Community Improvement, Capacity Building


Developing ripples of sustainability through community water projects

Fort Collins, CO


Trailblazer Foundation's mission is 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, which we are invited to attend annually. Through this bottom-up process, the villages themselves identify their needs. Their requests, in turn, 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


Co-Founder and Executive Director (USA)

Ms. Chris Coats

Main Address

PO Box 271767

Fort Collins, CO 80527 USA


Cambodia, NGO, trailblazer, Siem Reap, Clean Water, Food Security, Education, School Construction, Economic Development, Water Filters, Wells, Latrines, Health, Horticulture Training, Agriculture Training, Micro Loans, Access to Water, Homestead Garden Training, 501c3, volunteer, bicycle distribution, bikes, compost training, hygiene training, drilling wells, building latrines, constructing bio-sand water filters, rural communities





Cause Area (NTEE Code)

Rural (S32)

Agricultural Programs (K20)

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Social Media

Programs + Results

What we aim to solve New!

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

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

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

Health Program

Food Security Program

Economic Development Program

Education Program

Where we workNew!

Charting Impact

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

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization

What is the organization aiming to accomplish?

What are the organization's key strategies for making this happen?

What are the organization's capabilities for doing this?

How will they know if they are making progress?

What have and haven't they accomplished so far?

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 has had a strong data collection process with respect to acquiring baseline data before we implement our programs, and for monitoring continued use of our products during the first year or two. As well, we have strong records of our outputs over the years, namely how many products and services we provided to how many people. Given that we cannot expect our recipients to collect data for us (high illiteracy rates preclude this strategy), we are focused on gathering qualitative information as much as quantitative. For example, we cannot expect families who received a new water filter to keep track of how many days their child(ren) missed school due to sickness (so we can compare that information with our baseline survey). Rather, we focus much of our monitoring efforts on interviews, where we collect impressions, best guesses, and stories regarding the impact of a product or service on the recipient’s life (“Our daughter barely misses school anymore, whereas before she was sick about half the time.”). We are developing evaluation questions and monitoring methods that identify the types of changes in the quality of living that have occurred in our partner villages, versus how many units of which product or service we delivered. With respect to our enhanced monitoring and evaluation, our goal is to develop a suite of standard questions that builds upon our existing baseline survey, questions we would ask during follow-up surveys at three, six and twelve months after we install a product or offer a service. We are also re-evaluating what “success” looks like for Trailblazer. Historically, we have defined success on how well we met our obligations made to the Cambodian government. We want to broaden our criteria to include a suite of objectives related to when a village has effectively shifted from “survival to sustainable.”

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.

External Reviews




Fiscal year: Jan 01 - Dec 31

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

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Board Leadership Practices

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SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


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?



Has the board conducted a formal, written assessment of the chief executive within the past year?

Not Applicable


Have the board and senior staff reviewed the conflict-of-interest policy and completed and signed disclosure statements in the past year?



Does the board ensure an inclusive board member recruitment process that results in diversity of thought and leadership?



Has the board conducted a formal, written self-assessment of its performance within the past three years?


Organizational Demographics

In order to support nonprofits and gain valuable insight for the sector, GuideStar worked with D5—a five-year initiative to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in philanthropy—in creating a questionnaire. This section is a voluntary questionnaire that empowers organizations to share information on the demographics of who works in and leads organizations. To protect the identity of individuals, we do not display sexual orientation or disability information for organizations with fewer than 15 staff. Any values displayed in this section are percentages of the total number of individuals in each category (e.g. 20% of all Board members for X organization are female).

SOURCE: Self-reported by organization


Race & Ethnicity


Sexual Orientation

This organization reports that it does not collect this information for Board Members and Part-Time Staff.


This organization reports that it does not collect this information for Board Members and Part-Time Staff.

Diversity Strategies

We track retention of staff, board, and volunteers across demographic categories
We track income levels of staff, senior staff, and board across demographic categories
We track the age of staff, senior staff, and board
We track the diversity of vendors (e.g., consultants, professional service firms)
We have a diversity committee in place
We have a diversity manager in place
We have a diversity plan
We use other methods to support diversity