Lauren with us for 33 days: Fairs: Dentist: A balloon trip: Lauren dressed by her new friends: Our 4 metre wide village tracks becoming 20 metre wide roads! Visit to Sihanoukville and visit to a hospital.

In CategoryJohns blog


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. 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 -”

Hello from our villages in the Kamchay Mear District in Prey Veng Province, Cambodia. It has been a truly remarkable month. Lauren, from The Rotary Club of Beaudesert, Australia arrived on December 3oth and will leave on February 2nd.

So, Lauren has been here for all of the month covered but THIS post. THE whole month – every day – has been dominated by quite incredible and unprecedented road works covering most of our villages. I have been heavily involved in all the discussions, and negotiating (you’ll see why!!). I posted the previous post on January 1st and on that day there was no sign or whisper of what was to come.

Today’s post includes 100 photos and lots of notes. This is roughly how today’s ‘chapters’ share the photos:

1. Full Moon village fair, hosted by us (our school) and The Wat (temple cum Community Centre).

2. Lauren visits THE Dentist – yes Bophal Uch, you!

3. A Balloon over Angkor Wat.

4. Chanthou and Lauren go to a wedding and the guests dressing Lauren.

5. A significant note from a friend of Lauren and Lauren’s reply. Well done Lauren.

6. Photos and notes on a story of belief and growth. Belief (and knowledge) that we are growing as a group of villages and subsequent MASSIVE growth in our local road network and – WHY?!

7. Koh Pich (Diamond Island) huge fairgound on an island within The Mekong in Phnom Penh.

8. Yet more never ending de-lousing in the villages.

9.The train trip to Sihanoukville.

10. Dinner in Phnom Penh.

11. Calmette Hospital.

1. Within the combined grounds of our Schools in Chuor Ph’av village. A Bon (fair). We estimate 5000 visitors from our surrounding villagers.

It is very low cost and a LOT of basic old fashioned fair ground games and rides.                                                                                 Note the fly paper – sticky paper hanging near sweet food – flies stick to the paper. 

Lauren tries her hand at darts – burst a balloon and win a prize.                       Lauren at the head of a train. Soklep sits behind her and Chanthou shouts encouragement.   Choosing their prizes. How about this for a Rotisserie?!  Rotisserie?? Small birds. Getting ready for entertainment from the stage  Nicely illuminated next to the entrance. Beaudesert Rotary Club.

Chapter 2. THE Dentist.


As we’ve often said Dr Bophal Uch is our worlds number one Dentist. (remember, Bophal did all of Chanthai’s implants (and mine!) ) Lauren had several attempts in Australia to fix a chipped tooth. Fixed in Phnom Penh! (also see Chanthai’s own section within “village children” to the left of your screen.

Chapter 3. High over Angkor Wat.


Chanthou and Lauren travelled to Siem Reap by bus. The tethered balloon rises with this spectacular view of Angkor Wat. (Meanwhile I stayed behind in the villages to monitor ROAD activities. see chapter 6 below.)

Chapter 4. Off to a wedding.

                 Lauren is the lady on the left (both women in blue). A Cambodian wedding lasts from 6am to 11pm. Ceremony after ceremony with many dresses and lots of eating and drinking. So, Lauren’s new friends dressed her and made her up as a bride…….Yes it IS Lauren.


Chapter 5.

A screenshot from Lauren’s Facebook.

A friend of Lauren writes ‘you do a fantastic job and so much to be proud of’…. Lauren replies….

Chapter 6. The Roads .

4 metres wide to 20 metres wide. This is such huge news, I have included EVERY photo I took – partly for historical reasons.


There are no maps that include detail of our area so I’ve filled the void with a hand drawn diagram. The main road runs west to east and eventually to the Vietnam border to the east. Our roads, through every local village were all four metres wide. Every house frontage had coconut trees and mango trees and a bamboo fence and some (like us) had walls and gates. The second PHOTO ABOVE shows the road and vegetation prior to January 1st. 4 metres wide

Prior to January 1st we had no idea at all that road building or expansion was about to happen.

ALL the people are VERY accepting. There is no avenue for disagreement and there is no compensation for land or fruit trees etc – but the news spread that we will be getting a good huge gravel road and ELECTRICITY – so power poles are next! On the first few days, cattle, pigs and chickens were running everywhere. Fences are mostly not rebuilt yet so dogs are unsure of their territory and everything else just roams. BUT everyone is still smiling.

The 4 metre wide roads or rather, tracks, have become 20 metre wide roads and in most cases all of the front gardens, coconut trees and mango trees have all gone. In addition, for the necessary soil to build up some height for the new road, everyone has given the soil from their own properties – the road builders simply digging it out of remaining land either in front of houses or to their sides.

Through three villages and hundreds of houses only two fences or walls remain standing. The one big way we kept our Guesthouse wall was to pay the home owner opposite us to buy some of their land so it could be used for road fill, otherwise they would have knocked our wall down. I am having good talks with the Government they tell me that they are delighted with our “Schools, their growth and our generosity and kindness”. …. which I believe gives something of a clue as to why this vast road is happening!….. more within this photo album.


The two photos above show Chanthou’s mother’s home and it’s where I stayed during all my visits before The Guesthouse was built. I paid for that wall. Not only has the good wall and gate gone but also a row of coconut trees and mango trees.



Clearing a 20 metre wide path through a tiny village causes ….. damage.


But everyone is still smiling. Above is Cheng with Mab’s son Songha and Nang’s 8 year old daughter Peery (see Nang’s story to your left.) Smiling even though Cheng has just lost her fruit trees and coconut trees , two walls and a fence.


and in the midst of it all the children play.


You can see where the 4 metre wide track was (within the 20 metres) yesterday.


and the children play – this time downstairs at The Guesthouse.


Ayee, opposite, lost coconut trees and a Mango tree as well as her fence

We paid the road builders to replant her coconut trees inside our wall. Ayee can harvest most of the coconuts for herself.

And once planted, the same machine does the watering.


We only JUST retained our wall. It will be road right up to our wall.

 Everything cleared right up to Bits little house. (Bit is one of ‘the three friends’ – see the left end of the website banner and her own section within ‘village children’).


The building on the left is The Guesthouse.                   AND we get Ayee’s displaced Mango tree.

Chanthou and Ayee water Ayee’s Mango tree – and it will remain Ayees tree, but I’m sure we will benefit not only from having a happy neighbour but probably a few juicy mangos


EVERY house provides, in addition to losing land for road width, huge amounts of soil to give the 20 metre road its required height……..


… except for us. We have paid Ayee to provide our quota of soil – which is twice as much as most properties because of our double rice field frontage!

NOW – scroll back up for a minute to the hand drawn map. Look at the southern end of the new wide section (drawn in red on the map) Chanthai will take us for a photographic ride from this end, through much of Chuor Ph’av, right past the School, then left (as in due north for a straight 8 kilometres till the new road joins the highway. In that last 8 klm stretch you see the final volcanic stone surface. [ The scooter is technically mine from a few years ago but it lives at The Guesthouse and along with The Peter Greenwell tuk tuk is used as an essential vehicle. Those people who know me personally or have a good memory of these website posts – don’t worry, I NEVER drive it… passenger yes. Falling off got very boring and painful.]

I walk back a few metres to the actual southern start (Chanthai in the mid distance.)


We have turned right and are passing the School with the new entrance. (Mab and Peery are on the motorbike. Peery has finished morning shift school – there are two completely different shifts of children to accommodate all our children.)


..and two villages later we turn left for the 8 kilometre long home stretch to the highway.

This is the finished surface with the photo below giving a closer look at the volcanic surface.

In the west we take pipes and concreted culverts for granted. This is very impressive for our villages.

An eventually we join the main road and EAST would take us to Vietnam and then China.

.. and we head back down the 8 klm stretch (past a lotus farm on the left.)


Rice last year was at a very low price and so a number of more adventurous farmers are trying lotus plants. The roots fetch good money and the blossoms too if only they get them or could get them to a good market or airport

and last we look at the places from where the builders are taking ‘build up’ soil.

WHY are we getting this incredible upgrade? We don’t know yet…but we have a clue. Scroll back up to the southern start where Chanthai is with the scooter – A lot of land has been bought near the road….. electricity will be going in …. at the moment we are guessing – ‘factory’…. we might well be wrong.. but it fits.. A huge pool of people with no jobs and a need in nearby Vietnam or China to expand.. If we are right it means 1000s of jobs for people who we don’t or can’t help into university or good jobs is one of our towns.

Chapter 7. Koh Pich (Diamond Island).


Koh Pich literally means Island Diamond… Diamond Island sits within the HUGE Mekong River in Phnom Penh and has Conference rooms, Reception and Dance halls and a VERY big fairground. If you search carefully you’ll find Chanthou and Lauren on this ‘chicken’ swing.

Chapter 8. De-lousing again and again and again.


This problem simply doesn’t leave us. There are several de-lousing photos within this website. They all help each other. Sometimes they even sit in circles – doing the hair of the person in front of them.

Chapter 9. The train trip to Sihanoukville.

For almost all Khmer people trains are a new experience. Prior to the Khmer Rouge years there was an extensive rail syestem. Pol Pot destroyed the entire network of rail lines, except for a tiny stretch in the west on which locals built a bamboo train. It was a petrol operated little engine moving a bamboo bed cum carpet on wheels. (lots of photos of the Bamboo train on the internet)

Now from Phnom Penh (brand new NOW) a passenger and a freight train run south, calling in at Takeo and Kampot on the way to the seaside resort of Sihanoukville. US $7 each way and it was packed with people trying out the new thing!


People wlked up and down the aisle selling Cambodian treats. It was a very enjoyable seven hours. The three photos above show Takeo Station and its platform (and our train).. No cafeteria as such but lots of things to eat (similar to our Schools tuck shops.)

Oh dear OH DEAR – we hadn’t reckoned on Chinese New Year with most Phnom Penh workers laid off for 5 days (no pay)…. THIS IS THE BEACH AT SIHANOUKVILLE.

We eventually found a less packed bit. This, from left to right, is – Sokleah, Chanthai, Lauren and Chanthou.


and one terrible (sky darkening) photo of Soklep and Chanthai in an innertube.

Chapter 10. Dinner back in Phnom Penh.

Crab and prawns. You dont travel to Sihanoukville for one night – but we did. The town was so packed that the only room not booked had no window, no television and cold water and cost US$50.. Anywhere else and on any other day this room would have cost $5. So we got up early and caught a bus back to Phnom Penh.

Chapter 11. Calmette Hospital.



We finish this post with my favourite Hospital. The Doctors are wonderful but with limited resources.. …. It was Nang’s Hospital – I wrote about it extensively in ‘Nang’s Story’ left of your screen. Dr Suy, Nang’s incredible Doctor (and now mine) works here.

A boy from our village was brought by his family, first to Prey Veng town where they couldn’t treat him and then on, by 100cc motorbike to Calmette in Phnom Penh. Appendicitis. They operated successfully that night and we saw him the next night (yesterday) Lauren very interested in all this and was very pleased that he was getting penicillin.

I hope you enjoyed today’s unusual post – lots yet to unfold regarding WHY we have suddenly got a 20 metre wide road that starts in our main village. The Government has so far shared with me that everyone is very happy with the success of our schools and size of our population.

……mmm…. more to come, obviously.

Lots more to come as it happens, love from John and everyone in the villages.







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