Preparing to return to the villages – with photos and notes from Ren, from Chanthou and from me – John.

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We will start with introductory notes for all first time visitors to our website:

(If you would like to talk with us, the ‘Contacts’ Page is near the top of the Contents list to your left – along with how to ‘Donate’ and lots more.)

“If you are new to our projects or haven’t visited this site for a while –here’s how it works:

Whenever you open the site, first-up, you come to the very latest post or ‘blog,’ like this one – and through the years now, we have hundreds of posts and several thousand original photos, all with their own notes. We have over 1340 primary age pupils. Our aim or mission is to provide basic primary education – maths, reading and writing in their own Khmer language, Science and General Studies including History, Geography, health, nutrition and hygiene. Join us please; we pay absolutely no one, no one at all except Cambodian teachers. We have no office or computer staff or administration costs. We rely on your financial help to pay the teachers, maintain the buildings and buy the books. If you like what you see, please find the ‘Donate’ page to the left of your screen and try to help us. (There is also a Donors page which lists all our donors of $500 or above). There’s lots of advice on the site about what money can buy for our children.”

so now – today’s post -”

A lot of ‘notes’ today along with 44 photos – so try not to skip the ‘notes’….:-)

I am really looking forward to getting back to see everyone in our District of Kamchay Mear – in Prey Veng Province – in remote Eastern Cambodia. Everyone – all the families – all the children – all the teachers – Our Schools…. I arrive in Cambodia on June 16. I am fit and well and looking forward to finding anything and everything. For example I still have no idea why we have got a 20 metre wide road instead of our old 4 metre wide track) – I shall find out and tell you (See the January and February posts for the background story).

The last post was March 24. I have been seeing nerve specialists in Australia and I am now ready to return to the villages and Schools centred on the “six poorest villages in Cambodia’ – (Don Kong Commune figures for the Communes 13 villages)

I’ll start today’s Post with The Rotary Conference of District 9640. Ballina is a town on the East coast of Australia. Our Australian Rotary Club – mentioned 100s of times throughout this website – is The Rotary Club of Beaudesert and we ran a display stand at the Conference:

 For the first time in nine years I met up with Graeme and Anne Lockyer from The Rotary Club of Iluka.

In March of 2008 Educating Cambodia together with Beaudesert Rotary Club started our fundraising at the Yamba Rotary Conference. We had the concept and knew what we had to do.
I hadn’t booked a booth or a stand to tell people of our needs…
… in fact I borrowed a tea trolley, moved the milk and coffee and set up a VERY informal ‘booth’ next to the toilets.
.. at a neighbouring REAL booth were Rotarians Graeme and Anne Lockyer… at the end of the first day, Anne walked over to me and said “I am so moved by your passion’ and wrote out a cheque! .. Anne and Graeme’s cheque was OUR FISRT EVER DONATION of any amount.
THAT WEEKEND at the Ballina Conference we MET EACH OTHER AGAIN and I felt quite OVERWHELMED telling them about our current 1300 children and showed them the photos – linked them by friending on Facebook and I am so proud to write their chapter properly in the website today. Graeme and Anne have always been listed as our first Donors – click on the Donors link to the left of your screen .

   

A lot of Clubs had display stands of their own special projects; ours was 80 photos (see photos of the ‘stand’) with notes from EducatingCambodia. ALL of the photos together with another 4900 are within THIS …. OUR… website.

 I am posting this photo of Ita Buttrose because of a conversation we had at our Beaudesert Rotary / EducatingCambodia exhibition stand.

Ita is VERY well known in Australia and New Zealand as a major Magazine Editor and TV personaity (and that’s only part of her wonderful story).

Ita had just given a talk to our packed Conference upstairs. I went back down to the Display area and Ita left the stage and walked downstairs to look at Displays – I was the only other person in the whole area…..

….after listening and looking at our Cambodian Schools’ photos Ita said simply, “Thank you for what you and you are all doing in those Cambodian villages.” …
… NO ONE in Australia ‘thanks’ us for what we are doing in another country! People say such things as “what a great project’ or ‘I sponsor an African child’ or ‘well done.’………
…….. But Ita Buttrose’s ‘thank you’ was PERSONAL. We are helping Ita!!
This all fits very well with the theme of Ita’s Conference talk which was “Thinking Beyond The Individual”.
It is I think a realization or understanding that there is only ONE human being and that human being is ALL OF US – our life form if you like.
I sometimes share my own little theory and that is:
..we usually say that human lifespan is, say, 80 years and yet we happily say that the oldest living organism or animal on the planet is The Great Barrier Reef…. HOWEVER, if we were to use our human lifespan argument we would see that the Barrier Reef is made up of millions of little coral “animals” that have a short lifespan, die, and new baby corals then live on top of the skeletons of their parents….
… If we were to apply the ‘coral reef is an ancient life form” argument to ourselves as humans we would see ourselves as not only 2 million years old but as one united human being.
Ita Buttrose was saying ‘thankyou’ because she is seeing all people as ONE.

(LOOK AT THE DONORS PAGE and you will find names from all over the world. Today we concentrate on Australia and as you will see later, The Rotary Club of Beaudesert… In monetary terms our biggest Donors or within our own Club but also in Antibes and now in AVIGNON and also in England and the USA. Today it’s all about the villages, the schools and our Beaudesert Club. Next month along with all the latest news I’ll give a Europe update.)

BUT NOW – photos sent to me from the villages by Chanthou.

 Actually, I took this photo a few months ago but it never made it onto the website – so – here is Chanthou at her mother’s home (with The Beaudesert Rotary, Peter Greenwell, tuk tuk… WITH .. frogs for breakfast. I was asked last week if these are GIANT frogs…. big? yes; GIANT? no.. They are however close to my camera!.

 

As I reported in March, the Guesthouse has become something of a wedding venue and community hub – here is food being prepared on the edges of the groundfloor – you can see the tiles (500 of them) that form the ground floor. Do you like the cutting boards? slices of tree.

  Dogs and cats are essential parts of village life. Our cats have to be good at catching rats and mice – or they are replaced!

 As with the post from March 24, Ren, one of our wonderful teachers has sent me some photos…. what I dont show you today, I’ll include in a post after I arrive in Cambodia in mid June… this ground work is happening NOW and is preparatory garden landscaping immediately in front of our School Buildings (lots of play areas too).

Next – fifteen of Ren’s photos of the time I was away (except for one because I am in it.)

In answer to the question, that has been asked, “What happens John, when you are not there”?

“Education happens”.. “It would be a very unsustainable project if we’d built schools that only exist in our presence.” – John

 

A lot of people like the updates on children they have come to know.There’s a villge children section for just those updates. Peery is within her mothers section – ‘Nang’s Story’….. Just Peery for now and then more when I get back to the villages.

 Jana from Queensland in Australia supports Peery and I do too – we have bought Peery a bicycle so she can get to School. Why do we support Peery? please read Nang’s Story and then you’ll understand – plus I promised Nang’s mother that I would take care of Peery if anything happened to Nang.. and it did. Read the story.

 

I was sent these two photos of dancing Peery on May 11 – that was 2 years + 100 days since Nang, Perry’s mother, died. (100 days is a Buddhist ceremony to help the person’s soul on its journey).
Aagain -for the full and continuing story of Nang’s legacy open “Nang’s Story” where you can find todays five new Peery photos.

 I OFTEN talk about The Rotary Club of Beaudesert and the meetings. I took the above photo and the next few at the weekly meeting of May 16 2017. Many in the club have visited our Kamchay Mear villages. Mark and Linda have been six times. Linda was not at this meeting (on a trip with Rotary Exchange Students).

In the photo above you see Shane Page who is our Club President until Susan Page takes over for a year starting in July (yes… Shane’s wife). EVERYONE in the following Club photos supports our School projects either with individual donations – and/or working with others – see later – to raise money.

Kathy is sitting – everyone has projects or charities that they might choose to concentrate on, either within Rotary or with another organisation … or just on their own. One of Kathy’s favourite charities she works hard with, is for women fighting Cancer – ‘Chicks Conquering Cancer’.

Lesley, standing, supports everything… eg at this precise time a group of possibly six of us including Lesley and Kathy .. and Mark,Linda and I  are working towards a Showcase day in a park for all our local clubs and sports.

At the end of the table is Jeff who I’ll talk about later!

 The village children know Tamara. Tamara is also in four more photos today (increasingly tired, I might add, because she had had many long hard days at University and her jobs…. see for yourself… poor Tamara…)

Back to Jeff – there is Jeff standing – Jeff is next year’s Trasurer.. Jeff helps with everything. When I arrive in the villages next month I will have two new mobile phones donated by Jeff personally – for village use.

 especially for Khmer friends.. Mark is on the left and Tamara with her glass.

 Mark, Keith and Doug… and ‘Hello Tamara’.

As I often mention, Mark Jackson is of huge help to us in Kamchay Mear. Mark and his wife Linda (not here tonight) are enormous individual donors and helpers to both the schools AND the village families. Mark and Linda have visited the villages six times. In January 2018 they will be with us, along with Lauren for 2 weeks for ‘school maintenance.

Keith is sitting next to Mark. Keith supports EVERY Rotary project in every way he can. (Keith is the absolute King of selling raffle tickets.)

Next to Keith is Doug, who over all our 9 years – we are starting our tenth year in the villages – has supported us over and over again – always knowing the right thing to purchase for us.. A well known photo of one of our classes has a GLOBE right on the front desk… Doug’s idea.

 In this photo, Lauren is standing to talk. Lauren has been to the villages three times and next January will be her fourth visit…… Both Lauren and Tamara are twenty years old… both joined at age 18.

LAUREN IS 20 YEARS OLD TODAY (the day of this post) – MAY 22 2017 – HAPPY BIRTHDAY

In the photo above, the lady sitting in the corner, on Lauren’s left is Susan Page our next President (see one of the photos above featuring the top table)… Again – Susan helps us in any way she can… Over several years, Susan kept us well supplied with medicines!

Kevin in the Club Shirt of Blue and Yellow has also been to our Schools. see the photo below for a sentence on Kevin’s huge contribution to the Club.

 In the foreground is Peter – Peter’s Church Group donated money to our Schools a few years ago… Peter does a lot of voluntary work in the Solomon Islands.

Behind Peter is David.. we know David well in our main village. David does a lot of charity fund raising with The Endeavour Foundation.

Behind David is Doug and hidden behind Doug is his wife Joy. Doug and Joy are also well known in our Villages.

At the back of this photo are Geoff (right) and Dennis, both of whom work hard particularly with Kevin in organisising, maintaining and running our catering van – our main fund raiser.

 From behind the ‘top table’ .. Jeff is in the bottom left of the photo (also in an earlier photo with Tamara. Jeff is next years Treasurer. Mark J has been our Treasurer for a number of hard working years)….. The village also knows Peter and Chris who are not in this photo – Peter was Treasurer before Mark!.. Peter and Chris have moved and have left our Club but still visit when they can.

Three more people missing from this meeting are also major donors (‘Major Donor’ is more than $500).. Corrinne who was with us right from before the beginning. It was Corrinne who suggested we should approach Beaudesert Rotary for help!!…. and Peter and Susie who are up there with the biggest of major donors! Peter paid for the village tuk tuk (The Peter Greenwell Tuk Tuk) and supports teachers salaries.

 so…. I’ve started packing

50 TEDDY BEARS excited that they are coming with me on June 15 to find homes in our Kamchay Mear villages in Cambodia. They were a bit scared as I started to suck the life of them but were cheerily reassured that they would all breathe as new as soon as we arrive in Chuor Ph’av Village.
The Teddies will be accompanied on the journey by lots of baby clothes.. The Teddy Bears and heaps of hats and jumpers were all knitted and given by the wonderful ladies of Koorlabyn in Australia. EVERYTHING made of cotton or Polyester is made ridiculously cheaply in Cambodia.. every brand you can think of from Armani to Yves St Lauren – plus all the branded training shoes – but knitted goods aren’t made in Cambodia.
 

… remove the air and they are the same weight but occupy much less space!

 The 4 vacuum sealed bags are a fraction of the original size (obviously, they weigh the same) and I should be able to get these bags into one big strong ‘stripey’ holdall.
I remain in Australia to help with The Rotary Club of Beaudesert’s Showcase of the Council’s area Clubs, Sports and activities in Jubilee Park on Sunday June 11 and then leave for our Schools and villages.

We’ll write to you again soon from Cambodia,

John.