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KhodeUp Teaches Teenage Cambodian Orphans How To Code

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There are about 500 orphanages in Cambodia right now, a figure that has doubled in the last decade. There is a common belief in the country that if parents send their child away to one of these orphanages they will get a better life through state paid education. However, many of these kids, according to a 2011 Unicef study, are not getting that better life or education; they are simply being exploited.

Enter Ming Horn, a bright but shy 16-year-old girl who’s been learning to code since she was in kindergarten. Ming was adopted and brought to the US from China as a baby and has a brother who was adopted from Cambodia. So when she started looking at the grim economic stats of Cambodian orphans and saw how little everyone lived on over there (about $80/month, on average) she knew she could do something about that. “These orphan kids could make websites for $200 easy, if they just had the right skills. That is a big difference for them.”

Ming, who says she was actually first inspired to do something after meeting Sheryl Sandberg at an event while she was doing the Girls Who Code summer program at Twitter, decided to “lean in” for other orphans. Ming noticed the exponential growth of smartphones in Cambodia in the last few years and cross-referenced that with the huge lack of websites designed by and for Khmer users.

Programming, says Ming, is a way to give these kids hope. “Many of the kids dream of just becoming waiters. I want them to have a better option than that.” Ming created the nonprofit project KhodeUp and plans to head over to Cambodia on her first mission to help these kids have the chance at a better life.

She now has an Indiegogo campaign to fund the project with cute contributor levels like “Honey Boo Boo,” “Lol Cats,” and “Ermagherd.”

The project needs about $15K to get Ming onto her first mission to the Future Light Orphanage, just outside of Phnom Penh, and it looks like she’s two-thirds there at the time of this writing. Ming plans to teach about 20-40 teens CSS, HTML and the basics of JavaScript and design in a four-week immersion class. The number of teens in the program depends on how much funding Ming is able to get. Each child in the program will also be able to get a laptop that they can keep to continue their studies.