Celebrating Community: Free To Shine’s 9th Birthday Celebration

June 1st is a special day here at Free To Shine as it marks both our birthday and International Children’s Day. After nine years of Free To Shine, we have so much to celebrate. We’ve enrolled 753 girls on our program, partnered with 59 villages across Siem Reap, and conducted 152 community trainings. For more on what we’ve accomplished and how far we’ve come, take a look at Nine Years of Free To Shine.

Our birthday event brought together local community members with two of our brilliant University students and the Free To Shine team. After all, what better way to celebrate our birthday than with our amazing partners and supporters right here in the Siem Reap? We are immensely grateful to our partners and co-hosts Grasshopper Adventures and Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel for organizing such an incredible day of cycling, food, and community.

We started our day with the team at Grasshopper Adventures. After a quick tutorial on road safety we jumped on our bicycles and headed out on their half-day Siem Reap Countryside Ride. It was a bright and sunny day and cycling through quiet Cambodian back roads provided the perfect backdrop for building new community connections, exchanging insights into child protection, and interacting on a personal level. It was beautiful to see Free To Shine’s Education Officers, Social Workers, and University Students sharing their experiences, stories, and smiles with participants and with each other.

Throughout the morning, the Grasshopper Team expertly guided us through a pagoda, local market, and even a mushroom farm! Free To Shine would like to give a special shout out to Grasshopper’s Claire Wyatt for her photography skills and for taking such stunning photographs of the tour. After about three hours of cycling and sightseeing we arrived at Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel’s gorgeous tropical garden for lunch and a swim. The Baby Elephant team cooked up some mouthwatering vegan and vegetarian friendly dishes as well as a Lok Lak--a Khmer favorite. We were exceptionally grateful to be partnering with Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel for our very first Siem Reap Shine & Dine Menu item. The Bahn Mi Style Sandwich was dangerously delicious and a perfect way to kick off Shine & Dine in Siem Reap.

Before diving into Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel’s amazing food and saltwater pool, participants had a chance to connect with Nicky Mih, Free To Shine’s Co-Founder and Managing Director. Nicky spoke about what inspired her to found Free To Shine and the many lessons we’ve learned along the way, some of which will be featured in her upcoming book “Do What Matters”. Do What Matters is for ethical businesses like Grasshopper Adventures and Baby Elephant Boutique Hotel that strive to be forces for positive change both within their businesses and communities.

We’re so fortunate to be a part of the Siem Reap community and could not have asked for a better way to celebrate our birthday. It was an inspirational day and left us feeling motivated and ready to continue doing what matters in the fight to prevent sex trafficking in Cambodia.

Join us in working towards a Cambodia where educated girls, free from sex trafficking, are shaping and leading their communities and country. For as little as $45 AUD a month, Free To Shine Sponsors are an essential part of our global community and provide life changing support for the girls and families on our program. Find out how you can make a difference today at