TRAILBLAZER FOUNDATION

Developing ripples of sustainability through community water projects

Fort Collins, CO   |  www.thetrailblazerfoundation.org

Mission

To improve health, food security, education, and economic development in rural Cambodia in ways that are self-sustaining by the individuals and communities we serve. Our four program areas—health, food security, education, and economic development—represent a well-rounded strategy for not just giving our partner communities a proverbial fish, but helping them learn how to live in ways that are self-sustaining. We choose our projects based on an annual local government assessment of village needs. We are honored to be one of only a handful of NGOs invited to this annual meeting. Through this bottom-up process, the villages themselves identify their needs. Their requests direct our annual activities, which are “developing ripples of sustainability through community water projects."

Notes from the nonprofit

Cambodia suffered two decades of war and internal isolation, and is one of the poorest countries in the world. It is not surprising there are constrains to life at all levels. Compounding these problems is the high percentage of extremely poor, vulnerable and marginalized groups with families to support. Women in particular shoulder heavy burdens and account for nearly two-thirds of the population and head one-third of all households. One of the most telling indicators for a lack of development is water access, food security, nutrition, and health status of the people. Bad water is the cause of illness, malnutrition and poverty. One out of seven children dies before the age of five, many from water-borne diseases. Trailblazer decided to work on these issues in Siem Reap province because it is one of two provinces identified by the Cambodian Government and the World Food Program as significantly poor and food-insecure, and we knew we could make a difference for the better.

Ruling year info

2005

Co-Founder and Executive Director (USA)

Ms. Chris Coats

Main address

PO Box 271767

Fort Collins, CO 80527 USA

Show more contact info

EIN

20-1063922

NTEE code info

Rural (S32)

International Economic Development (Q32)

Agricultural Programs (K20)

IRS filing requirement

This organization is required to file an IRS Form 990 or 990-EZ.

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Communication

Programs and results

What we aim to solve

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Trailblazer Foundation works with the poorest communities in Cambodia's Siem Reap province. Most people are aware of the direct connection between good health and the ability for a person to prosper. It is as simple as children being able go to school when they are healthy, and parents having enough time and energy to work. Water-borne diseases are the greatest health threat in Cambodia’s Siem Reap province, a country of approximately 15 million people. There are more than nine million cases of diarrheal disease annually, estimated to cost the nation about $448 million a year. One of the easiest ways to combat these diseases is to provide access to clean water. In addition, malnutrition is another leading cause of sickness and death in Cambodia. The fact is that low agricultural productivity often means there is little, if any, surplus from the family garden as income, and low income leads to continued poor nutrition and poor health.

Our programs

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What are the organization's current programs, how do they measure success, and who do the programs serve?

Health Program

Most people are aware of the direct connection between good health and the ability for a person to prosper. In most developing countries, it is as simple as children being able go to school when they are healthy, and parents having enough time and energy to work in the store, the home, or the fields. Water-borne diseases are the greatest health threat in Cambodia’s Siem Reap province.

To that end, Trailblazer Foundation’s Health program primarily focuses on providing clean water to families and villages, and the construction of latrines to help increase a family’s, or village’s, overall hygiene.

In Cambodia, a country of approximately 15 million people, there are more than nine million cases of diarrheal disease annually, estimated to cost the nation about $448 million a year. One of the easiest ways to combat these diseases is to provide access to clean water. For Trailblazer Foundation, this includes both digging wells to access water, and constructing bio-sand water filters to purify both surface water and well water (the latter of which is cleaner than other sources, but is still not entirely safe to drink).

Next, Trailblazer works with our partner villages to build latrines. Latrines may be Trailblazer Foundation's least glorious project area, yet building latrines is another of our important services - especially when it comes to advancing health in the rural communities where we work.

Clean water and latrines tie Trailblazer Foundation directly into a worldwide health strategy known as WASH. WASH stands for "Water, Sanitation, and Hygiene," a group of interrelated public health issues which are the focus of many international development organizations (especially in many Asian countries, like Cambodia).

WASH programs are widely considered to hold great potential for improving health, life expectancy, student learning, gender equality, and other key benefits in developing countries. For Trailblazer, WASH is a complementary framework to our focus on using water projects to advance sustainable community development as a whole.

Population(s) Served
Indigenous peoples
Families

Along with clean water and reducing diseases (see Health program above), food security is one of the highest priorities for any human. Malnutrition is a leading cause of sickness and death in Cambodia (as with much of the world). Compounding this issue is the fact that low agricultural productivity often means there is little, if any, surplus from the family garden to sell as income, and low income leads to continued poor nutrition and poor health. The most direct route to countering these threats is regular access to beneficial foods. Trailblazer Foundation’s Food Security program is focused on improving the quality and quantity of food our rural partners eat, thereby reducing the villagers’ hunger and poverty.

Through discussions with our local village partners, Trailblazer knows that most villagers want to learn how to grow crops and raise animals that will provide their families with a greater diversity of foods, ones that are plentiful and nutritious. To that end, we will combine our agricultural trainings into a comprehensive “Homestead Garden Training,” which will focus on the basics of growing crops for personal/family consumption.

Trailblazer’s Cambodian staff conducts the trainings with 10 to 15 participants for each training course, which take place in the villages where the participants live. Much of the information we provide to the trainees comes from what our staff has learned through our on-site agriculture research and development test plots.

As part of this process, Trailblazer also provides wells - through our Health program - to a percentage of trainees who don't already have one. This provides these farmers access to water for their enhanced and/or expanded agricultural activities. Many of the rural farmer trainees who already have wells, received those wells from Trailblazer's Health program.

At the conclusion of each training, graduates receive some supplies and/or educational materials to help them incorporate their new skills and knowledge into their on-going agricultural pursuits. These “start-up” kits for comprehensive Homestead Garden training include:
A hoe head
Soil Preparation and Management, Organic Pesticides and Fertilizers: printed educational materials.
Horticulture, Composting, and Earthworms: printed educational materials, and seed packs for new crops.
Trailblazer identifies workshop participants, and those who receive a new well, through two avenues: [1] the annual local government assessment of village needs (see "Our Strategy" under "About Us"); and [2] by our Cambodian staff visiting with village chiefs and interested villagers to identify which farmers are best suited to participate in a training. This latter determination is largely based on the nutritional needs of a farmer’s family, and the motivation of a farmer to attend the workshop and institute the skills and knowledge s/he gains.

Trailblazer is committed to addressing food security in the Siem Reap province, because it is one of two provinces in the country that the World Food Program and the Cambodian government have identified as being significantly poor and food-insecure, Therefore, we know we can make a difference for the better.

Population(s) Served
Indigenous peoples
Families

Once Trailblazer has helped our village partners secure abundant clean water and sufficient nutritious food (through our Health and Food Security programs), the next step for our adult constituents along the progression from “survival to sustainability” is to support them in establishing livelihoods – jobs, a source of income.


A little more than one third (38%) of Cambodia’s approximately 15 million citizens continue to live below The World Bank designated “international poverty line” of USD $1.90/day. In Cambodia’s Siem Reap province, where Trailblazer focuses its efforts, and one of the three poorest provinces in Cambodia, 45% of the people live in poverty. The average wage of rural villagers in Siem Reap province is less than USD 25¢ a day, or less than USD $2 a week. However, it is important to remember that, when discussing the average income, we need to differentiate between those people living in the town of Siem Reap, and Trailblazer’s constituents who live in the villages outside of town.


One of the great ironies about life in Siem Reap province is that, while more than two million tourists travel through Siem Reap town each year to experience Angkor Wat, very little of that economic influx makes its way into the nearby rural villages. Without some sort of technical and financial support, these rural communities cannot develop beyond a level of subsistence, and remain in a state of poverty where they struggle to merely survival.


To address this issue, Trailblazer supports our partner villages in managing their own local “Village Fund” micro-finance programs. Through this effort, we provide technical and financial guidance for villagers who wish to start or expand a new small-scale business, or turn a craft into an income.

Strengthening and Expanding Our Village Funds
One of the greatest challenges to economic development is access to capital, even small amounts of funding. To address this, Trailblazer helps rural communities establish a Village Fund, an innovative approach to microfinance that enables villagers to get the capital they need to start or grow a business. Loans are given to villagers to support such enterprises as buying livestock, or fertilizers for their crops, securing medical care, starting a small business, or purchasing a motorbike or bicycle so they can have better access to work and school.


Since Trailblazer was founded fifteen years ago, we have helped launch 24 Village Funds. Each Village Fund is owned and managed by that village, and makes loans to both savings groups and individuals within the village. Trailblazer Foundation’s role is to encourage and mentor our partner villages in developing their fund. Additionally, Trailblazer requires that each villager who receives our assistance in other areas (wells, water filters, latrines, etc.) make a small contribution to the Fund – thereby ensuring our work helps provide the capital for these Funds (instead of Trailblazer providing the capital).


Each year, Trailblazer provides trainings to communities who either [1] want to start a new Village Fund, or [2] need further training on how to manage their existing fund. These trainings address overall fund management, loan management, and transaction management. Each year we expect more villages will decide to establish a Village Fund. Villages with whom Trailblazer is already working will be more likely to establish a new fund, because – as explained above – they can use payments for Trailblazer’s products and services to build up the new fund’s cash reserves.

Population(s) Served
Indigenous peoples
Families

So much of what Trailblazer Foundation does, as a rural community development NGO, is focused on breaking the cycle of poverty. One way to break this cycle of poverty, especially on a generational level, is to ensure that children have the opportunity to go to school. This is an almost daily practice that most of us take for granted for our kids. However, a formal education is not always an option for families living in Trailblazer’s geography of focus.

Although constructing new schools has not been a main focus of Trailblazer Foundation’s work since our inception, at the conclusion of 2019 we will have completed the construction of 9 school buildings, and 2 libraries. These schools have been well-received enough – by local villagers and the Cambodian government alike – that in a Fall 2015 meeting, Trailblazer’s Board of Directors voted to include school construction as one of our four major programs. This is a fitting decision, given that the organization’s first project ever, in 2004, was building a school.

As we have in the past, moving forward Trailblazer will build schools in response to a request from District officials, as part of the District’s Integrated Workshop process (see "Our Story" for more details). When we complete the construction project, and as part of the school inauguration ceremony, Trailblazer signs the deed over to the appropriate government agency. This is how we ensure the school can fully launch, and stay open for the local students. The government is then responsible for providing the teaching staff, paying the staff, and providing the Cambodian curriculum.

Additionally, because our schools are government schools, they qualify for food support through the United Nations World Food Program (thereby addressing, at least in part, another programmatic area of Trailblazer’s – food security).

Finally, Trailblazer works to reduce another barrier to education by providing hundreds of bicycles to our partner villages, so students can travel to schools within their district. This is particularly true of students in Junior and Senior High School, as not every village has one of these schools (they are often shared between villages). Without a bicycle, many students would simply drop out because their secondary level school is just too far away.

Population(s) Served
Indigenous peoples
Children and youth

Where we work

Awards

Top-Ranked Organization 2019

GlobalGiving

2019 Gold Seal of Transparency 2019

GuideStar

2020 Platinum Seal of Transparency 2020

GuideStar

Top-Ranked Organization 2020

GlobalGiving

Vetted Organization 2020

GlobalGiving

Top-Ranked Organization 2021

GlobalGiving

Vetted Organization 2021

GlobalGiving

Effective Organization 2021

GlobalGiving

Site Visit Verified Organization 2021

GlobalGiving

Our results

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

How does this organization measure their results? It's a hard question but an important one.

Number of schools built

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Women and girls, Men and boys, Children and youth

Related Program

Education Program

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Holding steady

Context Notes

In 2021 building a six classroom school in Kok Dong which will service up to 480 students and will benefit thousands of students for years to come and building a library at Beng School.

Number of health/hygiene product and/or tools of care (mosquito nets, soap, etc.) administered

This metric is no longer tracked.
Totals By Year
Population(s) Served

Indigenous peoples

Related Program

Health Program

Type of Metric

Output - describing our activities and reach

Direction of Success

Increasing

Context Notes

To increase the health and hygiene of rural Cambodians, we work with our partner villages to build latrines. An average family size is 5 so in 2020 86 latrines benefited 430 people.

Our Sustainable Development Goals

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn more about Sustainable Development Goals.

Goals & Strategy

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Learn about the organization's key goals, strategies, capabilities, and progress.

Charting impact

Four powerful questions that require reflection about what really matters - results.

Trailblazer Foundation aims to accomplish a better quality of life for rural populations living in absolute poverty in Siem Reap province, Cambodia by addressing the need for clean water, food security, education and income generation. We chose to help the poorest of the poor because they are the least likely to get assistance and are focused on survival. We will accomplish a better quality of life in Cambodia for these rural families by drilling wells, installing bio-sand water filters, building latrines, teaching proper hygiene, providing homestead garden trainings, constructing schools, providing bicycles and partnering with villagers to help them start a new business. As the basic need of water is satisfied, Trailblazer works with village leadership to establish or enhance the village committee structure to address further community development. These leaders ultimately take over the management and sustainability of projects with little to no need for ongoing international aid.

Trailblazer Foundation's proven model of a bottom-up grassroots approach for sustainable development ensures villagers are vested in the successful outcome of the project. Trailblazer has gained a high level of trust with the people served by maximizing villager/village empowerment, participatory involvement in project implementation and preserving the cultural integrity of the villages where we work. Communities and marginalized families are identified through the existing priority development matrix standards set by local and national government protocol. This model, called the District Integrated Workshop process, allows villagers to identify their needs, which are then provided to the commune level and given to district officials. Each year Trailblazer is invited to attend District Integrated Workshops to review lists of identified needs and sign agreements to help. This process occurs each November and we then set out to find the funding necessary to complete these projects.

The bulk of our program work is conducted by our Cambodian affiliate Trailblazer Angkor, which we helped launch, and whose staff of twelve are all locals. Our partnership with this indigenous NGO is representative of Trailblazer Foundation’s agreement with a basic tenant of the international development community: that “development” is most effective when it involves and enhances all aspects of the recipient country. We consider our relationship with Trailblazer Angkor an unofficial part of our Economic Development program, one that enhances the effectiveness and credibility of our work overall.

Trailblazer's work has resulted in access to clean water through installation of over 100 wells annually and delivery of over 400 bio-sand filters each year; establishment of several micro-businesses and village-run self-sustaining bank funds; increased education through construction of nine government primary schools [and counting] and two libraries, delivering hundreds of bicycles to keep students in school; advancement of women's vocational training by providing sewing machines to the Women's Development Center training facilities in Siem Reap and Kampong Speu; improved health conditions by distributing hundreds of mosquito nets and flip flops; and improved food security by teaching techniques and proven practices to an average of over 700 farmers each year that yield higher nutrition and income generation.

Financials

TRAILBLAZER FOUNDATION
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Operations

The people, governance practices, and partners that make the organization tick.

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Connect with nonprofit leaders

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  • Analyze a variety of pre-calculated financial metrics
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  • Compare nonprofit financials to similar organizations

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TRAILBLAZER FOUNDATION

Board of directors
as of 8/25/2021
SOURCE: Self-reported by organization
Board co-chair

Ms. Justine Auton

Trailblazer Foundation

Term: 2019 -


Board co-chair

Mr. Nick Munro

Trailblazer Foundation

Term: 2020 -

Justine Auton

Trailblazer Foundation

Nick Munro

Trailblazer Foundation

Cortney Ward

Trailblazer Foundation

Nicky Ulrich

Trailblazer Foundation

Board leadership practices

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

GuideStar worked with BoardSource, the national leader in nonprofit board leadership and governance, to create this section.

  • Board orientation and education
    Does the board conduct a formal orientation for new board members and require all board members to sign a written agreement regarding their roles, responsibilities, and expectations? Yes
  • CEO oversight
    Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year ? Not applicable
  • Ethics and transparency
    Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year? No
  • Board composition
    Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership? Yes
  • Board performance
    Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years? Yes

Organizational demographics

SOURCE: Self-reported; last updated 6/17/2021,

Who works and leads organizations that serve our diverse communities? GuideStar partnered on this section with CHANGE Philanthropy and Equity in the Center.

Leadership

The organization's leader identifies as:

Gender identity
Female

Race & ethnicity

No data

Gender identity

 

Sexual orientation

No data

Disability

No data