If you haven’t already seen ‘Bye bye Soit…’ it is immediately below this post -please read it now because otherwise none of this post will make any sense.
In writing today I have mostly simply linked my actual scribbled notes that I write constantly in an exercise book at the time of anything happening.
…everyone loves this story and we’ve only just started!…
That ‘bye bye Soit report and linked emails and Facebook Page really pulled at heart strings…and so far very few people know that we …….now have her back safely!
This is how getting Soit back happened so apparently quickly. Apart from myself, a large number of people were quite affected by the ‘By bye Soit’ report. My own daughter with a PhD in Education said it was the saddest thing she had ever read from me. Within days, my good friend Ros from England asked how much we might have to pay Soits family so that she wouldn’t have to work at age 14 -12 hours a day on a farm for US$3 per day…..
…. We came to a figure of US$100 per month for one year – and Ros would pay. Ros sent me the first US$100.
There was a very difficult two weeks while I did verbal battle with elders who have zero concept of the value of Education particularly for a family with a clever child…. They even talked about “jobs are difficult to get”….. Then “the value of education to a girl of almost marriageable age” reared its ugly head again (haven’t heard that one here for eight years)… I was ready with important Khmer identities in the wings – ready to help my arguments – but then after literally waving $100 notes in front of old village people – saying “well it obviously matters to us”!… the village agreed with me…
… but then they told me that the Chinese farm owners would not pay her unless she stayed for one more month – I responded almost automatically with, “they needn’t pay her, we will pay her”…
…. Then, it was, “it’s a boat and three buses, she can’t do that by herself’ …… that clinched it for me!!!!
She needed ‘rescuing”…. I put together a small team of friends – no ifs, buts or excuses, we are coming to get Soit.
From now on these are cobbled together notes from me, first in Koh Kong (the far south west) and also on the journeys there and back. To start the trip I took a team of three plus me, knowing it could be an involved ‘rescue’ from Koh Kong Island which is 60 miles from the main land town with the same name. The note under the first photo I wrote on the morning of the 11th
‘Rescue Soit’ starts today. We’ll be at least five days depending on all variables! If you look at an Internet map and first find Kamchay Mear in the north east of Prey Veng province – then find our destination – Koh Kong Island in the far south west near the Thai border: The photo is of the rescue team having breakfast on the first leg near the Mekong (Prek Temak bridge). We are, me, my friend Tier, Danni and Chanthou. (This is the start of a better future for Soit).
Hours later, time to eat again an hour south west of Phnom Penh, in Kompong Speu (pronounced ‘Spoo”).
We meet up with the fifth member of our team, Dareth. Dareth lives in Koh Kong; I have known Dareth for nine years and he knows the area very well – he is a local tuk tuk driver and will be our transport, local guide and a big help generally.
. It was one of the possibilities I had planned for. It just needs patience and a little embarrassment.. I said gently, “I’m not leaving without the 14 year old girl who should be in school in her village”.
(Chinese security Guard)…as I also knew the Chinese owned industrial scale farm weren’t paying her and they wanted her to stay ANOTHER month and then they’d pay her. I said “‘there’s no need for you to pay her – I will pay her mother an EXTRA $100 – ( I waved $200).. The Guards then tried “we don’t understand what you are saying, please come back tomorrow.” …
…I was prepared for that too… I said, “its 100 kilometres to the nearest hotel; I’ll sit here all night and wait – or you can just give her to me now”
They brought Soit out to the security gate. ($200 is now already with Soits mother – 100 plus the 100 she wasn’t being paid “unless she stays”.
One happy girl ready to study again.
I wrote these next notes as we all travelled back to a hotel on the mainland.
-”We’got Soit. It’s a big story. Difficult from Security on the island 100k from Koh Kong town. Much sitting, diplomacy and veiled threats. Expensive but Soit is here with us”.
I wrote at 11pm local time Tuesday May 12. “It’s now a two day holiday on the rivers and through the mangroves before we all head back through Phnom Penh and on back to the villages…”
T.he next day we caught a bus from Koh Kong bus station to Phnom Penh (on the way back to the villages) We have a big meal in a small Restaurant on Riverside, Phnom Penh, overlooking both the Tonle Sap and The Mekong……… THEN just as we are eating, right outside our Retaurant from a boat in the the river theres a massive FIREWORK Display…. It was just as if it was for us and our successful mission… It was in fact King Sihamouni’s Birthday Fire work Display… The Palace is 100 metres up river.
As I sign off today, we have arrived back in Chuor Ph’av Village – (Ros has also paid for half the cost of the ‘rescue mission’ itself)…
…there might be MUCH more to go with this incredible story…. but enough for now….. I’ll keep you posted. John.
ADDED on May 22 2015
I tried to add these next two photos on May 19 2015 but there was zero internet in the villages – trying again now!
I took these two photos (above) On May 19 -It was Soit’s first day back at School. She is with her friends, the twins, Soklep and Sokleah and six year old Maigin. They are standing on the steps of Soit’s one rom (total) home – although for the next year I want Soit looked after in the Guesthouse.
We give out uniforms as soon as we can afford to buy any. I thought today was a very appropriate day for new uniforms! – You sometimes donate money for specific things and sometimes generally but EVERY CENT goes to our Schools and villages.If you’ve read me on the subject of uniforms before: we have no rich children – many can’t afford strong clothes and in some cases, clothes of any kind for smaller children! We buy uniforms locally (they are made in Cambodia for western shops!) The uniforms we buy are strong and SHARED by the wider family. John