Reporting from Siem Reap, Cambodia — — Fifty years of civil war have left Cambodia a desperately poor and damaged nation with about a third of its 15 million people below the poverty line and a per capita gross domestic product of $739 a year.
When Brandon and Andrea Ross started Journeys Within, a tour company and B&B just outside Siem Reap, in 2003, they also were struck by the living conditions, especially in the countryside where people lack clean water, healthcare and all but rudimentary education.
Living here made Brandon, an American who grew up in Park City, Utah, appreciate his good fortune. At the same time, it changed him fundamentally. "I can't go back to seeing things the way I did before," he said.
The Ross travel enterprise, which offers special trips in Southeast Asia, such as a 30-day descent of the Mekong River from Yunnan Province in China to the delta in Vietnam, morphed into a charitable institution when the couple noticed how little money it takes to do big things in Cambodia. As Brandon explained, during a drought one year he saw women carrying water long distances and wondered about the cost of digging a well: $350.