We went to get Soit – and we’ve got Soit

In CategoryJohns blog


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.

 We get to the Island to discover that the farm is surrounded by Security and the won’t let us in.



. 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…”



 Chanthou on the left, Danni, Soit (still with her precious hat) and Dareth – getting supplies eady for our all day boat trip through rivers, mangroves and waterfalls.





   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















Bye Bye Soit – for now …

In CategoryJohns blog

My daughter Nell says that this is the saddest post she has seen – and she has seen them all. Nell has a Doctorate in Education.

Our dreams and goals are continually challenged.

Our aim is to provide basic education in the Khmer language to ALL our regions children. This effectively means, Khmer reading and writing, mathematics, science, history, geography and  a lesson akin to General Studies (or SOSE in Australia.) Tian, one of our teachers also teachers very basic English.

A new or secondary aim WILL BE at least a selective High School level of Education. This WAS planned through a major fund raising Dinner by a Golf Club in The South of France – this Dinner and hence the High School is now sadly on hold or cancelled – see a recent Blog.

We have at any one time around 40 students age 14 –  15 who the teachers regard as of eventual University standard. The first problem is getting the students to a distant High School which we can do for about ten of ‘OUR’ graduates in the Tuk Tuk kindly donated by Peter Greenwell of Beaudesert Rotary. …….

……. Today illustrates the second problem.


……. Soit (pronounced ‘sew it’ said quickly) was one of our top 40 students. Soit is 14 years of age. Her father died 3 years ago. They are one of our very poorest families. They don’t own a rice field. Basically they cannot afford for Soit not to work. (our schools are free but the family has to eat)

In the photos you see Soit desperately insisting that she wear this hat  (from The Rotary Club of Beaudesert) getting into a mini bus with her mother to trave with her hat to the far south west corner of Cambodia to the Island of Koh Kong where she will work on a Chinese owned flower farm for US$3 per day. She will not attend a school. (if you are not crying at this stage – I certainly am)

There is no ‘buying her back’ or a belated scholarship at least yet – we have to let this go for at least a year or two.. I will stay in touch through the extended families.

Soit was one of our founding students and so has had a full six years of Education. In a big way we have achieved what we set out to do – given her the start (at least) of a basic education. She has not been sold into the sex industry and knows a little of the world from her schooling. Even if Soit never goes to School again we will have an educated mother one day. As I said the other day in my previous post – she WILL come back to the villages so – me being a somewhat determined kind of guy  - Soit will have to wait but is not forgotten.


Happy Khmer New Year

In CategoryJohns blog

Yes – TODAY is Cambodian New  Years Day.

As in several other Asian countries, the School YEAR ended on March 31… The New School Year will start on April 20. The Cambodian New Year falls this year on April 14 – lots and lots of celebrations and a national three day holiday. There are no ‘annual holidays’ here , instead there are numerous religious holidays of two and three days.  These short holidays bring many people back to their home villages for celebrations, gatherings and a great many weddings – weddings planned because it’s the time when everyone ‘comes home’.

This New Year holiday is the longest of the year – three days – stretching for some to four days – within the three week school break. Phnom Penh and the bigger towns almost literally empty with thousands upon thousands of laden 100 cc motorbikes  heading to the villages. People who have spent months in Thailand earning $3 a day instead of the the $1.50 per day possible in Cambodia have come home for New Year. The 500,000 young women working in the Chinese owned garment factories in Cambodia have ALL headed beck to ‘SROK KHMER’ – the countryside..

I’ve taked about the importance of villages elsewhere on this website – - VILLAGES are the centre of all activities in Cambodia – not the cities. Amost all weddings happen back in the ‘home village’… the leaders of villages give the permission for passports and weddings and keep the family and village records constantly up to date. I’d go as far as to say that almost all medium and long term life in Cambodia either happens in the villages or at the very least – deferring to village opinion when making decisions is crucial even after people have moved to a city – that move to a city is seen by EVERYONE as temporary.

Almost all the photos today are of our school children on holiday around he villages.

The Guesthouse is about the same as we left it two months ago but with extra soil everywhere, especially down the southern boundary ready for a wall  and then a front gate and doorway. I’ve been talking to businesses in Phnom Penh about solar hot water systems – more on that in a week or so. No one can stay here in any formal sense until the wall and gate are complete .A BIG FORMAL advertised opening with goals, prices etc is coming your way as soon as we are ready.

We will close today at the end of this post with our teachers (also on holiday) being presented with two laptops for use by any of our teachers at the Chuor Ph’av Schools.

 One of our early graduates named Um. Um only had two years of schooling (first school was being built and Um was 12 years old) but it was just enough for reading and basic writing and SOME arithmetic.  She is working in a shop in Phnom Penh. Um sends money home every month. Home for New Year today. She is gathering a vine that grows up some palm trees – it is used as a vegetable

 still at school Mab helps in the family shop. The shop, in Chuor Ph’av village – 20 metres from the Guesthouse – sells many essential items but in tiny amounts eg 100mls of cooking oil. The family vehicle is this motorbike – it is precious and stored within the shop.

 Micara (Da) second from the right is with her family under her house in the kitchen area  (fire in an earthen ware  pot. In the ‘village children’ section to the left of screen you will find that Da has her own sub section. Da’s mother Ian is next to her.

 Da again, with her lttle sister Ut. Very sadly. Ut lost most of her toes in an accident; her mother, Ian, was harvesting rice with the special small sythe. I’ll add these two photos of Da to her village children subsection soon.

  Bit and her home. (Bit has her own subsection in the Village Children section too; these will be added soon. Bit is still mal-nourished – it’s a combination of inadequate food and worms – we are trying hard to address these things.

  I walk around with my camera obviously taking photos of people; when I do, people want their photos taken to say ‘ thank you for trying to help’… In this photo a mum is saying ‘these are my children, thankyou, Happy New Year.’

 two more children that you may know. Nang’s daughter Peery on the left and Chankim on the right. If you remember a photo of a very new mother over a hot charcoal bed (many posts below!) – this is her baby 6 years on – Chankim.

 a hold hands in a circle game.

 Chanthay is doing  very well at school. Chanthay is one ‘the three friends’ – Chanthay, Bit and Da (see above) – Ive been taking their photos since the y were babies. this photo will be copied to the village children section soon.

 On the road through the village.

 Cousins by their home near the centre of the village.  Centre of the village. foreground – this is not a postbox  - there is no mail, in or out) this is a small family shrine – incense and family ashes.

 near the centre of the village.  Tee outside her home

 Six year old Lit next to her pile of rice straw… just like  other straw, it has a tiny bit of nutritional value for the very under fed family cow.  Lit started at our school just last year. A happy girl.

 see the village shop above – these three  are saying thank you because I’ve just bought them some food.

 In the kitchen area of The Guesthouse – laptops for the teachers.

On behalf of The Rotary Club of Beaudesert we presented the teachers with two good strong new laptops. They are VERY grateful. We also distributed lots of knitted beanies (hats) “yes, we feel the cold”!…..lots of socks and bags and bags of ‘in date’ medicines…  All these things were donated from the Beaudesert and Kooralbyn regions in Australia.

The Cote d’Azur in France – from the Antibes Shows and from Mougins School (see earlier posts) has also recently paid $1600 for text books and Exercise books and purchased two laptops for the Prey t’Baing ‘campus’ –  known as Antibes School.

Enough for today I think; its certainly difficult to concentrate when everyone else is merry making on a very joyous New Year. No wait – one more………

 This photo will be added to ‘Nangs Story’ (in the index to the left of screen). If you dont know her strory yet, you wont understand this photo.. I have given this photo (and others framed) to Peery. Nang died on February 1 – this is her daughter Peery. I took the photo that Peery is holding on Peerys first day at home after school. Peery was showing her mother what she had learned (see Nangs Story)… Across all or our twelve villages feeding three schools, children are sharing their learning with entire families.

Happy New Year – from your villages in the District of Kamchay Mear.

(ADDED on April 15 – photos of Peery have been copied to ‘Nang’s Story” and photos of Bit, Da and Chanthay have been added to ‘Village Children.)













La Timonerie – Annie and Stefan. A magical night.

In CategoryJohns blog

Oh yes – Mais Oui …. yes yes yes!

Annie Reid MBE is a very well known Actress – famous for so many shows and rol;es in English, Theatre TV and film…  Annie starred recently in BBC ‘Last Tango in Halifax’  - she was in ‘Dinner Ladies’.. Annie starred as the mother in the film “The Mother’ with Daniel Craig. Throughout her long career, Annie has been in just about EVERYTHING, from the 1950′s version of ‘Robin Hood’ Coronation Street’ ‘Benny Hill’ and ‘Hancocks Half Hour’ – my very personal favourite is Annie’s shears in the cult classic movie ‘Hot Fuzz’ – (watch it!)

WOW – anyone close to the Northern Hemisphere – get yourself to Antibes this coming Friday and Saturday.

 Annie in ‘Last Tango in Halifax’.

Stefan Bednarczyk is a musician and Actor who people flock to see and hear.

Some years ago Stefan and Annie met up at this very place on Cap d’Antibes – La Timonerie and have devised an incredible collaboration – this is it!!!

Friday night April 10 and Saturday the 11th….

Seriously -IF YOU ARE any where near France this coming weekend – Go see Annie and Stefan and you will be directly helping OUR children in Prey Veng, Cambodia.         John.

(EDITED) A very important dinner in France – Mougins for Cambodia.

In CategoryJohns blog

EDITED on April 4 2015

Very sadly the Dinner advertised below has had to be CANCELLED – not enough time to prepare such a big event -.

We will leave the post here  - you never know, someone in the future may pick up and run with the idea – we really hope so..

I does mean that a High School for our children is now very much on hold. Obviously we have to maintain the schools and Education that we already have until we have this sort of new funding;

So below is the unaltered but CANCELLED Dinner.

On April 24 2015

The Royal Mougins Golf Club will host a magnificent Dinner to raise money for our children.The goal is to build  a HIGH SCHOOL!. It will named  something like, ‘Mougins High school – Cambodia’ or maybe ‘The Royal Mougins High School – Cambodia’ – we’ll talk through a name and plaques etc later.


The Golf Club is being helped by Mougins School – The International School which has helped us in Big ways on several previous occassions (scroll down for the latest show at the school just last year) … I’m also certain that Hilary in Antibes will be a major inspiration and help.

If you open the School site and find ‘Newsletter” you will see the letter that school parents and students have seen.


There are two months to go at the time of writing so I’ll give an update  closer to the ‘Dinner’ date of April 24. Meanwhile – here is the POSTER -

Just two months to wait for this special night. If you are reading this in The South of France then put the 24th April into your Diaries. For everyone else, you could actually donate to that night by contacting one of the organisers on the poster.. … Lots more news SOON. John.

SADLY, if you’ve come in at the bottom of the post – the Dinner was CANCELLED on April 4 2015. Ever onwards with more plans and progress.. John.










Nang’s Story.

In CategoryJohns blog

A very very sad time in the village – for Nang’s family, for the village and for me.

Please open ‘Nang’s Story’ – in the Index on the left of your screen.

Nang has died. We fought hard for years with Nang.  Nang inspired many of our village health concerns and projects.

Nang’s daughter Peery is five years old. Nang will live on, not only in hearts but also in village projects. Peery will be loved, cared for and supported.

Seventeen photos and notes added to ‘Nang’s Story” today.


Bon Chance ANTIBES – “Down and Out in London and Paris”

In CategoryJohns blog

This weekend on Cap d’Antibes:  A troupe of Dublin Players will give

two performances – Friday the 6th February and Saturday 7th February of -

George Orwell’s play “Down and Out in London and Paris”

 George Orwell’s Paris 1933 – the year his book was published.

If you have either chanced upon this post while browsing or you are a regular from anywhere around the world but you just happen to be in The South of France over this weekend – make contact with anyone in Antibes and they should (hopefully) direct you there …

 and George Orwell himself in 1933.

Now, please scroll down to the ‘previous posting of Australians in our Guesthouse. The Antibes audience always gets an update…. absolutely up to date – of happenings in our villages and Schools.. If you should scroll further back you will find announcements and comments on several years of these truly wonderful shows at La Timonerie…..






The Rotary Club of Beaudesert teaches at the Schools and sleeps in The Guesthouse.

In CategoryJohns blog

Please look at the Video first. It will give you a fair idea of The Guesthouse so far and the nine visiters from Beaudesert:

The group (from Australia) first spent two days in Siem Reap and Angkor Wat. Then they flew to Phnom Penh where they had emotional and educational times at S21 (Tuol Sleng the Genocide museum) and The Killing Fields.

Then on to our villages and the Schools.

This first photo shows the whole group from The Rotary Club of Beaudesert on the Guesthouse steps.

After the schools, we all travelled north to Kratie, then west to Kompong Cham and returing to Phnom Penh – lots of site-seeing, fun and shopping on the way.

MOST of todays photos are taken at the Schools and the Guesthouse

BUT FIRST – a brief mix of photos from the trip to Kratie and The Mekong River.

 of the group, 5 were 17 and 18 year old girls – and they REALLY had a fabulous time both in the classrooms and all aspects of the visit.

 paddling in the Mekong at a Rapids Resort just north of Kratie.

 not just paddling – swimming in The Mighty Mekong

 looking for the rare fresh water Irriwaddy dolphons – there are only thirty (!) and we saw several.

 some of the group on the steps to Sombok Mountain Temple, Kratie.


 relaxing in the kitchen area at The Guesthouse

 football behind The Guesthouse.

and now we head to school:

 taking advantage of a sand delivery tuck to get some of the students to school today!

At the school, every visitor had chosen and prepared things to either teach or to help with. Umi, Beaudesert Rotary’s exchange student from Japan taught origami and art with Lauren and me helping.. We made planes and cranes.. The planes were relatively easy BUT most of the children finally managed cranes too, as you will see. We had bought lots of paper which Umi cut to the correct size (with a guillotine that we bought in Phnom Penh) and we had also bought hundreds of crayons for art… They are artistically very talented (the Cambodian children that is.).

 Happy children – Happy Umi.


 as you can see, we made paper aeroplanes!

 a very successful lesson.

 cranes were much more difficult – one proud girl.

 well done!!

 look what I’ve made!

 Mark and Linda sat in on a maths class (areas) and then helped.


 while the others ran a sport and dance session – Tamara taught hop scotch.


 all the children love drawing and painting… today – crayons

   Happy Art

Two of our wonderful female teachers – Set and Jinnie – teaching everyone, especially us, Cambodian dancing.

All the above photos are favourites of mine (all taken this week!) so perhaps these last six photos will have to be special favourites.


We’ve got 1000 children just like this and this is how they make us feel. some of Estelles many new friends.

 In the kitchen area of The Guesthouse – Umi with a new friend.

 These are ‘The three friends” – we’ve been following their progress through photos since we started. They have their own section within ‘village children’ in the index on the left. I’ll add this photo later.. It is Da on the left, Bit in the middle and Chanthay on our right xxx

 Taken one week ago – one of my all time favourites..

Bye for now with much love from our Schools in very remote Eastern Cambodia
























Video – A six minute progress clip on the Schools Guesthouse – and then school photos

In CategoryJohns blog

It is important to understand that our FOCUS is the children of our villages receiving a basic education – in turn we care for their families and their teachers. In 8 years it has only been possible for visitors to stay for one night – and that was 7 years ago.

Our Guesthouse will provide accommodation for visitors and volunteer teachers and nurses.

Today is January 9. Later this month we will receive our first nine guests in our Schools’ Guesthouse. (There’s a LOT of hard work going on to get it ready – plus, just a reminder – not one dollar of donated money has gone into the Guesthouse – The Guesthouse is a project of two Beaudesert people. It will benefit EVERYONE but primarily of course – our Schools, the teachers and THE CHILDREN and the future for our villages.

Our villages are among the most desperately poor in Cambodia. We had to provide something and somewhere where foreign visitors will be willing to stay, sleep and eat for say, at least one night – and possibly several weeks for volunteers.

Open this six minute video and enjoy, please.

(This is a copy of the notes that you’ll find with the video -”The Guesthouse on January 7 2015. Still a building site but preparations are being made for The Rotary Club of Beaudesert visiting later this month. In our villages there is no mains water. no clean water, no electricity, no toilets or plumbing. No one in these villages has ever seen shower units or flush toilets and the incredible workmanship is done by people with no experience of plumbing or good wiring. Our electricity so far is just three solar panels – more later. EVERY workman and woman is local to our villages and they have done and are doing a staggeringly good job. John.) ”

After the video there are a number of photos taken over the past few days in the schools.

… now two of my favourite photos so far THIS year – HOMEWORK last night in The Guesthouse


anyone who went to primary school in the UK in the early 1950s will well remember SLATE. As I reported last year, the teachers are finding that, especially in classes of 50 and more children  that big writing on slate is a very efficient learning tool!


And a lot of people have been waiting for the development BELOW!!!

Both the homework photos above were taken on the balcony last night (see the balcony in the video).

Above? Nang’s daughter, Peery.

Our Head Teacher, Sok Ken, yesterday.

Thean – we sponsored Thean to complete a degree part time (so we could keep him!) – he is a great teacher and a big help to me.

after school, and the last photo today – helping to clean the Guesthouse..

-that’s the last update this month – the next one will be about the Australian visit!

ALL previous reports are just a scroll away – or within the index on your left. Please check it out and try to help us… find the Donate page and 1000 children will benefit –                                             talk soon –  John.





Merry Christmas and LOTS of updates for a Happy New Year.

In CategoryJohns blog

If this is your first time to our website – this is how it works – you have opened on The Blog; this particular Blog covers all the key happenings this December… from paying our teachers to village children, but mostly it’s about reasons for and progress of our very important Schools’ Guesthouse.

If you scroll down you can see all the posts of the past years.

If you look to the left side of this page you will see an index of sections. There are sections on why? and how we do what we do, our mission and sections on history. one section is named ‘Donors’ and lists, obviously, those people who have helped us financially – this list is kept up to date. When you’ve explored the site perhaps you would like to help us financially. To give you an idea – some people have given one large (or small) amount and others give say $5 every single month. Everything is VERY welcome.

and now back to TODAY’s BLOG.

We are building a Guesthouse. We’ve been very actively building it for four months. Up to 30 poeple every day are employed from the surrounding villages – the villages that feed our schools.

Briefly, the Guesthouse will be very important to us because when it is finally completed, stocked and open – people visiting our schools can stay for one, two or 20 nights (or more). Up to and including now, it is clear that our villages are so very poor that foreigners have found it impossible to actually sleep here…. SO the Guesthouse will be for volunteers and just plain visitors who, putting it bluntly, will pay to volunteer or visit.

TODAY there will be 82 photos.

I will start with The Guesthouse, then teachers receiving their salaries followed by lots of photos of the Guesthouse and its role as a place for international visitors – being blessed in a Buddhist ceremony….. Today finishes with detailed photos of ‘building.’ ( as in the verb ‘to build’.)

The REASON for the incredible detail in some of these photos is that I want you to understand that although our builders are very talented craftsman in TRADITIONAL KHMER homes… A TRADTIONAL Khmer home does not include

a. electricity

b. toilets.

c. showers

or d. a kitchen…….

add to that the fact that I had bought in Phnom Penh, the latest in Shower equipment and western toilets and I hope that you will appreciate the amount of learning and effort that is going into all this.

….   for the most part I’ll only write a few words with each photo… perhaps think of it this way – imagine you are a skilled craftsperson and you’ve never seen toilet plumbing before AND you can’t read English AND there are no plans for ANY PART of this Guesthouse.

So …brief n9tes with the photos and now lets just go with their flow.

The Guesthouse TODAY – so far – looking North East from the road through Chuor Ph’av.

even though, so far, there are no toilets, no water, no showers and no kitchen, the Guesthouse is already comfortable and there’s plenty of room for homework in the evening.

on December 17 I placed the teachers salaries directly into their hands – not to the Government or ANYONE else. Every June 17 and December 17 I do the same thing on time, in full. It is their six monthly salary. In this photo, three of the ten teachers are helping me to count it out and divide it up.

and then all the photos are taken and receipts written.

maintenance at the schools is of course never ending. Rain water collection was failing badly – they needed to fix it.. and it needed money!

Last week the chief monk who is a very good friend of us all (all our visitors meet him) together with the very young monk, Wat – Kamau’s brother (see the wedding blog immediately prior to this one PLUS Wat’s ordination in a blog last year) perform a Buddhist blessing for the Guesthouse .. covering every aspect as you will see from the following 34 photos – but particularly the international guest aspect to the building and OF COURSE to our SCHOOLS.

 most of this village and many others came to the Blessing and we fed EVERYONE.

preparing the food (the camera is also looking towards the shower and toilet block – more of that later).

our tuk tuk (see earlier posts) very handy for transporting tables and chairs.

so, since as yet we don’t have a kitchen – the food is cooked today in the shade of the toilet block.

Bananas are a big part of the blessing – The little girl Kit is holding a banana flower – not to look cute, but she is licking the nectar and juices from the cut stem.

many of the guests hold items of significance and parade right around the building three times before assembling upstairs in front of the monks.. if you look carefully  in this photo a woman in white is holding one of my shirts and there are pillows and household items and very significantly soon you will see a SUITCASE representing all the overseas help and guests who will come one day to stay.

 Three times right around the building ceremonially carrying everything that symbolises our Guesthouse.

and since we don’t have a KITCHEN yet, we do have a camping stove!

 Cambodian money (Riel)

all the things to bless are brought upstairs.

 looking rather out of place if it wasn’t so significant.

 this trimmed coconut palm structure is around our water pump (we will eventually collect rainwater from the roof but not just yet!).. WATER is VERY special and very much part of today’s ceremony.

downstairs there is eating – upstairs the ceremony continues.

 All Cambodian houses, shops, businesses and hotels have a Shrine; this is ours, built last week. It will have water in the tank and goldfish.

meanwhile cooking and eating continue.

and in the midst of all this, building the shower block continues.

back upstairs again.

 also upstairs is the range – the huge double wok burner that will be taken down to the kichen when its built – alongside the shower block…. see early progress later today.

many metres of thread are wrapped right around the building, also connecting the partly built shower and kitchen blocks AND the water pump … the monks hold the ends of the thread.

towards the end of the ceremony the thread is slowly wound back onto the reel. (Kamaus brother on the left).

then it is downstairs and outside again to bless the Shrine.

From the back of the Guesthouse next with me standing with the camera in the rice fields.

looking from the north east. the concrete building is the unfinished shower and toilet block. It will continue away from the camera the same distance to form the kitchen block. A combined roof will link to the main Guesthouse.

I am concentrating on the Shower and toilet block for much of rest of today.. you will see why as it unfolds. There are ten of these ‘simple’ frames around the block – framing the glass bricks and the vent blocks. Each one was hand plastered using a trowel and fine plaster cement.. no measuring, no set square or template – just amazing craftsmanship.

You will see some remarkable work, but first – some children in and around the Shower and toilet block.

many of our 30 workers sleep on site including their children. These two little girls sleep in this hammock…. they sleep just at the current edge of the red tiled area. (soon the red tiles will fill the stoney area you can see.

from here on we will look at the two showers, the area for two wash basins and the two toilets. In this photo, Peery is telling me that this shower is definitely not finished. this was one week ago. (Peery features often through the website and is Nang’s daughter. Nang has her own section – see the index to the left of the page)

and Peery is joined by three of her friends.

 Sister and brother.

the first hour of Shower tiles!

Perhaps now, refer back to my notes at the beginning of today. These guys had never done anything like this before, never a shower and certianly no toilet plumbing – which is why from now on there will be so many detailed photos – its ALL new to these amazing craftsmen.

 this is the latest thing in shower technology and these people cant read English and have never seen anything like it before.

‘you’ve got to be kidding…. Im supposed to put THIS together’!…. Centre is Sot, our head builder – he is brilliant.

‘so that’s what its supposed to look like’?

just a reminder of the overall view.

 we created this 60 metre long, 10 metres wide and six metres deep fish pond to raise our land by one metre.

And back to tiling the showers and toilets.

they soak the wall tiles in a barrel of water before cementing them in place.

 and the shower walls are looking GOOD.

two toilets on the right side and two showers on the left (the kitchen is right now (Christmas Eve) being built onto the left side).The red tiles in the foreground will continue right to the back wall between the showers and toilets and that back wall will house two wash basins….

 so, more red floor tiles arrived today.

 left side toilet plumbing. Remember – I’m recording all these detailed photos because these guys who have never seen or done this work before are using every ounce of craft and intelligence they have to get this right.

and the right side toilet plumbing.

 the flowers will be the two toilet floors (builders choice) and the pebble look will be the two shower floors.

 These two photos with Christmas tree are the Guesthouse at night – so far!

 if you look at the Christmas tree photo (in the dark) above you’ll see that there is a balcony. On the balcony we have hung a number of photos.

 these last four photos: I’ve written often that we hand mix ALL our concrete. Its a remarkable process – a massive process as you can see. We are surrounding the tiled central square with an additional concrete ‘path’.

 Sot, our wonderful head builder makes the frame that will be the base of a table or ‘vanity bench’ that will go at the centre back of the shower/toilet block.

 The FRAME (above photo) is at the base of the vanity bench, currently drying on the floor. The ‘bench’ will be lifted into place onto the three vertical walls. You can see two small blue pipes making two holes in the bench. These holes are the drain holes for……….

… for two wash basins.

 all our foundations are strong. This is the base of the toilet floors, ready for tiles.

 starting tiles on the toilet walls.

 toilet wall tiles starting to look good (with Sot).

 Shower wall tiles almost complete.

 the near corner of each shower is free at this stage, ready for a ‘built-in’ seats!

 We are looking at the start of the kitchen. A common roof will run the full length from toilets at the back, then the showers and in the foreground, the kitchen. We may well leave the long wall, accessed from the red tiles on the ground floor, open.

 and the last two photos today – this Christmas Eve 2014 – we have planted Coconut trees. We intend to plant Coconut, Mango and Banana trees  to begin the Guesthouse garden.

Merry Christmas from all the Children and all the families in Kamchay Mear District of Prey Veng Province, Camboadia.