“Education is the single most important job of the human race” – George Lucas 

Our Story

Support Sala Bai (SSB) is a US non-profit organization, whose mission is to fight human trafficking through education and employment in hospitality. The explosive growth of tourism in recent years, especially in developing countries, makes the Sala Bai (which means School of Rice, in Khmer) model a natural alliance and connection between educating the most impoverished youth and satisfying the growing demand for skilled workers in the hospitality industry.

In pursuit of its mission, SSB supports the Sala Bai Hotel and Restaurant School in Siem Reap, Cambodia with funding, partnerships and expertise. The Sala Bai model is a uniquely effective solution for alleviating poverty and its consequences. In 16 years, the School has graduated over 1500 students (70% women, aged 18-23) from its free,11 month training program. Its success is based upon securing 100% employment for its graduates who, at a minimum, will be paid up to 3 times their previous household incomes!

By donating to Support Sala Bai, you are directly supporting the students of Sala Bai. And, because our Support Sala Bai Board Members fund the organization’s operating expenses, you have absolute confidence in knowing that 100% of all online donations go directly to the Sala Bai school and its students.

About the Support Sala Bai team

Francesca Bonavita

Co-founder and Director, Support Sala Bai US

Francesca is Co-Founder and Director of Support Sala Bai, a US based non-profit 501(c) 3 foundation that raises funds and creates awareness for purpose-driven programs and organizations, dedicated to transform the lives of underprivileged young people in developing countries through education and travel enrichment.
Francesca is also the Principal of FMB Consulting, a strategic consultant firm, specializing in brand, product, business and market development advice for the travel industry. She is an enterprising visionary and results-driven thought leader, experienced working with multi-national companies like American Express, start-ups and virtual organizations in both B2B and B2C channels.
Her personal passion is to mentor and empower women to realize their potential through volunteerism, travel, and personal re-invention at any age!

Laurie Farquhar

Co-founder and Director, Support Sala Bai, US

Laurie is Co-Founder and Director of Support Sala Bai and Chief Strategy Officer at the National Christian Foundation South Florida. In both her roles at NCF South Florida and Support Sala Bai, Laurie see hearts and lives changed every day through the joy of generosity. NCF South Florida offers creative solutions and tax-smart strategies to help people give more efficiently and make the biggest possible impact in the areas of their greatest passion. Laurie is a former American Express executive with a 20+ year track record and a mom of two sons. She is passionate about travel and was able to combine her love of travel with her job when she led the Platinum and Centurion Travel organization at American Express. It was here she had the opportunity to travel to and fall in love with Cambodia, its people and the Sala Bai Hotel School. Laurie serves on the Board of several other non-profits and is has a heart for helping women and children around the world.

Sam McGoun

Co-founder, Touch Charities

Touch Charities launched the first Touch Sala Bai in 2012, with the sole purpose of supporting the Sala Bai Hotel and Restaurant School in Siem Reap, Cambodia. In pursuit of this mission, Touch Sala Bai is a Singapore-based organization whose mission is to fight poverty and human trafficking in Cambodia with education and employment in the growing hospitality industry. Additionally, Sam is Co-Founder and President of Touch Sala Bai in the US.
Sam is also CEO of the King’s Challenge, a social enterprise focused on environmental conversation, cultural preservation, and youth engagement in The Kingdom of Bhutan. The company was started in 2013 and has offices in both Singapore and Hong Kong.
Sam’s personal mission is best described as Take the Pledge, an annual campaign wherein Sam vows to run, cycle and swim 700km across Cambodia, raising awareness and funding for the Sala Bai Hotel and Restaurant School. The campaign symbolizes the journey that many of the students have to make each year to obtain an education and training at the school, as well as demonstrating Sam’s commitment and lifelong personal pledge to help prevent human trafficking before it starts.

Juliette Audet

Marketing and communication, Support Sala Bai, US

Juliette joined the team of Support Sala Bai in 2018 and supports the foundation in its communication and marketing needs.
Juliette is also a Principal at NVF, a biotech Venture Capital Fund in Boston. In 2012/2013, Juliette took a one year sabbatical from her job at McKinsey and Company to work for an NGO in Phnom Penh that provides education for underpriviledged girls. This is when she encountered Sala Bai, fell in love with the program and decided to play an active role in supporting Sala Bai. In 2013, she secured for Sala Bai a multi-year grant from McK4Children, the foundation of McKinsey and Company. Since then, she is still the project sponsor of Sala Bai vis-a-vis McK4Children and ensures continuity of the sponsorship. As she moved to Boston in 2018, Juliette joined the Support Sala Bai team.

How We Came Together

Support Sala Bai (SSB) formed when the lives of its three founders intersected in a significant way. Sam McGoun, Founder of Touch Sala Bai in Singapore, embarked on a cross-Cambodia triathlon to create awareness about human trafficking and raise money for the Sala Bai School. Sam’s story inspired Francesca Bonavita, a former colleague at American Express Vacations to travel to Siem Reap and volunteer at Sala Bai. Moved by the smiles and enthusiasm of the students along with school’s impressive results, Francesca vowed to return to the US and establish a foundation to create awareness and raise funds for Sala Bai. Serendipitously, another American Express Travel executive, Laurie Farquhar, experienced the fruits of the Sala Bai school first-hand when she traveled to Siem Reap and met former students at her hotel. With a heart to help the people of Cambodia end the poverty cycle, Laurie eagerly agreed to help found the Support Sala Bai US foundation. The three former American Express colleagues and travel executives never dreamed they would one day be united in a singular mission against human trafficking that would give impoverished youth a future through education in the industry they love — hospitality!

Our Goals

We, the Directors, and those of all who join our cause, are committed to transforming the lives of those less fortunate by empowering them with education and employment. This will be accomplished through the following objectives:

  • Creating Awareness
  • Raising Funds
  • Providing Expertise
  • Supporting the Sustainability and Scalability of the Sala Bai Model