This morning in Beaudesert – Mark Jackson and I loading the Ambulance with boxes crammed full of clothes, books - medicines – stuffed toys – lots of things, including two clocks for the Guesthouse, novels for the Guesthouse… crayons – a big list.
On August 16 (two more days) I fly to Phnom Penh and the Ambulance will be put into a Container and taken to The Port of Brisbane for its voyage to The Port of Phnom Penh. For the full story, all the Donors and more photos read the Ambulance story below this one..
Next time I write I will be back in the villages, John.
A very big ‘Arkun cherern‘ Khmer for – ‘Thank you very much‘ from everyone in the villages to: The Rotary Club of Beaudesert and all its friends – to Eva and Roland Andersson in Sweden – to Ros and Ken Rokison in England – to Chanthou Oeun in Cambodia for all her organising – to Jana Zehr in Australia – to Steve Gillow in Australia – to Richard Kerkham in Australia – to Linda and Mark Jackson in Australia … and to the many other people who have helped in a hundred different ways with this huge and literally vital project.
It is two years since we first talked with people both within Cambodia and around the world about an ambulance -
- Our Ambulance is today in Beaudesert, Australia - I am also in Beaudesert.
We will ship the ambulance from The Port of Brisbane to The Port of Phnom Penh very soon and I will meet it there, and with some of our village Leaders we will drive it to our remote District – the District of Kamchay Mear in Prey Veng Province.
We will make sure its 100% compliant for our conditions and regulations and it will become THE Ambulance for our District – covering all of our villages and liaising with Clinics and distant Hospitals. In return the District will supply us with visiting Doctors at least every week and advice and support for our Clinic at the Chuor Ph’av Schools.
We have often written about health, hygiene and nutrition – this ambulance will obviously play a key role.
We talk of wanting nurses or student nurses to visit us and volunteer with us – along with The Guesthouse this dream is now a reality – so please contact us to visit and volunteer. Within a few weeks we will officially launch the Guesthouse as the base for visiting our villages and volunteering in our Schools and Health Services.
A big thank you from all our Cambodian children for the amazing efforts and work and monetary donations to get our very own ambulance!!!!
The names of the donors are on both sides of the ambulance.
The Ambulance is a Toyota four wheel drive diesel.
It was essential for our muddy or dusty condtions that the Ambulance was a strong four wheel drive – and it is. In Cambodia we will need such things as paramedic medicines, bandages etc, Oxygen, and a number of pieces of Paramedic/Doctors equipment but otherwise as you can see from the photos the Ambulance is complete.
The last four photos were taken last week -before our sign writing was done – the day we drove the ambulance from Brisbane to Beaudesert.
Linda and Mark Jackson with their grandson. As you can see from the signwriting, Linda and Mark are two of our wonderful Donors…..
Now to pack the Ambulance into a container and get it The Port of Brisbane. I return to Cambodia on August 16 and will meet the container ship in Phnom Penh.
Dear friends and that is you since you are reading this,
We are very much at a stage where we need financial help – however small – for ALL of our projects – so many things are coming together and progressing well; we need money particularly for:
All the school equipment you can imagine – Exercise books, Small backboards, large classroom blackboards, text books for 4 subjects for all our children.. desks need replacing (we make our own).. all buildings need maintaining and painting… Uniforms… As you may know it is far cheaper to buy ALL these things within Cambodia – we make what we can – we can buy exercise books in Cambodia much cheaper than say your postage – similarly Cambodia makes robust school uniforms. We accept donated uniforms for general wear in the villages and again they tend to be robust and very welcome.
We need to buy in Cambodia, hospital (Clinic) medicines – they are inexpensive in Cambodia BUT we need money to buy them.
Like every other school, hospital etc in Cambodia that encourages volunteers – we will charge people to volunteer and to stay in our Guesthouse but it will probably be cheaper than most.
We offer to you an area which is more remote than almost all others in Cambodia and desperately poor and heavily populated…..
….the opportunities for you or any University student you may know or student or indeed someone on holiday or on a Gap year to be part of the future of the lives of thousands of children are almost unlimited. Maybe you want a ‘sea change’ or are actually retired – contact me, John, or anyone at The Rotary Club of Beaudesert in Australia for advice.
This is the first letter clearly stating that the Guesthouse is ready for business – not only volunteering – also just being part of a Cambodian village! – there will be more of a BIG launch soon.
Meanwhile we are very VERY happy with our Ambulance and there will be many more reports on its adventures…… AND ……
We NEED money – please.. from John on behalf of all the children and all the families….. AND lastly today….
………..I’ve most certainly not forgotten Soit, the girl we ‘rescued’ back to School (scroll down for the story so far with Soit) – more on Soit soon. John.
“If you are ‘certain’ and ‘passionate’ and the ‘why’ is absolutely clear, then the ‘how’ will appear.” - These are more or less the words of a current Australian writer – Keith Abraham – his words are I think almost entirely true; I say ‘almost’ because there are conditions. I try to deal with them today in relation to our current work in Cambodia.
For the past few weeks, long days have been spent thinking through ‘education” for our children beyond age 15 – also ‘employment’ and ‘village health’.
Planning, diplomacy, negotiation and money, together, make it possible for our projects to happen –
- first though we must be CERTAIN that promoting Education and basic help to our villages is the right thing to be doing. A simple look through our website will show what things were like before we arrived and then quite quickly the sequence of letters or updates show that we ARE helping and improving lives on a very considerable scale, for example, in eight years we have not lost one girl to sex slavery, sold overseas or sold anywhere. At any one time we have 500 girls in our schools (and 500 boys)… before we arrived it was constantly reported that every girl who left the village to work and send money home was quickly lost to the sex industry. We thought schools were the answer and the UN agreed with us.. ( United Nations – ‘Sex Slavery in the lower Mekong’ 2008 )…. even when there is a high mortality rate and zero health care, as in our villages, a ‘school’ should come first.
The question ‘why?’ is well explained throughout the website, so then we get to ‘how’? – ‘how’ involves a lot of talking and sharing ideas – working closely with all sections of Cambodian society, particularly in our District covering 30 villages – our schools serve 12 villages – children, families, leaders, village committees, monks, police and all other levels of government including the bureaucracy.
We ask you and everyone else for money and always why we need any particular amount of money. So money is vital for what we do, without it we will not have our projects BUT although money is our basic need, it may not seem to be an obvious part of the real planning and doing but it most certainly is.
Recently there has been a lot of talking and planning for how we can possibly make tertiary education possible for even just a few of our students – and could we create local employment other than their own families subsistence rice farms? It is not necessarily bad that large numbers of our adults go to distant towns or distant foreign owned factory farms or to garment factories – 500,000 Cambodians work in stifling, slave like conditions making well known brands of clothing that we all wear – $3 a day for a 12 hour day – Employment WILL be better if one day our children can work locally.
In Cambodia there is a very good and efficient system of sending money home from distant jobs and returning to the villages to raise families so even from that perspective it makes good sense to educate our children to the highest level possible.
In Cambodia, the village of a person’s family is all important – distant workers return home several times a year to be part of all the religious holidays. Everyone needs the village elders to agree to a marriage, apply for a passport and the village is probably where you will raise children in your wife’s family home and village. Almost all ‘permission’ comes from or passes through the ‘elders’. Village elders are not the same as elected members of the District or Provincial Government. Elders rise from the village gradually by village consensus. Everyone knows everyone. The children are raised by the family and the village. Most local, family and inter family problems, right through to violence, are dealt with quietly by the village and the elders. Right now, in 2015, in OUR villages, village elders are wise BUT that wisdom is limited because OUR children are the first to EVER receive an education.
Some weeks ago I said we were working on an educational future for Soit – you might recall that we brought Soit back from farm work in far South West Cambodia to our school to resume her education (this is only possible through the financial assistance of Ros from England). Bear with me a little longer.. we have a plan for Soit and Soit is learning basic English.
We have been talking for 18 months about an ambulance. We will be able to make a positive and definitive announcement about an ambulance in a very few weeks.
Working behind the scenes for Soit and all our children for that matter requires money and we are very very grateful for specific donations. The ambulance and regional health support that will come from us supplying an ambulance comes from diplomacy, negotiation and money from targeted donations ie “I want to give money to help to buy an ambulance.’
Two of our police -
- the smiles in these photos are not simply diplomacy; we actually LIKE the people with whom we deal – and just like us, they can judge whether someone likes them or not. As I have repeatedly stated over eight years we have never had an issue with our local or District Police and we have never bribed ANYONE or been asked for a bribe. The man on the right of the photo is the senior policeman for OUR twelve villages – in this photo they had called in for a friendly chat and a cup of coffee. (I have introduced an appreciation of instant coffee to the villages.)
Wat, Kamau’s brother, age 15 – he is sick, so we are looking after him.
Remember Wat? Wat joined our local monastery (coincidentally called a wat) 3 years ago at age 12. When the monastery boys are sick they are sometimes sent ‘home’ to be cared for. Our Guesthouse is the nearest thing that Wat has to a home (other than the wat itself of course)….. so we care for our sick boy monk (he’s not very sick at all – it’s a cold),
Wat’s robes drying upstairs at The Guesthouse.
Yes that is coffee and mango and it is Wat’s washing, drying upstairs – coffee and indeed cigarettes are allowed for Cambodian monks. I have often written about monks and I have nothing but good to say about them. Monks serve a wonderful suite of roles – weddings, funerals, counseling, huge village celebrations on wat land, caring for the mentally ill if the village itself can’t manage – a terrific institution in a country where the State itself can’t manage.
A rare photo. Brother and sister but Kamau, left, knows the literal rules about being this close to a monk (her 15 year old brother) – see below for explanation.
You might recall that Wat is Kamau’s younger brother. (Kamau was married on December 3 2014 – pregnant in this photo taken in late May 2015 – and if you go to the index on the left of your screen and find December 2014 you will find the story of Kamau’s wedding.) They look awkward in this photo – Kamau looks awkward – Kamau was VERY unsure about being physically close to a monk and a literal interpretation of the ‘monk rules’ would say that Kamau is right…. This rule automatically and instantly relaxes if and when a monk stops being a monk!
That’s enough writing for today. A number of things are developing as you can see so I will be writing again soon.
I have to ask for donations. There are many specific projects you can help with. Please..please join us in maybe one area or as some people say “where it’s needed.’
To frequent readers and to first time readers: We did not ask for one dollar towards building our Guesthouse because it was the private project of two people – Beaudesert Rotarians, Linda and Mark Jackson –
Linda and Mark have given – yes, given – DONATED – the Guesthouse and land to Educating Cambodia. It has been donated via Rotary Australia World Community Service (RAWCS) to Educating Cambodia – putting the Guesthouse on almost the same footing as the Schools and Clinic buildings. I say ‘almost’ because the schools and Clinic buildings are on Cambodian Government land; Educating Cambodia owns the land beneath the Guesthouse.
There are thousands of photos on this website and 170 of and in the Guesthouse itself. This photo of the front stairs was taken in January 2015 as the Beaudesert Rotary Club was conducting an early trial run of our accommodation.
We are in a very remote village setting – heavily populated, desperately poor but remote. Briefly we foresee school and clinic visitors and volunteers and indeed people who might want to see or experience remote Cambodia and village life. We will very soon price accommodation to cover all costs and provide money for the schools. We will then advertise appropriately.
NOW – Educating Cambodia urgently needs US$10,600
Please – we need a total of US$10,600 to complete and pay for the last building jobs.
We can ask for your help now because Educating Cambodia now owns it. The Guesthouse is now part of our ‘Prey Veng Schools Projects’ and is registered by Rotary International as project number #70656.
We urgently need US$2100 for a solar hot water system, pipework and header tank.
US$ 800 for a large rainwater tank with connection to existing gutters
US$7700 for last purchasing of cement, sand, bricks, tiles and labour
How to Donate.
Every dollar counts and adds up.. If you can help in a small (or large) way then please click on the ‘Donate’ section on the left of your screen and pay by Paypal - this is linked directly to the Educating Cambodia section of the bank account of The Rotary Club of Beaudesert and the Club then sends 100% of your donation to Cambodia and in this case for the Guesthouse.
The first photo today is taken inside the Guesthouse – in the kitchen.
In the kitchen area of our Schools Guesthouse – Chanthai is helping Maigin get ready for school. We have cared for Chanthai since the very beginning of EducatingCambodia and she has her own section in the ‘village children’ section – see the index to your left – Chanthai often helps at the Guesthouse.
All the remaining photos today are taken either OF our brand new Guesthouse gates or on the track next to them.
The gates are new and so is the 60 metre southern wall you can see in this photo. Both the gates and secure walls are required by our local government and the police who look after us. (During the many years we have known all levels of Government and Police we have ALWAYS had an honest and cheerful friendship.)
one of our School boys, Chen, helping with the decorative paint.
A series of photos now, mostly of our School Children coming and going. There are two shifts of classes – the morning children and the afternoon children.
This is Tian, one of our teachers
(The Guesthouse wall on the right) There are villagers cycling and walking through the villages selling home grown fruit and vegetables and snacks they have made. Everything costs the equivalent of a few cents.
The little boy, Thon, is with Danni who helps at the Guesthouse. Beaudesert Rotarians who visited in January will remember Danni.
This is what happens if you ask people to smile!
All on the Guesthouse motorbike. Peery (you know Peery – Nangs daughter) then Mab driving, then the twins, Soklep and Sokleah and last is Soit who you also know… on the way to school. (please don’t tell me there are five people on a two seater 100cc motorbike AND no helmets. It’s one kilometre on slow dirt…. and ANYWAY this is VERY VERY rural Cambodia.)
This man makes fruit and vegetable drinks – VERY healthy!
Again the Guesthouse motorbike, this time with Maigin at the back.
From our Schools and the villages, the children hope you like our photos and stories. We need your financial help. If you can help in any small way or LARGE way – look to the left of your screen and find the Donate. page.. Thank you, John.
‘Bon Nang’ translates to ‘party or ceremony for Nang’ but more particularly ‘The 100 day Ceremony’
We start today with a short video of the ‘Welcome to Nang’s 100 Day ceremony – Bon Nang’.
The music, chanting and prayers continue from dawn to dusk.
These are notes that I wrote on the day of the 100 Day Ceremony, together with thoughts that have settled a little since. This is how Khmer Buddhism works after death and – specifically about Nang.
Nang died on February 1 2015 and was cremated the following day across in the small ‘extended family’ field set aside for cremation bonfires. One hundred days later we hold ‘Bon Nang’
The strong (total) belief is that for sometime after death both Nang and the Spirit World are unsure what should happen to Nang’s Spirit or Soul. The 100 day ceremony is for everyone who knew Nang – family and friends – to show their support and love for Nang – to be together all day, eating and talking and praying – our local monks and nuns are here too -…. All this is to show the Spirit World things they might not know or may have missed, to encourage a favourable ‘onward’ journey.
This is Nang’s shrine for the day, set within a marquee. The photo at the bottom right is Nang age 16. (the other photo is of Nang’s Grand Parents)
I took every photo ever taken of Nang; many of them are within Nang’s Story, to your left in the Index. Nang died at age 24.
About 500 people are expected so lots or friends and family are involved in preparing food.
It’s an all day ceremony from dawn till dark..Older monks have often moved back in with their families and are a great source of ceremonial knowledge and wisdom. They sit together and wait as do the older women, some of whom (with very short hair) are nuns. They too are a good source of advice and history.
We haven’t got dressed properly for the day in the third photo above. This is Nang’s mother, Cheng and Nang’s daughter, Peery.
My writing today ….. I will do as well as I possibly can. If you read ‘Nang’s Story’ to your left you will see that Nang was important to me and I was important to Nang…five times I have used the phrase ‘We don’t necessarily believe in miracles but we do rely on them” – time and time and time again Nang fought through and stayed alive…(read Nang’s Story) and I was given and took a role at both her funeral and throughout this ‘100 Day ceremony’.. and she remains important.
So: there is a total belief that what we THINK and SAY about a person after their death effects their ‘pathway’ or ‘onward journey’.. It is all about helping Nang as best we can.
This ‘onward journey’ can take any form. Almost everyone expects re-birth either into a better life for good people, or for bad people – a worse life. Nang did nothing wrong so everyone who knew (knows) Nang expects a better life for her this next time….. BUT….
….BUT…. there are two more options – if Nang was perfect or was at peace eventually with perfection then TWO options are put to Nang by The Spirit World:
1 Nirvana – go to paradise …. (Nang fought death right to the last second. Nang was desperate to be alive so not necessarily at ‘peace’.)
2 She can voluntarily become what the Tibetans call a ‘Boddhisatva’, a kind of living angel. This would mean that Nang is given the chance of Nirvana (Heaven) or she can be reborn to help the WORLD. (we have possible examples of Boddhisatvas in say Mother Theresa, or even Nelson Mandela or Ghandi – controversial names I know but I hope you get the idea. In other words, ‘there is far too much to do in THIS world for me to live in Paradise!’…
There are other possibilities – stay around as a GHOST (Khmer people are VERY scared of this option and have all sorts of prayers and practices to stop Ghosts getting into their home …)
…… or live on through others!… consciously being part of other people…… BUT most people think ‘re-birth’ for ALMOST everyone.
‘Bon Nang’ was all day. A marquee, food, a dais and hundreds of people – sitting, talking, laughing, crying, eating, chatting and milling around – prayers, chanting – a very good day.
Peery and I get ready to receive guests and get through a long day.
I have a great many photos of everyone in the villages. I have enlarged many of Nang’s photos partly to ensure that 6 year old Peery has a chance of remembering her wonderful mother. My personal favourite is the second photo in this row. I took it after Peery’s first day at School. Peery had already started to learn to draw the Khmer alphabet and she was teaching her mother. Nang never went to school. No one went to school before we built the first School.
A very interesting photograph. It is a photo-shopped version of the other one – the original – see below.
Nang’s mother took my original to a small internet stall in a Market and got them to add extra hair and a business jacket.. Its a very moving piece of wishful thinking. Nang’s mother wanted this photo in the shrine but I won the discussion. I wanted a real photo.
There was a small official ceremony in the morning and a BIG ceremony in the afternoon, with people sitting around tables, 8 people to each table, eating and drinking in say 30 minute sittings right throughout the day – five hundred people
It costs money to hold this special day for Nang; the monks need paying, there’s a lot of food and drink – there are chairs, tables and marquee hire and sound equipment. (All the official prayers and chanting is broadcast all day from a loudspeaker)….. So there is an entrance fee of about $1 which most people can’t afford, so ‘most people’ give a small bag of rice and/or a couple of home grown vegetables… The day unfolds within the photos so you should be able to find written comment from me that matches one or more of the photos.
I was ‘family’ and was there, setting up, hosting the monks and nuns, helping with food and eventually saying Bye bye to everyone and packing everything away. Everyone knows everyone and it was a friendly, loving, day – for Nang – but also of course for the family and cohesion of the villages.
Peery not entirely sure what to make of the day.
Food being prepared throughout the day. Woks of chicken and rice soup constantly simmering.
The day was expensive – food, monks to pay, marquee, chair and table hire – but most people couldn’t afford the $1…. so most people paid with a small bag of rice or a home grown vegetable or fruit.
we’ll eat later after everyone else.
All day long, the tables fill and the people move on to chat and tell tales of Nang’s life.
Food is given to Nang.. The door to the ashes shrine is open so people can chat to her or with her.
Our monks are VERY good. The head monk or Abbott on the right (There are many small articles in which he features through this website) does lots of official prayers but the more important parts are basically a eulogy.. Nang’s life from the village perspective.
Nang’s Doctor (See Nang’s Story) – ‘OUR Doctor - Doctor Tour Suy – wrote to me . “Nang is with you and me always” and I replied ‘Always”… Right now,- Nang is with me..
Nang’s Story is far from over. Nang has inspired me to fight without hesitation- to cling to our goals and life – to make our Clinic work and to get ALL our boys and girls as far as we can. And Peery will thrive. Jana from Australia (Jana also paid for Chanthai’s Dentistry) is giving $50 per month to ensure Peery is safe and well into the future and I will help with the rest. One of the very good things about our villages is that they are remarkable examples of the old saying “The village raises the child”. There is an entire village to care for Peery.
(There is an extra photo and notes added at the end of this post – added on June 15 2015)
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
ADDED on June 15.
Yes Soit is back at school and this photo was taken on June 13 2015 Soit has been given this months US$100 from Ros to support Soit’s family so that the very bright 14 year old Soit can keep going to School.
This is a very special photo. Yes we have hopes and plans for Soit and one day for all our kids. The money is actually 410,000 Cambodian Riel. John.
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.
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.)
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.