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.





























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.


















Chanthai and Uch Bophal – our Dentist

In CategoryJohns blog

You would have to look at the rest of Chanthai’s life to find words good enough to describe how I feel today. It is a glorious day.

First then a quick look back at the 8 years we have known Chanthai (these photos are also within the villoage children section to your left.

 and next – Chanthais first day ever at school. in the butterfly tee shirt.

For all of the past eight years Chanthai had smashed upper secondary teeth – impacted into her upper gum. One of her lower incisors had grown to meet that top gum.

In September 2014 Dr Uch Bophal extracted the smashed teeth and had to operate on her upper gum and prepare her for implants.

And just one week ago a whole day was spent working on Chanthais mouth, making moulds and calculations for her new teeth.


A very happy day.

Chanthai with Dr Uch Bophal at The Pachem Dental Clinic in Phnom Penh.

Many many thanks to Pachem Dental Clinic for giving us a big discount and to Dr Uch Bophal for all her kindness and skill.

Thanks to Jana Zehr for her huge donation of AUD 1000 to make this possible.. Your reward Jana is Chanthais smile forever.

Thanks to The Rotary Club of Beaudesert and everyone in the villages of Kamchay Mear for loving Chanthai. John.






Posters and a picture from France and new School Photos – Beaudesert Rotary School and Antibes School!

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 is about our wonderful friendship with Mougins School in The South of France, a new Theatre, a Show and what it all means.

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.

Posters and a Picture from France and New School photos (Beaudesert Rotary et Antibes Schools)

45 photos today.

First though – The Guesthouse: I wrote on September 27, below, that we will update on Guesthouse progress. I really don’t want to fill the website with what might seem like small progress photos so please bare with us a little while longer. The main building is more or less complete now and over the next two months we will build the toilet and shower block. I doubt very much whether the kitchen will be built before the visit from The Rotary Club of Beaudesert in January – we will eat well from a make shift kitchen!

Mougins posters!

If you scroll down to September 27 you will find that I was at The Mougins International School in the South of France. During my time visiting the classrooms I was given three posters and a small booklet of childrens pictures, all to take back to our Antibes School in Cambodia. You will see on the September 27 post, about half way through, me holding one of the posters! I also met a wonderful singer named Jane who has performed a benefit concert for us in Antibes (just down the road from Mougins) – Jane and her husband Bob came to Mougins School for the play (see below) and also presented to me a signed photo to give to the children in Cambodia….

….. so….. we framed the three posters and Jane’s picture and they are now hanging in the three classrooms of Antibes School in Prey t’Baing. These photos were taken the day we hung the pictures – November 21….

please enjoy the emotion in these pictures:

I took the first ten on my phone and are of poorer quality than the others taken with my Lumix.

 and this picture taken November 21 2014 includes moi (as they might say at Mougins School.)

We’ll finish today with the 20 photos shown , until today, only at the Sylvia Syms concert on Cap d’Antibes on November 7  and 8. They are all new and most are self explanatory – I’ll put notes with some.

{If perhaps you first scroll back to planning for Sylvia Syms concert you’ll get some idea of the importance of Sylvia in the past sixty years of British film, TV and Theatre.

EDITED later the same day 24.11.14

Hilary has just sent me three photos of Sylvia at her own concert. The first two are Syvia performing and the third is with Sylvia’s actress daughter Beatie Edney.

At her ‘show’ Sylvia told many stories of particularly the social and political impact and context of many of her performances. On those two nights in Antibes, done entirely for our schools, a phrase used by several in the audiences was “Slvia was simply magnificent. From all our children, their teachers and their families, thankyou very VERY much to Sylvia and EVERYONE in the audiences and all the organisers.

Many of you reading this have followed and traveled with us for several years now, and you will know that HILARY is the Producer of ALL our shows… and almost all the shows – all the ‘Bon Chance Antibes’ messages are for shows in Hilary’s HOME1

Hilary in turn has many helpers, Mags particularly but indeed as we often say, our FAMILY is very big. I have come to know many of Hilary’s friends and they in turn are 100% part of the Cambodian childrens family.}


some of our 13 and 14 year olds outside the teachers house ‘Chez Hilary’ with new books.

 Sok Ken our head teacher with a stock of text books.

 meanwhile over at the Antibes School.

 tuck shops run near the entrance gate of the Chuor Ph’av campus. The Rotary Club of Beaudesert.

 and now some photos of part of the morning parade at 6.45am at Chuor Ph’av. Remember there are two shifts operating. The second team starts at 12.30pm.

and so from early morning parade under the Cambodian flag, its into the classrooms for a morning of lessons.

Later this week  there will the story of a girls teeth! Chanthai has her own section within the ‘village children’ section in the index to the left of screen – she has had a mouth full of crushed useless and untreated teeth. Tomorrow her teeth reconstruction is completed and I will put together a short before and after story.

I can promise that next weeks post will be ‘Guesthouse Progress’.





November 7 and 8 Cap d’Antibes -Bon Chance Antibes et Sylvia Syms

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 is about our wonderful friendship with Mougins School in The South of France, a new Theatre, a Show and what it all means.

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.

SYLVIA SYMS at Cap d’Antibes this weekend !

If you know anything of British flim and television over the past 60 years (Yes SIXTY) you will have seen Sylvia Syms  - a star shining in film after film. From playing ‘troubled teens in the early fifties to Mrs Tony Hancock in Punch and Judy – to The Queen Mother and Margaret Thatcher and many more… this is Sylvia’s own website -

Sylvia will be on Cap d’Antibes for just two very special nights of stories, memories and thoughts this coming weekend – November 7 and 8.

All proceeds will come to our Schools – after the show I’ll post here again with a selection of the brand new Cambodia photos that they will see in Antibes France before the show. Here is just one to be going on with. 6.50 am, November 3 2014, after assembly under the Cambodian flag ‘and so to lessons’ …… John.


Mougins School – Theatre – for our Children!

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 is about our wonderful friendship with Mougins School in The South of France, a new Theatre, a Show and what it all means.

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.

Mougins School – Theatre – for our Children!

I an writing from The South of France – from Mougins School herself! – just inland from Cannes and Antibes in a Province called Alps Maritimes. If you are a regular to our website you will know that there are many posts from Antibes and Mougins and the Theatrcal productions that help us so very much in our Schools and projects in The District of Kamchay Mear in the province of Prey Veng in Cambodia -

so – now – Mougins International School

If you open the above Mougins web link today you find a great article about the theatrical event, the school and our part in all this. Read this news item from the school and you’ll be well prepared for the rest of this blog.

Look back over the years – this year there are three posts related to fundraising in France; indeed this is the fourth theatrical production this year from The Cote d’Azur to help us. Its the second time that ‘The Picture of Dorian Gray’ has been performed but last October it was in Antibes and now with some changes in cast. So this time its Mougins International School in their NEW Theatre and at the time of their 50 year celebrations.

I have spent all of this week showing power point presentations to large groups, classes, and to tiny groups – talking talking, and a million good questions from all age groups. The 500 children at Mougins are truly engaged and fascinated by our Cambodian villages, schools and THEIR or ‘OUR’  Cambodian children. If you quickly look down to a February post you will see that on Valentines Day Mougins students decorated and sent HEARTS to us in Cambodia and we then sent painted hearts back from Cambodia..

Here are some photos of the Mougins children with me this week.

This is a large group of senior students – all very interested, amazed and terrific questions.

 after learning about our Cambodian children, lots of the Mougins children drew pictures and made a book for me to take back ( and we will do the same in return).

This wonderful poster along with several others and the book of pictures and notes will return with me to Cambodia. I’m looking forward to explaining it all in Cambodia and sending photos back to Mougins.

 A newspaper interview with the cast.

It is the 50 year Birthday of Mougins School AND a new THEATRE – so to celebrate all this AND help us in Cambodia, an amazing team (troupe) of actors with Amy their Stage Manager, has come over from Dublin to perform ‘ The Picture of Dorian Gray’ Heres just a few photos from a rehearsal (so obviously no audience!).

the second page summarizes well the relationship between the schools.

These are my poor photos of two pages from the Programme. The cast of Michael Winder, Duncan Hamilton, Simon Coury and Amy Flood their stage Manager – they are all in rehearsal photos below.

 Michael, then Duncan, Simon and Amy – in rehearsal. Audience were EVERYWHERE – it was more or less ‘in the round’.

It was simply wonderful. Radio and several local French Newspapers interviewed everyone (me too) and published good articles.

Thank you to all our friends in France – from the many 5 – 18 year olds with their teachers at Mougins School, to the entire Cote d’Azur region who came to the show and made all that we do possible.

Back to Cambodia soon and Guesthouse update very soon! John.






Our GUESTHOUSE – so far!

In CategoryJohns blog


A work in progress –

A work of LOVE

A work of centuries of Khmer TRADITION

A work of ART

Approximate timeline so far


  1. Every year since 2008 groups have visited us from The Rotary Club of Beaudesert and friends from Australia – and from Antibes in France and Sweden:  BUT only once has a group stayed overnight in the villages – on the floors of my wonderful neighbours in Chuor Ph’av village; and with no beds, one toilet, no plumbing, no electricity, no clean water and no shop – the experience is daunting to the point of impossible.
  2. At least once a month and sometimes once a week I receive email offers to volunteer – to teach English or to nurse – and that would of course be fantastic, but, however regrettable, with nowhere to stay and no food and no security, so far I have had to say ‘no.’
  3. This is a very significant development for us. In all practical terms our schools are in an extremely remote location and yet heavily populated. According to Lonely Planet (and me) NO ONE visits this part of Cambodia – there are NO tourist attractions. A Guesthouse for OUR visitors and helpers is a HUGE development.

We will very soon have our Guesthouse, within the main village. There will be paid SECURITY, toilets, hot showers and a good kitchen all in a large traditional Khmer (Cambodian) house.

We will handle twos and threes in a room and larger groups upto twenty people  in the large open area upstairs (see photos) – on mattresses.


The Guesthouse is funded privately by three people – no ‘donated money’ whatsoever.


We still need to add: Front stairs, Back stairs, a ground floor awning to the right to double the tiled floor space, a large tiled ground floor, an array of solar panels probably on the ground behind the main building, bathrooms and kitchen off the tiled floor area (ground floor) and an awning to the left to accommodate vehicles.

In January 2015, ten Rotary members and friends will sleep in the guesthouse for two nights. So long as there are stairs by then, it will be possible. – Certainly I am thinking that it January it could be very much a ‘camping’ experience.

The PHOTOS begin with a very brief video showing the two rice fields; we were considering buying ONE……. WE BOUGHT BOTH.

We had to raise the land by one metre so we built a six metre deep fish pond to the far left and used the 2000 cubic metres of soil to raise our land.

Please ENJOY the photos and videos and I will post again as work continues.

I’ll let the photos largely ‘TALK FOR THEMSELVES’

Many of the photos are of wood arriving and being stored – over the past five months. It was impossible to find six and a half metre lengths of hardwood for the many octagonal support columns, so they are all five metres long. The first one and a half metres is concrete. This will be cleverly disguised with an octagonal ‘sheath’ of cement and painted suitably. (this is common practice).

As you look at the photos try to imagine the wood properly oiled, lots more work and front and back stairs. As I add photos later – all will become apparent.  There will be a few video links in todays post about the Guesthouse. On the assumption that at this stage a ‘click on it’ link doesn’t work – just copy the link and paste into your address browser please. The videos are just a few seconds long but worth seeing.

The first video (above) shows the two rice fields that we bought. We were only going to buy one field (rice paddy) but were are VERY pleased we bought both.  This video (again if it doesn’t directly link please just copy it into the address line of your browser) follows the first.. Having bought the land we needed 2000 cubic metres of soil to raise the whole area – so now we have a six metre deep fish pond!

 Me front left, Chanthou using her calculator, Huot the Builder of the main structure (he doesn’t do stairs, kitchen, bathroom, plumbing, solar etc – but he does do a fabulous job of traditional Khmer building), and Chen our wood buyer (disappears into forests) and site coordinator. We have had many meetings like this. There are NO plans, drawings or measurements – so meetings are kind essential!!

 Deep foundations needed for what will become a very big and heavy building. ALL Cambodian hard wood.

As with all our projects, most of the work is done by locals and by hand.

if you’ve looked at the second video above you’ll know we have a HUGE fish pond to our immediate left, so providing us with the land fill to raise the whole are by one metre – so the first building job was a retaining wall to first hold the land and secondly to separate us from what is now our own fish pond

. we had four months of choosing, buying and storing wood.

  great old trucks delivered vast amounts of wood – as you will see almost the whole house is wooden.

 Delivering five metre lengths of hard wood that will become the heart of our Guesthouse.

Isn’t that just the best old truck you’ve ever seen!

Terracotta tiles arrive from the brickworks on the banks of The Mekong.

 Each tile is hand painted by local children to help make them strong and waterproof.

The ‘RAISING’ of the house is a ceremony and requires a lot of people. This A frame structure is moved around the site and used like scaffolding to raise the huge hard wood columns onto the concrete plinths (supports) (later these concrete supports will be painted).

The skeleton of the guesthouse takes shape.

The beginnings of an outside walkway to an open coffee room off to the right.

This photo shows quite clearly how the ‘raising’ works, with more columns and men waiting their turn.

Meanwhile behind the scenes lots of things are happening. These strips are being painted and decorated as part of the roof trim.

We brought in this diesel powered combination saw and plane. Its used all day every day, preparing weatherboards, flooring etc etc. This is a video of the machine in operation both sawing and planing.

Our tuk tuk (see earlier blog posts) delivers window shutters (in this instance) to the house.

and so, with the floor in, its time to prepare the shutters for the next stage.

work on the roof starts – tiles on, edges and traditional Khmer ornamentation – and remember those painted strips earlier?

The upper floor from ground level. As will be discussed later the ground floor will be completely tiled and also contain the kitchen and bathrooms.

 shutters ready.

and more.

 After the shutters, the doors are fixed and last the internal wall and external weatherbords. The double doors to the right are eight feet high.

This will be a double room at the front. There will be a triple room towards the rear. The rest of this floor is open plan – photos below.

The triple or maybe four person room at the rear. Can also be set up as one large couples room with amazing views.

Our excellent builder, Huot.


 One of my personal favourites – the roof of the coffee area.

Me showing the hugeness of the areas

Taken from below the coffee room – note there’s a door through to the main room.

Some of the wood for stairs. It is massive. To cut cut for treads. See me pen on top to see the size.

and more stair wood.

Imagine all this finished and oiled. There is hundreds of years of tradition in this Guesthouse.Weatherboarding to go on and this room is finished.

Work on one of the verandah arches at the front.

Do you remember the six metre deep trench we dug to get the 2000 cubic metres of fill to raise the land? well its now a fish pond!

Very good so far we think so we give the wood gathering team a party.

Obviously lots more to come but we hope to most of it done by January. John.















No shops? How do you buy things?

In CategoryJohns blog

This is a collection of 35 photos of how things are sold in and  around our villages. Some of of the photos are new and others are from earlier posts and sections within this website. I took the spider photos in Kompong Cham province, the frog photo in Kratie town and there is also Prey Veng Market which is our nearest large town 90 minutes away by motor bike.

First, you have to understand just how basic our villages are. This is how we cook in the house where I live. There is no running water or mains electricity. In this house I have installed one solar panel for lights at night. I’ve installed a toilet in the house and the ladies do the laundry on the toilet floor.  Mostly, fish aren’t bought, they are caught. This is a photo which you’ll also find in the village life section. As water recedes from the irrigation holding dams the children feel for tiny fish and snakes. The man with the white electric stick is there to kill snakes that bite the children.  Those small fish are then gutted and salted to supply family protein.  With good planning, some fish are kept to grow. This is Chanthou in June 2014 washing fish with ground water pumped into large pots. These pots also take rain water.  This photo is also in the Village Life section. Nat prepares rice for cooking.

 If you know this website well, you will know that there are many photos of rice planting, growing and harvesting – so our families don’t have to buy their source of carbohydrate – rice – everyone grows it. In this earlier photo the man is walking past our second school building carrying hundreds of rice seedlings ready for planting.

Next – some photos of our various home grown tuck shops at the schools.

 This was taken on the opening day of the Prey t’Baing (Antibes School) School. The tuck shop, run by mums, was set up BEFORE the school opened.

 Several small tuck shops at the larger Chuor Ph’av Schools.


 Families set up small shops usually right next to or inside their house selling whatever they can – but very little. (this is Kamau who features in the village children section.)

 This shop in Chuor Ph’av is right next to the family bed – used as the ‘office’ during the day.

 In the three ‘ant’ photos the children show us how to eat ants. These are sugar ants and are naturally sweet. Indeed and fortunately a lot of the village food is ‘free’ – weeds growing in water courses, all manner of insects from ants to cockroaches and crickets; and frogs and tiny fresh water crabs.

 Deep fried frogs for sale in the town of Kratie.

 and deep fried tarantulas. What do they taste like – chicken? …. No, they taste like tarantula!

All towns have a market (phsar). This is PreyVeng Market -

  In this second photo taken at Phsar Prey Veng (Prey Veng Market) there is a row of barbers. People in our villages cut each others hair. The barbers in towns cost about 50 cents.

The next few photos are goods being taken to market or in some instance brought to the villages to sell directly.


We could fill the website with pictures of vast loads being carried on small motorbikes.. Here is just one – Bananas on the way to market.

People on bicycles and motor bikes come to our villages to sell, ice cream (frozen condensed milk), pork, chicken and beef – all covered in flies with no refridgeration of course, pots pans, clothes, material – everything imaginable.

 (these kitchen ware and tin smith photos were taken in May 2014). In the right lower corner of the photo above is a motorbike with a plain wooden box, selling raw pork.

 here is a close up of the raw pork box on the back of a motorbike. He also sells some vegetables. It was 35 degrees centigrade that afternoon.

 thousands of these in Cambodia – a sidecar to a small motorbike. Crushing sugar cane to make drinks mixed with a bit of flavouring and condensed milk.

  hand made knives and axes on sale in our villages April 2014.

 two stroke petrol for motorbikes is for sale from small Pepsi bottles. Sadly petrol costs what it costs elsewhere in the world so in our villages one litre of petrol is the equivalent of  a full days wages for a family.

And the last photo today – in our villages – the travelling raw tobacco salesman. Checking the weight herself, the lady buys one kilogram of cigarette tobacco for US$1… Yes One dollar…. and no it doesnt encourage everyone to smoke. I know few people in Cambodia who smoke and almost no young women who smoke.

 This photo has appeared before on the site. I took it at the house where I stay in the villages. I hope you have enjoyed this little collection of ‘things for sale in the villages’.

In late August I’ll give you a full update from the villages – particularly progress with the GUESTHOUSE for visitors and volunteers. We have spent some months, first buying and preparing the land and then slowly but surely buying the wood, sand, cement and tiles ready to start building. Building has started!