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.





























Kamau. A big day. The most moving of all.

In CategoryJohns blog


Please read this paragraph by paragraph, photo by photo. Don’t skip anything.

You will have seen a lot of wedding photos before.

Get a box of tissues ready.

For me, for several reasons this wedding was the most moving of all.

I have been to over 100 rural weddings in Cambodia – they are all day events – at no one point are the couple ‘married’ – its ‘assumed’ but every separate part is important. talking, sharing, tying ribbons, hands tied, gifts given individually to the kneeling couple, times for preparing, eating, more ceremony, more eating, some dancing, more ceremony and then a lot of dancing.

If you look at the banner at the top of the page, Kamau is the fourth from the left. We have known and cared for Kamau for almost eight years. She was 12 years old when we opened our first school and Kamau was truly determined to learn everything she could. She had three years in our schools and learned to read and write her own language, do basic arithmetic and some knowledge of Science, History and Geography.

I imagined that all our early girls and boys would become Doctors or Policitians. Kamau lived in the house where I stayed so she was one of the children I knew most about.

Her father (one of the photos below) drinks far too much rice wine and does no work. Her mother, Nat, tries desperately hard for Kamau. Last year (it’s in an earlier post) they GAVE their only son to the Temple (the monastery – or in Khmer – The WAT). What I can say is that their son will be a fine young monk – a clever and caring boy – and Buddhism in Cambodia is the practical bearer of what Social Service there is in Cambodia.

Back to Kamau. I have changed my thinking over the past few years. It is a slow slow process – Kamau will have children . Kamau can read, write and do Arithmetic AND will know how to protect HER girls from trafficking (in several places within the website I use Kamau as an example of saving our children from slavery.) Kamau can help HER children with their homework and teach THEM what she learned. PLUS there is a chance that she and her husband can start a tiny business, say, buying and selling goods around the villages.

I’ll let her WEDDING DAY unfold as it did. (don’t skip)…

Nat is Kamau’s mother. This is Nat’s home. It is also where Kamau and  her new husband will  live, along with Way, Kamau’s father. That is one room; there are no room dividers in the house.

It is the venue for Kamau’s wedding. If you haven’t read the opening paragraphs, read them now.

 Life is straightforward. You want beef for the wedding day? You kill the cow with a knife and you all eat ALL of it. This is ten metres from the house.

 preparing sauces and herbs to go with the meat – family and friends.

 The music arrives with help through the mud.

 getting as ready as she can be.

 The first part of the day involves an Elder from the Wat (monastery) helping to tie ribbons to wrists and also tie them together.

BUT ALL IS NOT WELL. Kamau is crying and its not good. I wonder what’s wrong?

Is this as good as it gets?

I ask Nat (mum) .. the problem is that because they have no (ZERO) money they can not afford any wedding clothes. (apart from anything else)

There are THREE hours till the next part of the ceremony. This DOES NOT happen to Kamau on my watch.

Svay Antor is a tiny town 50 minutes away. A phone call and I ask to hire costumes, accessories(!) and makeup for Kamau, her husband Lat and for Chanthai, the Bridesmaid. A lady from a wedding hire place on a, tiny dirt road is on her way.

(got the tissues ready?)

Three hours later – Make up and costume.This part of the ceremony is individual gift giving into their hands.

 technically an awful photo – emotionally its brilliant. Nat, Kamaus mum in the foreground and Chanthai (new teeth last week), the bridesmaid behind Kamau. An emotional masterpiece.

 fortunately I’ve got the 3mb version of this.

Good eh!

 Lat and Kamau.


Kamau  and her bridesmaid, Chanthai (who hasn’t stopped smiling for a week – see Chanthai’s post below!)

 out of the good clothes – Bride and Bridesmaid.

 With her father, Way.

Bye for now from Kamau, Lat – and Chanthai – John.

















The Guesthouse on December 1 2014

In CategoryJohns blog

It is exactly three months since we last posted  photos or news of progress on The Guesthouse.

Please scroll back to August 31 to see the last update.

A lot has happened since then!

I’ll post 16 photos and some explanatory notes to get us up to date. Some of todays photos were taken during Spetember, some in October and most in November with  just a few taken TODAY, December 1….. You will see what has been done and what is to be done.

In this photo the toilet and shower block work hasn’t started and nor has the kitchen. Those two blocks will be  on the ground floorunder one long roof down the left hand side of the main building. They will be accessed directly from a very large tiled floor in between the pillars.

 This ground floor area will be all tiled and has a ceiling height of four metres to create a cool living area.

it will be direct access from undercover into the toilet and shower block. To the left of this structure there will be a similar sized kitchen, all under the same long roof.

 the two photos, above, show Sot, the lead builder for the toilet block. There are over 30 people working on The Guesthouse.


the photo above shows the long balcony running down the side of The Guesthouse to ‘The Coffee Room’.

 The Coffee Room. Open on three sides, with spectacular views over the rice fields.

 and FROM The Coffee Room to the front of The Guesthouse.

 Solar panels in line on one of the roof ridges.

 The wiring from the solar panels comes to the inverter and batteries on the upper floor. We have been given a salellite dish, connection and a TV. English or US TV eg BBC or CNN is far too expensive but yesterday I found a Charlie Chaplin movie on Indian TV.

 and the satellite dish is on the back steps (an earlier photo of the rear of The Guesthouse before painting and ballustades) –

 We are building a front wall. In discussions with the government – in February 2015 they will upgrade and double the width of the road to and through our village. We will lose three metres of our land and so in preparation the wall will be set back that three metres. We will also lose the first section of the side wall you can see in the distance.

I’ve slept in this room for the last two nights. Its a room just off the front balcony. – no toilet or shower or kitchen and no tap but very comfortable non the less.

The tuk tuk donated by Peter Greenwell 9f The Rotary Club of Beaudesert continues to work every day transporting children and with the benches removed – a steady workhorse for our building materials.

I’ll give another Guesthouse update when the toilet block is finished. John.