2007 – 2017 and onwards. Ten Year Summary.

In CategoryJohns blog


  Cambodia 2007 – 2017

Within this website you can find the full and ongoing history with thousands of photos and detailed notes. To the left of screen there is a full and constantly updated list of Donors and ways to Donate. There are a great many significant people not included in this relatively short ‘Ten Year Summary’. There are hundreds of minor works and small projects not listed today but they are all within the website. These few paragraphs do I think give an overview since the beginning in 2007 to November 2017.

The writing and photographs today are an expansion of a ten year report for “The Rotary Club of Beaudesert” as part of Beaudesert’s 60 year Dinner held on October 28 2017 –

 Beaudesert Rotary Club, Exchange Students, Visiting Rotarians, Family and Friends. Photo taken at the 60 year Dinner at Beaudesert RSL Club October 28 2017. (Denis Bettridge’s camera)

 …and one of Linda and Mark with me at the Dinner for 60 years of The Rotary Club of Beaudesert….. for which I had written a ‘Ten years in Cambodia’ report, that inspired this much bigger Report/Summary.

 …Today, I have added to that report.

The reasons for, and early planning of, OUR Schools are well documented within the website:

I visited our main village of Chuor Ph’av in 2005 and again in 2007. They were heavily populated rural villages with no school, no sanitation or drinking water, no health care and no electricity. As the United Nations often says – ‘Start with EDUCATION’.

Personally I had no money but I had friends. I called Corrinne Delahunty, a friend in Beaudesert who was a member of Rotary International. I told Corrinne that I had planned a way for a school to be built on Government land by locals. A strong building. After it was built we would pay NO ONE except Cambodian teachers and import no materials – ALL LOCAL. Over time in 2007 ( there are photos of those planning months on the website.) I took 42 good photos.

At the same time, I told my friend of 50 years, Hilary Lemaire in Antibes, France (then Hilary King) all about it and showed Hilary the photos and talked through the ‘Dream’.  I also told our mutual friend Ros Rokisson in England.

In mid  March 2008 I returned to Australia and Corrinne took me to her Rotary Club in Beaudesert – I talked through the plan and showed all of the 42 photographs that I had taken. The Club wanted to take it on as a ‘project’.

In late March 2008 I joined the Rotary Club of Beaudesert.

As luck would have it there was a big District Rotary Conference in Yamba (New South Wales – Australia) one week after I joined!

Heather Yarker, a wonderful Gold Coast Rotarian, who was at the Conference LOVED the plan and was and is of enormous help. In April of 2008 Heather helped us register ‘The Plan’ INTERNATIONALLY – so – ‘Schools and Related Projects in Cambodia’ was registered as a Rotary International Project and as a RAWCS (Rotary Australia World Community Service) Project with an ID of ‘Cambodia 55 2007- 2008’ – and this was before we had raised one dollar! And before we had named what we do “Educating Cambodia” (why ‘Educating Cambodia’?  I wanted to start a website and every combination of ‘school’ ‘children’ and ‘Cambodia’ was taken as a “ .com “ except ‘educatingcambodia’ – so that is what we are!)  We still operate with that RAWCS ID number.

At that Conference in Yamba, we received approval and minutes later we were given our very first donation by the owners of Iluka Caravan Park – $1000. The Beaudesert Rotary Club President 07 – 09  was Albert Prior.

Brian Yarrow was President through the next crucial year of 08-09 (from July 1st 08 – June 30 09). We needed $26,000 to buy all the materials locally for that first school which is a single building of three 10 metre x 10 metre rooms. We would never employ ANYONE except village builders and Cambodian teachers – and this, we have maintained over the years. We received donations from Brian himself, from our Club, many members, Southport Rotary and Hilary in France. (I write much more of France as you read on.)

THAT FIRST SCHOOL WAS OPENED IN DECEMBER 2008. 10 Club members travelled to Cambodia for the opening..

 96 children in THE MORNING SHIFT of Grade 1. Our very first School Day!

During Corrinne Delahunty’s Presidential year we planned an identical building to be School ‘two’. Through friends of Rotarian Heather Yarker (see above), ‘Captain’s Choice Travel’ of Melbourne entirely funded the second school and with a Rotary Foundation ‘Matching Grant’ we opened that school in Doug Lavers McBain’s Rotary year in December 2010. The Matching Grant got us solar electricity, books, sports equipment, musical instruments, uniforms and desks. (Desks made by mums and dads and EVERYTHING sourced locally.)

2011 saw Otago Polytechnic in Dunedin, New Zealand be VERY helpful indeed. For three months a group of IT students created THIS Website. It was our first use of Facebook and the opening of EducatingCambodia Facebook Page. We are forever grateful to Otago Polytechnic, the IT Department and my two lead students!.. I was there with them. I knew nothing – they knew everything… This website is HERE because it is STILL hosted by the IT Department’s successor – Otago Polytechnic’s College of Enterprise and Development. ….. I can’t possible miss mentioning my number one favourite Dunedin cafe – run by Kimleang’s Cambodian family!!! – it’s called the Khmer Satay Friendly Noodle Restaurant (or words to that effect), just round the corner on George Street and if someone reminds me of the real name, I’ll re-edit this section)

Again, Captain’s Choice funded the THIRD school in Prey t’Baing village. Our Club paid the teachers of the first school and Captain’s Choice paid teachers in the 2nd and 3rd schools.

(photo of the children running TO School on the first ever school day in Prey t’Baing.)

Antibes, France….. After two years, Captains Choice stopped paying their teachers . Prey t’Baing Teachers were taken on by Antibes in France. France then also took on combined schools’ maintenance and the building of teachers accommodation known as ‘Chez Hilary’. – that building is now our PRE-SCHOOL. Antibes became one of our very biggest donors and Prey t’Baing School was renamed ‘Antibes School’

My friend Hilary rented a THEATRE in the centre of Old Antibes and with mostly English and Irish Professional Actors, Theatre Groups and Musicians produced Professional Theatre. Antibes supported everything we did from, buildings, books to  teachers.

  Eva and Roland from Sweden via Antibes stopped off in Phnom Penh to buy OUR children a mountain of exercise books and pens -Antibes School in the photo on the left and Chuor Ph’av swings on the right.

Hilary LOVED and LOVES what we are doing in Cambodge (Cambodia) and started in those very early days to be very much our joint partner. Hilary had a large home on Cap d’Antibes and soon, Hilary’s Cambodia Shows moved to her home. (see, also, a later reference to Hilary’s new Theatre.)

UNICEF gave us the swings and slide and Kevin Marsden’s Beaudesert Rotary Club year paid for a ‘rotary hoe’ to improve village farming. Peter Greenwell paid for a tuk tuk to ferry children to High School – it also carries everything imaginable from cement to pigs and journeys to market. We have a ‘filtered ground water to drinking water’ system donated by a combination of ‘Cleanwater Cambodia’ and France.


 Above you see wonderful concentration. We find that with our huge class sizes slate is much better than paper for learning to write. The teachers can easily see an array of slates held high. Also above – Mark and Linda sit in on a high achievers maths class… and being maths, on the whole, they could follow it on the black board.

3 years ago Antibes money ceased as Hilary and husband Jean Pierre moved to Avignon. That money should restart during 2018. In early days I visited Hilary and her Theatres (including the original Red Pear Theatre in Old Antibes… plus a performance for EducatingCambodia at Mougin International School, Cote d’Azur of “Portrait of Dorian Grey”  by brilliant Irish Professional  Actors (all Hilary’s performers are professional and perform for OUR Cambodian children)…. In July 2016 I visited Hilary and Jean Pierre in their new home in Avignon; they were converting the huge ground floor into ‘Le9 Theatre’ – it is next door to The Grand Opera House of Avignon.

So, recapping – that left the Antibes School without a donor for teachers’ salaries. Peter Greenwell has so far picked up the cost of their 3 teachers. The combined schools’ attendance has grown to 1340 overall in two shifts per day. We pay the teachers a salary supplement of US$360 per year each. Beaudesert pays for 11 teachers. These are Cambodian Government Schools on Government land. The Cambodian Government pays each teacher US$900 per year.

We strive constantly for ‘sustainability’.. Of course it will be good when the villages can totally support their own schools…. to that end we are educating every single child in the district. we try to advise and help with farm help and transport. In every way we started at a point immediately post Pol Pot. As repeat visitors all say, improvement is clear – but we did start with officially Cambodia’s poorest villages – this and the encouragement and appreciation  we get from the families and all levels of their government is why we are still here and need to be still here.

     A great many photos of teachers right through the website.  This last one today of one of our wonderful teachers was taken three days ago in the Pink Clinic/Staffroom.

Over the years, so far, a number of people have made MAJOR donations for specific needs – again all detailed in the website. We sent one of our first and highly valued teachers to part time University for 12 months: Nang’s daughter, Peery (see Nang’s Story in the website) is supported by Jana. ..

  This was Peery’s first day at school; she was almost 5 years old. She was so very proud of her slate she wanted to show her mother her first letters… REMEMBER NO ONE HAD EVER BEEN TO SCHOOL BEFORE WE ARRIVED IN THE VILLAGES. THIS SCENE OF  CHILD TEACHING PARENTS IS REPEATED THROUGH THOUSANDS OF FAMILIES.

(Do I have a favourite photo out of the many thousands? Yes – this one, above – Peery teaching her mum -.  The reason that Peery receives extra support is explained in ‘Nang’s Story’) Incidentally my personal second favourite is of 12 year old children RUNNING TO SCHOOL on the first ever School day in Prey ‘t’Baing. {scroll back 13 photos to find it.}

..Chanthai’s smashed teeth were replaced by 8 implants(!) with both Jana’s donation and our wonderfully supportive Phnom Penh Dentist Bophal Uch  (Chanthai is now our Guesthouse Housekeeper and photos and notes from Chanthais treatment are in the “village Children’ section of the website.)..

.. Roz from England supports in many ways, incuding Thean to University and Soit who we rescued from difficult work conditions at age 14 and returned her to school. Susan Page, Beaudesert Rotary Club President NOW – 2017 – 2018 kept our villages going for several years with First Aid equipment and general medicines. Many MANY other small works and projects are within the website.

With contributions from our Club and France we had built the Pink Clinic (see within the line of buildings). We are not operating as a full Clinic yet but we have simple First Aid and a Registered Nurse – Chandarith – who was one of our original students in 2008 – see the website, Nov 2015.

Every year a number of Club members visit – Linda and Mark Jackson have been 7 times – Lauren Hanser 3 times. Since 2008 John Mann has spent alternating 3 month blocks in the villages and back here in Australia.

We need another building of 3 classrooms to be situated where the swings now are (Swings to be relocated near the main entrance). We need US$30,000 to build that block and at this time of writing, we are waiting to hear from a possible donor – this will mean extra teachers and that issue is part of talks. The Donor or Donors will have ‘naming rights’.

Linda and Mark Jackson paid for the building of Our Guesthouse for volunteers and visitors. This is thoroughly detailed with many photos within the website. The photo above shows the Beaudesert Rotary Club visit of 2014.

The 15 villages of Don Kong Commune, in the District of Kamchay Mear in Prey Veng Province are officially the ‘poorest in Cambodia’ – and 12 of those villages attend OUR Schools. We are educating them to give them a good chance of survival first and then sustainable prosperity – and they, many thousands of people within our families, are very VERY grateful to The Rotary Club of Beaudesert, to France, England and every single donor – all of whom are listed within the website.

John Mann.



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