It’s Christmas time – and in our desperately poor corner of Kamchay Mear in Cambodia – there are miracles.

In CategoryJohns blog

Dear friends – new friends and older friends – from everywhere. (Its a BIG post this Christmas..)

In today’s BIG post I think we have given a comprehensive, thorough  view of, at the very least, a day in School.

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

“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.. As of today 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). ‘Paypal’ donations go through The Rotary Club of Beaudesert in Australia and onto us in Cambodia with no money whatsoever taken from your donated amount. There’s lots of advice on the site about what money can buy for our children ... so now – today’s post -”

 As is with all the School photos below this first photo was taken on December 7th in one of our classrooms at the Chuor Ph’av campus of school buildings.

(Whether you are a first time browser, are from Rotary anywhere in the world, or from France, Britain, Beaudesert, New South Wales or Victoria or ELSEWHERE – whether you give A LOT or SOME.. there will be something here for you today – there is a paragraph showing the clear separation of Schools and Guesthouse and indeed who owns what.. AND a paragraph on ‘miracles’.)

In 2008, the year that we started our first school, The United Nations released a report entitled “Sex Slavery in The Lower Mekong” – our precise region was one of the worlds major sources of girls sold into slavery.

At the openings of the Beaudesert School and the Captains Choice Schools and the Antibes (France) buildings – girls from Phnom Penh’s sex bars almost flooded home to make sure that all their sisters went to school – a chance that none of them ever had.

With, at any one time, and currently, over 600 girls (and 600 boys) attending our Schools, local knowledge says that not one girl (or boy) has been sold or given to sex slavery since our Schools opened… One of the reasons is the simple fact that they are with each other and their teachers during most daylight hours and secondly, their education includes ‘rights and wrongs’… and they gain useful skills – the ability to read and write their own language and do arithmetic.

These School photos today  were all taken on December 7 by either me or by one of our wonderful teachers, Ren Soth.

The school photos today show a full 10 hours of teaching in a single day – two five hour shifts each with different children but with the same teachers (and that is what happens, every day. We try to have several staggered breaks with children outside to reduce class sizes – You will see children in classes, on verandas, playing outside and in various classrooms.

After the school photos you will see the six monthly salary  being paid to our Cambodian teachers – some news with a photo of our old friend Josh follows – also photos of some individual children who some of you will recognise and a few pictures around The Guesthouse. There’s a paragraph or three on doing the impossible and a paragraph on ‘sponsoring or donating generally’. … Just bear in mind that before our first school building, absolutely no one in our villages had EVER been to school and prospects for both girls and boys were extremely bleak… bleak beyond imagination.

… so with no electricity, no plumbing, no piped water (outside the school) and almost zero health care here are today’s photos with their notes.

 6.30 in the morning – arriving at school.

  Sok Ken our very special Head Teacher in her office with Wey, one of our ten year old boys. Within our 1340 pupil roll we have a number of orphans but we do not and will not claim any orphanage status – indeed all our orphans live within family groups throughout our 12 feeder villages.


As you may have seen from posts earlier this year a Charity named Clear Water gave us tanks and a sand filtering system. We paid for a pump and separate water bore and the overall shed. It’s brilliant – the cleanest water by far for many miles in any direction. Photo one is Sok Ken, justifiably proud. The second photo is a row of boys with one of the teachers Ren Soth (who took several of today’s photos (Particularly the selfies!) … and the tiny boy? he is a malnourished 8 year old.. The fact that he is with us is a tiny miracle in itself.

I’ll divide today’s classroom photos into three sections. Here comes the first section but in no particular order:


There are two more groups of classroom photos later on… but next we will look at photos taken by the teacher Ren Soth… the fat old guy in one of them is me.


You can see Sok Ken (head teacher) on the veranda and in another photo, three teachers together! Sitting on the veranda is Rot who lives next door to The Guesthouse and brings me to School every day on his 100cc motorbike.


Next comes a second grouping of classroom photos – again, in no particular order. Remember at any one time there are children IN classrooms and others OUTSIDE to reduce class sizes… and this all happens twice a day with different children but the same teachers.

And now I’ll insert paying the teachers which we do twice a year – June and December (now)

 Next to Sok Ken’s (Head teacher) desk is Uk Sonita, one of our female teachers and Srey Samun to my left is one of our male teachers… We pay our Cambodian teachers. We hand them cash (money) and we send receipts to The Rotary Club of Beaudesert for accounting. Indeed if you donate to us for any purpose, we send you a receipt. We need to maintain our buildings and currently we really NEED three new classrooms – but we also need blackboards – a number of ideas are listed in the ‘Donate’ Page to your left.

 Every  Dollar  (Euro or Pound) we pay to our wonderful TEACHERS is the direct result of YOUR. hard work and  generosity – cooking and selling breakfasts, selling raffle tickets, running auctions, and basically ‘donating’ whatever it takes to help our children survive and then thrive – no one , NO ONE else is paid anything – just our teachers. No foreigners, no secretary no manager – just our  Cambodian teachers – and when we need them, local builders. We welcome suitable volunteers but they, by definition, are unpaid.

Back to the classrooms..

           We know ALL of our children and have known many of them from birth. The end classroom photo above features Chanthay and Maigin near the camera and here they are again a few days ago at The Guesthouse. A number of our children have their own sections within the website as we follow their lives – Chanthay is one such child. Chanthay’s section is within the Page (to the left of your screen) named Village Children.

Next just two photos of one of our miracle children – Peery.


If you don’t know Peery or her story you are in for quite an experience if you look to the left of your screen and find ‘Nang’s Story’. Peery and her mother Nang, featured 7 years ago as our Christmas Miracle – eventually, as you would read, Nang  died and we now care for Peery. (“we” being the village and specifically Jana from Beaudesert who was very much moved by her situation and me… and if you read Nang’s story you will clearly see why ‘me’.)  Peery is still one of our miracles.

{I’ll insert a paragraph right here on ‘sponsorship’ – we have asked for and received donations for specific needs … one good but unqualified teacher who we put through University…. Chanthai with smashed teeth – that was a combination of Pachem Dental Clinic in Phnom Penh and a Donation … Supporting a girl (Soit who should have been in School who  we rescued from slave like conditions on an island farm – we are still working through difficult visa issues for her further education).. BUT sponsorship for ALL our children?? – I don’t think so. Sponsorship of over 1000 individual children may sound OK in principle but with even the huge charities it becomes somewhat unworkable and then actually deceptive!.. i.e. we cannot have a few cute kids with money and others with no money  so in reality money becomes pooled and spent on village or school issues – and that is what we ask for – money for PROJECTS not USUALLY individual sponsorship. We have had one of our classes sending pictures and messages back and forth to a French School (Mougins near Antibes) and money then donated to us from that French School.. BUT on the whole we treat all our 1340 children the same.}

Meanwhile – on the veranda and outside….

 Very precious children who need our help and get our help.


We are about half way through the photos, so, a good time to talk about “miracles.”

The definition would include words such as ‘impossible’ ‘cannot be done’ ‘no physical or known way it could be done’.

Four years ago I approached a large group of US Military Doctors visiting to help the poor “throughout Cambodia”. I went to see them – had a meal with them. “Sorry, cannot help you, you are far too remote and difficult to get to.” Koh Kong 2012.

Three years ago I approached Medicine Sans Frontiers… I explained that we are remote and heavily populated and had extremely poor children with virtually zero medical help… “Where are you”? they asked.  I explained and the response was, “Sorry you are too remote and difficult for us to get to.”.. Phnom Penh 2014.

We do it ourselves. Lives are saved but most die far too young of absurdly simply problems that are cured in most of the world’s places.

We have stopped children from our region being sold.

We give a basic elementary education to a lot of boys and girls.

……who performs these miracles?..People from Antibes and Avignon in France (Hilary from France has been amazing from the beginning), Surrey, Kent,Somerset and Avon in England, New York… hundreds of people in Beaudesert and Queensland Australia, Northern and Southern New South Wales, Croydon in Melbourne (Phil Asker from Melbourne paid for TWO Schools – Captains Choice .. and many other miracle workers everywhere.. WITHOUT YOU THERE ARE NO MIRACLES.

 two teachers  with a clever but malnourished ten year old. We will help her.

 With our school bell!! 



 A very welcome bread delivery at The Tuck Shop.

… and back inside the classrooms ….


Then, back home after a very long day for each teacher. Me? Back the one kilometre to The Guesthouse.



We own none of our school buildings; once we build them, on Cambodian Government land, they become standard Cambodian Government Schools. We, through donations, pay salaries to the teachers, buy text books and exercise books and maintain the buildings.

Children, their families, the villages, Local, Provincial (State) and National Government are VERY grateful to us… that is all of us… all of us, you, reading this and helping.


The Guesthouse was built entirely with money donated for that purpose by Mark and Linda Jackson of Beaudesert with a little help from me. It was a tax deductible donation and went through the books of Rotary International – receipts etc etc. The Guesthouse is for visiting donors, sponsors, volunteer Nurses, Medical personnel, volunteer teachers and students from overseas. Not one cent of your donations go to The Guesthouse – it runs on money received from Guests… Indeed if and when we receive money in excess of running The Guesthouse, that will go to The Schools.


The Guesthouse Wall and The School Bus:

I took these photos of – ‘The School Bus’ – on November 30. Look behind the three girls in the first photo….

Beaudesert Rotary Club donated the Rotary Hoe (yes it IS a ROTARY hoe in the background) to the villages for everyone’s use with us in charge!! It is used for ploughing, raking, fetching, carrying and everyday it is used as a ‘school bus’ for children at the far ends of this village and the next two villages..Most children however either walk or have a bicycle.

These children, above, were on the bus and have stopped by to say ‘hello’.
Peter Greenwell of Beaudesert Rotary donated a tuk tuk (seen in MANY photos over the past two years) – the tuk tuk is used for hundreds of things but primarily for getting older children to High School….

… and on this side of The Guesthouse wall we find –

 … we find Sokleah and Soklep, the twins with Chanthai in the middle. They with other locals clean and cook at The Guesthouse. You might remember Chanthai from posts a couple of years ago in which Jana (our good Beaudesert friend) paid for inplants to replace all her front teeth top and bottom which had been smashed at age 8 in an accident.. Our favourite Dentist Bophal Uch in Phnom Penh heavily subsidised the cost. Chanthai is another child with her own section within the ‘page’ on the left of your screen titled ‘Village Children’. The twins belong to Chanthou and also feature often through the site. We pay them to work and give them their ‘uniforms.’

Just before we say “Good night,” at this time of Miracles, two more pieces of news:

 This is me with Josh – Josh Lowry – we had coffee in Phnom Penh in late November. Josh came to our villages a few years ago with a group from the Rotary Club of Beaudesert. Josh was inspired and works with a Childrens’ fund in Phnom Penh. Josh is VERY Information Technology savvy and what’s more he owns very good ‘drone’ with video camera!!! AND at some point during January (next month) Josh will come for his second visit to the villages and apart from saying hello again to the children, Josh will send his Drone over the homes, fields and School for some filming – very exciting.. We’ll post it here when it happens.

So… ‘miracles’?

perhaps part of the definition might be impossible to explain rationally… or doing the seemingly impossible.

Passion and belief from around the world… and hard work – difficult, even in retrospect, to comprehend the amounts of hard work that go into all of this.. hard work raising money in Europe and Australia and hard work here making sure we are doing what is needed.

So now it’s time for “Merry Christmas” from our children and I mean OUR children.

   This is the only Christmas tree for miles around; it’s on The Guesthouse balcony… no one celebrates Christmas here but as I have said at previous Christmas times, perhaps they do … and I am certain that we are surrounded by miracles.

Yes, our miracles require a lot of unbelievable hard work from a great many people.. Rotary everywhere, especially Beaudesert… Captains Choice of Melbourne… Hilary, European Queen from Antibes and now in Avignon… Ros, Roland and Eva, Jana.. sorry I started this attempt at a list; the list is enormous but you get some hint of an idea by finding the ‘Donors’ list to the left of you screen.

Love to everyone from John and all the children, their families and their teachers.











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