students contains interesting perspectives on what it means to be disabled in Cambodia.


sharon@theplf.orgSharon Miro, Board Secretary

Newly retired from over 30 years in publishing, marketing and sales, Sharon has held a variety of executive positions in magazines, newspapers and sales organizations, giving her a strong sense of marketing and networking.

Sharon travels to Siem Reap frequently and was an early advocate for Koh Ker School.

nina@theplf.orgNina Davis, Board Member

Nina Davis is an adult and pediatric Craniosacral Therapist and Lymph Drainage Therapist in Austin, Texas where she specializes in work with newborn babies. Nina received her Masters degree from the University of North Texas in 1986. Since Spring of 2006, Nina has served as Treasurer on the Board of Directors for the Ponheary Ly Foundation. She began traveling to Cambodia in the Fall of 2006 to participate in the uniform and school supplies distributions and to cook meals for the 2,000 + students and their family members.

jas@theplf.orgJaskiran Dhillon, University Partner

Jaskiran joins PLF as our (volunteer) university partner to help carry out fundraising projects, and research support. She's an Assistant Professor of Education Studies and Anthropology at the New School University in New York. She approaches her work with a desire to bring an ethnographic sensibility to the study of the unique relationship among education, politics, and society, and to apply her knowledge to contemporary problems around the globe.

She is passionate about teaching and invites her students to pursue an intellectual journey that locates issues of power, knowledge, epistemology, place, culture, and history at the center of theoretical and empirical inquiries into education, broadly conceived.

In an effort to bring conceptual ideas and theories into conversation with everyday lived realities on the ground, she has piloted a civic engagement course with PLF in Cambodia during the summer 2012 to explore the politics of education and development.