My Health School: The official opening.

In CategoryJohns blog

Dear Friends Everywhere,

This post is a direct continuation from the post below of January 1 2019. Zoe arrived on January 4; Lauren arrived on January 13; Susie and Peter on January 21 and Linda and Mark on the 22nd.

You will see that much of today is very clearly exclusively SCHOOL work with donated money. The My Health School is paid for entirely by Zoe Fields and the School is named after her daughter Carrie Fields’ International Business – ‘My Health’ – you will see later that a great many of Carrie’s My Health Yoga teachers, supporters and practitioners have donated clothes, baby clothes in particular. as you will see as you scroll down being distributed very precisely through our surrounding villages. 

You will see a number of photos and some videos taken at the Guesthouse. No money donated through this website or in any way intended for SCHOOL goes to our Guesthouse. The Guesthouse was and is funded totally separately by a very few individual friends and the Guesthouse is obviously intended to be one day self sustaining – it isn’t yet.

If you look to the contents or index list to the left of your screen –  there is the ‘Donate’ page …there are even lists of things to give you an idea what school things cost.

Within the ‘Donors’ page there are alphabetical lists of Donors (if by any chance you can’t find your name, please tell me – it’s easy to correct.) Both Paypal and RAWCS are secure and fast links within the Donate Page. RAWCS is ‘Rotary International’ and for Australians, Rotarians or not, you are sent an instant tax deductible receipt – PLEASE check it all out. John. 

The ‘My Health School’ opened on January 26 with a  Traditional Khmer Fair and Traditional Live Show into the night. We all left for Phnom Penh on January 27- some for an 8 day holiday in Vietnam, 3 to head back to Australia and me to remain in Phnom Penh to write all this and choose photos while waiting for my daughter Jenny who arrives next week.

This post covers all those happenings and contains 13 of our brand new YouTube videos and 82 new photos. Please enjoy the story – it is remarkable. John.
The video above pans from right to left and shows the Schools as we left them on January 1st – detailed story in the post of January 1 below.

   You will see that throughout today’s post and indeed continuing our ten year tradition village children and their families feel completely at home with our Guesthouse (now 4 years old) and all our visitors. 

In the two photos above, Zoe does Yoga with our neighbouring children. Before today they had never seen or done anything like this before.


All of January was very busy with the fast approaching My Health School opening due on the 26. In These photos (spot the difference) we have a meeting at the Guesthouse with with District Government leaders. As you will see, especially in videos to come as you move through the post, the opening was jam packed with protocol and officialdom. We are genuinely LOVED in Cambodia and EVERYTHING has to be very correct.


We have decided to concentrate exclusively on fruit trees, vegetables and some flowers in our gardens. The problem with pigs and chickens is that however locked up you think they are – they eat everything. So – in the first photo above Chanthou is watering new vegetable plots and in the second, we are improving our kitchen.

The Guesthouse was completed four years ago, and from day one it is quite an all welcoming community centre. (play the video – I knew Playschool would come in useful.)

Zoe teaches “Simon Says.”

We didn’t teach them this; It is a Khmer traditional game, almost identical to “Oranges and Lemons”.

.. didn’t teach them this either. Its Tug o’war without a rope.

and again one of their own traditional games, similar to ‘Ring a ring o’roses’.

Five years ago Peter Greenwell from the Beaudesert Rotary Club bought us a tuk tuk for transporting senior children to High School 45 minutes away. From day one it has been used for transporting children, hospital visits and carrying huge loads of cement, rocks and wood. Over the years the canopy has broken and there are many knocks to the paintwork… BUT as you will see several times today it is a much used and much needed vehicle. we now (very recent) can take our children to a nearer High School after the Government both upgraded our roads between our 12 feeder villages and the nearer High School and changed the Government’s rules to allow us to attend a High School from a different District. (we don’t ‘take’ them – they go on bicycles).
The tuk tuk has five forward gears AND five reverse gears!


Getting nearer the day and flags are needed for the Ceremony (We will keep them after the ceremony) – so off to Phnom Penh again for a lot of shopping. The first photo above is me with my good friend Tun who has been my moto-taxi driver for 12 years. (Our Schools have been open for over ten years.)


Photo one – me counting money. We pay every teacher a ‘salary supplement’ in addition to the Cambodian Government Salary. (without going into detail a Cambodian teacher receives less than 10% of an Australian teacher’s salary. Petrol is the same price in both countries.) photo 2. Look at the second girl from the left on our website banner at the very top of the opening page – her name is Micara; In this photo above, Micara is giving Son Nita, one of our wonderful teachers, a Birthday Present. Photo 3. Just a nice photo: Kimheang, Chanthou’s son, was driving the tuk tuk in reverse earlier – here he is playing with his young cousin.


Susie and Peter arrived at the airport on the 21st while Mark and Linda arrived on the 22nd. Mark and Linda traveled with Melvin, Beaudesert Rotary Club’s Swiss Rotary Exchange Student. Lauren (below) arrived on the 13th. You’ll see a lot of everyone from here on in.

For western food and ingredients there isn’t a shop within two hours drive of our Schools – so this is us shopping at one of Cambodia’s two big supermarkets.

In (under) the Guesthouse – beers, wine and food. On the immediate right we see, Soth (Sot) great teacher – behind Soth there is Kimheang who you’ve seen twice before (above).


At the Schools’ entrance and met by Sok Ken our overall Head Teacher.

My Health School. The My Health Sign and Logo. To the right we see the logo again and to the left we see the Rotary International Logo. For this photo I (in orange!!) am joined by a small group of our students who had rushed over for this photo – and indeed every photo we’ve ever taken is an historic photo!

Zoe under the care of the My Health School sign.

It’s good that this plan is working; building a bike shed has freed up so much school land for play and walking. Before today bicycles were simply left anywhere and everywhere.


This is one day before the opening ceremony. We had our tuk tuk and a tuk tuk that brought our village garment factor workers from Phnom Penh who wanted to be at the Opening. Education is vital for Cambodia’s future.


Lots of photos now of our tuk tuk and all of we Australians together with Chanthou traveling through the villages giving out carefully and lovingly donated teddy bears, baby clothes, blankets, and children’s clothes. children were chosen specifically as were our poorest of the very poor.


Some children and entire families came to The Guesthouse to receive the donated things, but we made sure that our tuk tuk missed no one. Yes that is a Beaudesert Primary dress and Kooralbyn teddy bears.


Most of our village adults are small so these Australian Primary School hats and even pre-school hats fit our mums, dads and elderly in the Cambodian villages.


on through the villages; very slowly and carefully; miss no one.


A photo to be framed Peter.


Melvin our Rotary Exchange student was just about speechless at the poverty.


Now…. these three photos above are of a close friend of mine and Chanthou and Zoe. The woman is Sralep and she has, in the past, come to the Guesthouse often but not now.. In the recent past I would give her food to clean floors – but no more – not until I can do something seemingly too difficult. Sralep aged 35 very clearly has Paranoid Schizophrenia with completely unpredictable delusions. She is a serious danger to others but particularly to children. She is not a danger to herself. In the west she could be treated with tablets and possibly say monthly injections with considerable success. Very sadly, if she were to commit any violent crime here in our villages she would go to a VERY inappropriate jail – forever. Instead the village keeps her at her mother’s home in a little room out the back. Her chain means she can walk to her own toilet.

In these photos she is greeting Zoe for the second time (first time was February last year) .. Of course this is sad but we are thinking, thinking… as yet, there is nothing better than this for Sralep. The Cambodian Government is doing its best with no resources. She is in her village where she is loved.


Donated Beaudesert Cricket Club shirts – in the last photo above we see, Warn at the front, the builder of our first two schools. In the middle we see Kimheang again and Soth, one of our teachers at the back – all sitting under the Guesthouse.


The tuk tuk again gets us to School. Me in orange, Zoe in red. Zoe greeting Sok Ken the overall Head Teacher.

You’ll see in the next two videos that together with 1000 exercise books and 1000 pens, and presents for the elderly and the monks who live next door Susie and Peter are donating two laptops; in the photo above, Peter in the School Office cum Clinic is  showing the teachers the computers.

The first of two videos immediately prior to the opening.


It is all explained in the two short videos above. Immediately above you see Mark and Linda (Lauren, Susie and peter are behind them) with Sreymun one of the teachers… Children sitting waiting for things to begin.


Several marquees housed us all, possibly 60 Provincial (State) officials, hundreds of family members and ALL the children. The officials said 1500 children but in fact we have now about 1100 children because we lost 250 of our oldest children to the High School which we not only now have permission to attend but The Government has widened and improved the road so that we CAN get to High School on bicycles.
This is the main stage. I was sat at the front with the Prey Veng Province Premier (a Province is the equivalent of a State in Australia.


For some time I’ve been saying we are building towards an Official opening. Believe me, this ceremony took the first prize for OFFICIAL.

Through the Premier of Prey Veng, King Sihamouni awarded and presented Gold medals to Zoe, to Linda and to Chanthou…. Certificates too. We all feel very honoured. Thank you King Sihamouni.


In the new classrooms now, Zoe writes in the visitors book of My Health School.


The Premier writes and then me, John

All the officials and Beaudesert Rotarians and Zoe (Zoe took this photo).

There are many significant parts of the day not included in this post, now. Zoe and I were big players in the day so our photo taking chances were few!….. However, Melvin, our Swiss Rotary Exchange Student took a great many photos and videos. It will be some weeks before I see Melvin’s photos and videos but when I do see them we’ll certainly select such things as speeches and ribbon cutting if not all of it and post – here.

Two “LUCKY” fig trees were planted neear the My Health School.
Pack up time and then walk right outside for the traditional Fair.


Around 5000 local villagers enjoyed the Fair and at 8pm we all watched a live show by a big group who in Medieval times would have been called strolling players. They performed from the deck of an opened-out truck – BRILLIANT.
A lot like – say an English Pantomime – referencing local events and identities with a mix of comedy, song and dance. The audience is free to come and go, eat, drink and talk – very Shakespearean really – or maybe Chaucerean!

The next day, January 27 I traveled with all the visitors to Phnom Penh. In the photo above I am sitting at a cafe with Melvin and Lauren. On the 28th Linda, Chanthou, Zoe, Susie and Peter left by boat for an eight day holiday in Vietnam. Melvin and I went to S21, the main Khmer Rouge torture centre and later in the day, Lauren joined us to browse the markets.

There are many posts from the past ten years about S21 and The killing Fields. There were over 190 torture centres around Cambodia. From these centres the prisoners were taken to one of 12 Killing Fields spaced around the country. When the Vietnamese finally invaded in 1979 they found just 11 people still alive – 7 of those survivors have since died and during our visit, Melvin and I personally met 3 of the 4 remaining – they work at this nightmare of a museum where they were once tortured prisoners. The photo above is a direct translation of the Prison Rules. Melvin bought a book from one of the survivors who had written the book himself. A special book.

I stayed in Phnom Penh to put this post together and wit for my daughters arrival in a few more days. (Jenny and I will explore, Phnom Penh and then to our Schools and on to Angkor Wat – she hasn’t been here before.)

Meanwhile Chanthou, Zoe, Linda, Susie and Peter are having a great holiday in Vietnam; this is Saigon.

There will be more photos from Melvin. That will mean either a ‘Part 2’ or an edit to this post.

I hope you have enjoyed this, the Opening of “My Health School”.


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