John is returning to the villages on June 8th – and a new email address!

In CategoryJohns blog

I am returning to the Villages on June 8th    and a new Email address!

I am John Mann. I coordinate our projects and activities in Cambodia – mostly in the very poor District of Kamchay Mear in the Province of Prey Veng

As you may know, I have been seriously ill since September 2015 when I came back to Australia as a medical emergency. I have Guillian Barr Syndrome. I am now much better; my Australian Doctors tell me I can return to Cambodia for a few weeks ‘to see how you manage.’ – I will be moving slowly for another year, but, I am otherwise well.

In my absence – September to now – our 1000 children have continued to attend OUR schools and our teachers are paid on time! We are still getting help from France, England, Chicago and New York in the USA, New Zealand and from Australia and from The Rotary Club of Beaudesert in Australia.

The last Blog Post here was New Year and before that in August. I usually post in this website and on our Facebook Page at least once a month….

…After June 8th  –  a report, postings, communication and very essential fund raising will be back in full swing.

For the first time we have an EMAIL ADDRESS to and from me, John. You can still leave comments on the web postings (like this one) but an email address that I look at several times every day will be much more useful, instant and personal….

… So my new email address is

You can still leave Facebook messages and twitter as before.

In the New Year Blog (December 31st ) I started an idea that I shall complete today – until I get all the fresh photos and news when I return to Cambodia in 7 more weeks!

Our friends from The Rotary Club of Beaudesert visited the villages in January – it was the first time that I wasn’t there to welcome them and be with them – they tell me that the schools are fine but, as always, need maintenance and the Guesthouse is ‘comfortable’……… One of my tasks this year is to tell everyone we HAVE a Guesthouse and to ‘launch’ its opening for volunteers and visitors.

The AMBULANCE, in its container, is STILL sitting at the Port of Phnom Penh – it is involved in a bureaucratic nightmare which many good people have tried to resolve since its arrival on September 24th … I shall see if I can do ANYTHING when I get there. On the subject of beurocratic nightmares – I will sort out a special Visa for one of our students to study at an International School in Australia (big news soon I hope).

On this website there are several thousand photos, each with notes or a story attached. I have no new photos for you today but I am sharing with you – 38  – starting with the very first photo I took in 2007. There are of course many ‘things’ missing by selecting just 38 photos – but remember, you can  find the ENTIRE story if you browse through ‘The Blog Posts’ (where most of the photos are) and the ‘Pages’ to the left of the screen.

If any or all of the photos with their notes inspire you – or re-inspire you:-

we really need money to function. There are posts within this site that detail the kinds of things we buy.

There is a ‘Donate’ page to the left of the screen – it’s attached to Paypal – the money goes through The Rotary Club of Beaudesert and on to us in the villages – 100% of it – directly to the Education of OUR children. There is zero administration expenditure. We pay NO ONE anything.. not me or anyone except our ten Cambodian teachers.

So now, please enjoy today’s photos and notes some of which you may well recall from past posts.

The photos and stories have all helped to tell the story of our progress since 2007.

 The very first photo I ever took in the village, in 2007 – The little girl on the right is still on the right – the extreme right hand end at the top of your page – the EducatingCambodia banner….. and …

 …last year Chandarith who was one of our very first students, took herself off to Phnom Penh, worked in bars and put herself through University and last July she RETURNED to our villages as a REGISTERED NURSE.

 In these photos Chandarith is attempting to help me with a Vitamin B, saline and sucrose infusion at the start of my health decline in early September 2015

  We build EVERYTHING in the simplest and strongest ways possible

 Many help with all building projects

  Teams of parents hand make all our desks

  The first and second schools side by side. Play equipment donated by UNICEF. Our red clinic and in the distance the teachers accommodation house.

  Inside our red clinic building

  Most of our classes are very large. We have 1000 children at any one time and we promise to give them all a basic education

   Our classes are large – upto 100 children per class – we have some smaller groupings for especially talented students – this is one of them (all families are VERY grateful for uniforms we buy in Phnom Penh. Uniforms are robust and also easily shared with siblings)

  John with Soken the Head Teacher presenting uniforms

  Roland and Eva from Sweden and often from Antibes!

    Two of my favourite photos – Chanthay with a brick that she treats with the same love as any child with a baby doll. The flower she is offering is a bottle of milk. Chanthay spots me taking the first photo – oh dear, I’m in trouble.

  Never had a hat before. Donated woollens

  Our friend Ros in Surrey, England put on a play in this incredibly beautiful historic barn theatre “Betchworth Barn” and sent us the proceeds x

  Kimheang who WAS a refugee from Cambodia now runs a restaurant in Dunedin New Zealand. Kimheang and her friend sent us the money for this important School flagpole. Thee names of the donors are around the base.

  Beaudesert Rotary visitors on the front staircase of the Guesthouse

   Homework at the top back room of the Guesthouse.

  Before The Guesthouse was completed one year ago – this is where I stayed along with our visitors. In this photo Nat is preparing rice for cooking. All the money to build The Guesthouse was given by two incredible members of the Rotary Club.

  Peter from the Rotary Club paid for this invaluable tuk tuk.. Its prime function is to take children to High School 20 klms away – yes we need a High School… The tuk tuk is also used, seats removed, to transport everything imaginable from pigs to cement. (we also have  petrol driven rotary hoe/ tractor donated by the club)

  We can buy almost anything we might need cheaply in the towns – what we need is money….however sometimes a school near us in Beaudesert (in this case, Veresdale Scrub) donate uniforms when designs change.

  They try their very best – a study in concentration

 Art work being prepared for sending to a school near Antibes – Mougins School.

  With large numbers of children – to introduce letters (khmer language) and numbers we find that slates are ideal. The whole class can hold up their slates and the teachers can see mistakes and rectify individually.

  Concentrating with their slates

    A very VERY important photo – just weeks before Nang died. After Peery’s first day at school Peery shows her mum, Nang, what she learned.. A wonderful and at the same time incredibly tragic photo. I’ve got a big framed version of this for Peery and one for me.

  Every exercise book, book and donated item is carefully presented

  You are looking at a mothers’ tuck shop on the opening morning of Antibes School. Please consider this:- these children are running TO school – their school in their uniforms.

  With the teachers at the Antibes School in Prey t’Baing village

  Happy students

  There are several posts last year of the rescue of Sokly (known as Soit) from an island factory off the south coast – success.

  Chanthai age 16. Her teeth were crushed into her gums when she was 8 years old. With a wonderful donation a a fabulous Phom Penh Dentist who gives us a big subsidy Dr Uck Bophal – Chanthay gets extractions and implants

  A very happy ..sooooo happy .. Chanthai with her new implants.

  Both Soit and Chanthai back home.. Happy girls!!!! Soit is wearing a Rotary Club of Beaudesert hat and Chanthai is wearing my BIG sun hat.

  Mark and Linda from Beaudesert Rotary Club sitting in ‘top streamed’ class.

  Mark and Linda are as excited as the children!

 We have one very important and huge tourist attraction in Cambodia – and after you have visited us and helped us you WILL want to see the incredible, awe inspiring – Angkor Wat – the biggest religious building in the world – the only actual building to appear on any National flag…..Angkor Wat at sunrise – summer solstice. I like all the cameras in this photo – thousands of young people simply in awe.

I shall be back in the villages, ready to sort things out that need sorting out – and to help – on June 8th….

Please join us…. I know you like the photos and the stories …. SO – we need money to help these desperatly poor villages.. Please find the’ Donate’ Page on the left of the screen and use the Paypal site… Also, you can NOW email me if you’d like to on





December 31 2015 – sickness, death, a baby, a home grown Registered Nurse. …AND LOTS MORE.

In CategoryJohns blog

… We wish you “A Happy New Year’ for 2016 …

August was the last posting on this our Website. A lot has been happening but I have been ill – lots has been happening in our villages but I do the website – hence the four month gap.

Today I’ll give you a brief update with some photos and then in January we’ll fill in the gaps that we don’t get round to today!


Ironically one of our most AMAZING pieces of news coincides with the start of of my illness


This is Chandarith, nursing me at The Guesthouse in early September.

There are two very significant things about these photos. I was in agony but what we didn’t know was that I had Gillian Barr syndrome acquired from infected chickens.. Chandarith couldn’t have known this and indeed when I went to my favourite Doctor on Phnom Penh – Nang’s Doctor – Dr.. Tour Suy he couldn’t have known either. (It is extremely rare – I’m being well treated in Australia and I will get 100% well and return to our villages and our projects very soon.)

BUT BUT BUT the more significant thing aabout these photos is CHANDARITH herself. Chandarith was one of our very first graduates.. She was 14 years old when we opened our first school in Chuor Ph’av village. Chandarith learned fast and was able to read and write , do basic maths and science before she left us. Chandarith went to the township of Prey Veng for High School and then to University in Phnom Penh. Chandarith worked in Hotels and markets to pay her way and is now a RIGISTERED NURSE and has returned to live in and around OUR villages.

 If you look back to one of the last photos posted in August you will see a very pregnant Kamau. From about age 12 Kamau has had her very own section under the heading ‘village children’ left of your screen… I always imaged that Kamau might be our first teacher or Doctor – instead we have followed Kamau through efforts at business, then an early marriage and now a baby.. It is I think important to understand that Kamau and  now thousands of girls just like her can read and write and will become mothers who understand education… and slowly, slowly  homework and ambitions will unfold through their children.

  In August the Ambulance in a Container was was sailing towards Phnom Penh… So, whaat has happened and where is it now?

You have to understand that sadly bureaucracy in Cambodia is an old fashioned nightmare…. BUT the simplest of reasons for ALL our successes over the years is that we are tenacious! – we do not give up! – we gently and diplomatically persist.

Referring back to my illness (above), The Container arrived and I stayed in Cambodia for six extremely painful weeks dealing with 100s, literally hundreds of issues with the Importation of the ambulance – after six weeks I HAD to get to an Australian Hospital urgently.

I was the original ‘consignee’ of the Ambulance BUT I was now in Australia..

Chanthou and all our village leaders have spent much of MOST DAYS since September trying to unwind in every way imaginable the Bureaucracy that has to be respected.

TODAY – literally today we should be getting somewhere with the Doctor wo runs the Clinic you see in a photo taken YESTERDAY in Don Koeng Commune. This Clinic will be our Ambulance’s destination. It will serve 15 villages including all of ours (the 15 villages make up the Commune).

We are not there yet but with literally daily and often hourly phone calls and emails we will achieve all our goals.. You will here the news right here when it all fits into place..


Another piece of amazing news news ever-so slowly unfolding is what is happening to Soit!!


These were the the actual moments that we rescued Soit from an Island off the the Cambodian Coast. It’s a complex story told in a previous post.. Slowly unfolding this VERY bright girl deserved a special future – and hence a special future for her village..

The aim was (IS) for Soit to be given a Scholarship for her High School Years in Australia.

 We needed REAL documents and a REAL Birth Certificate and a REAL PASSPORT.. We discovered that Soit’s real name is SOKLY (so it now is!)..

She needed to learn at least some ENGLISH… so here she is on the right witha group of friends getting some simple English lessons.

   At this stage I will keep SOME of the news under wraps (secret) but I can tell you that that  a VERY wonderful International School near us in Queensland, Australia has promised her a full Scholarship with accommodation etc… we are now applying for a  students Visa.. Soooo more news soon.

This website contains thousands of photos and with each photo comes a story – please explore the website and if you can manage a few dollars to help us – find the Donate section and help us  – please.. Some people give one amount (big or small, it all helps – amounts are talked about within the Donation section. – some people help with regular smaller amounts.

I’ll add a photo of one of our very keen and dynamic Rotary members – 18 year old Tamara ….

 Raising money for all projects is plain hard work – Tamara, in this photo, is selling chocolates and raffle tickets under the banner of The Rotary Club of Beaudesert. The tin money box is specifically for Cambodia. Tamara visited and taught IN the Chuor Ph’av School earlier this year.

We’ll finish today with Nang and her daughter, Peery.

Nang died on February 1st 2015. Nang has a complete section all of her own within the site – “Nang’s Story’ .. Several months were then devoted to not just telling Nang’s story but the Buddhist traditions are laid before us. An Individual Donor has chosen to support Nang’s daughter, Peery. I will close today first with a nice photo of Peery with a candle ….

  …and lastly, this was after Peery’s first day at school.


Peery brought home a chalk board and proceeded to show her mother – Nang – how to shape a letter in Khmer.. They are both absolutely immeasurably proud – I was in tears of joy and in many ways I still am. THIS is what this is all about – the children will and do teach everyone else. Nang died two months after this photo was taken – the village looks after Peery..

Happy 2016 from John.



Boxes of Donations fill the Ambulance

In CategoryJohns blog


Today in Beaudesert Australia.


This morning in Beaudesert – Mark Jackson and I loading the Ambulance with boxes crammed full of clothes, books  – medicines – stuffed toys – lots of things, including two clocks for the Guesthouse, novels for the Guesthouse… crayons – a big list.

On August 16 (two more days) I fly to Phnom Penh and the Ambulance will be put into a Container and taken to The Port of Brisbane for its voyage to The Port of Phnom Penh. For the full story, all the Donors and more photos read the Ambulance story below this one..

Next time I write I will be back in the villages,  John.



Our Ambulance – Ready for shipping to our villages in Cambodia! – and a letter from John.

In CategoryJohns blog

A very big ‘Arkun cherern‘  Khmer for – ‘Thank you very much‘ from everyone in the villages to: The Rotary Club of Beaudesert and all its friends – to Eva and Roland Andersson in Sweden – to Ros and Ken Rokison in England – to Chanthou Oeun in Cambodia for all her organising – to Jana Zehr in Australia – to Steve Gillow in Australia – to Richard Kerkham in Australia – to Linda and Mark Jackson in Australia … and to the many other people who have helped in a hundred different ways with this huge and literally vital project.

It is two years since we first talked with people both within Cambodia and around the world about an ambulance –

– Our Ambulance is today in Beaudesert, Australia – I am also in Beaudesert.

We will ship the ambulance from The Port of Brisbane to The Port of Phnom Penh very soon and I will meet it there, and with some of our village Leaders we will drive it to our remote District – the District of Kamchay Mear in Prey Veng Province.







We will make sure its 100% compliant for our conditions and regulations and it will become THE Ambulance for our District – covering all of our villages and liaising with Clinics and distant Hospitals. In return the District will supply us with visiting Doctors at least every week and advice and support for our Clinic at the Chuor Ph’av Schools.

We have often written about health, hygiene and nutrition – this ambulance will obviously play a key role.

We talk of wanting nurses or student nurses to visit us and volunteer with us – along with The Guesthouse this dream is now a reality – so please contact us to visit and volunteer. Within a few weeks we will officially launch the Guesthouse as the base for visiting our villages and volunteering in our Schools and Health Services.

A big thank you from all our Cambodian children for the amazing efforts and work and monetary donations to get our very own ambulance!!!!

The names of the donors are on both sides of the ambulance.

The Ambulance is a Toyota four wheel drive diesel.

It was essential for our muddy or dusty condtions that the Ambulance was a strong four wheel drive – and it is. In Cambodia we will need such things as paramedic medicines, bandages etc, Oxygen,  and a number of pieces of Paramedic/Doctors equipment but otherwise as you can see from the photos the Ambulance is complete.


The last four photos were taken last week -before our sign writing was done – the day we drove the ambulance from Brisbane to Beaudesert.

Linda and Mark Jackson with their grandson. As you can see from the signwriting, Linda and Mark are two of our wonderful Donors…..
Now to pack the Ambulance into a container and get it The Port of Brisbane. I return to Cambodia on August 16 and will meet the container ship in Phnom Penh.


   Dear friends and that is you since you are reading this,

We are very much at a stage where we need financial help – however small – for ALL of our projects – so many things are coming together and progressing well; we need money particularly for:

All the school equipment you can imagine – Exercise books, Small backboards, large classroom blackboards,  text books for 4 subjects for all our children.. desks need replacing (we make our own).. all buildings need maintaining and painting… Uniforms…  As you may know it is far cheaper to buy ALL these things within Cambodia – we make what we can – we can buy exercise books in Cambodia much cheaper than say your postage – similarly Cambodia makes robust school uniforms. We accept donated uniforms for general wear in the villages and again they tend to be robust and very welcome.

We need to buy in Cambodia, hospital (Clinic) medicines – they are inexpensive in Cambodia BUT we need money to buy them.

Like every other school, hospital etc in Cambodia that encourages volunteers – we will charge people to volunteer and to stay in our Guesthouse but it will probably be cheaper than most.

We offer to you an area which is more remote than almost all others in Cambodia and desperately poor and heavily populated…..

….the opportunities for you or any University student you may know or student or indeed someone on holiday or on a Gap year to be part of the future of the lives of thousands of children are almost unlimited. Maybe you want a ‘sea change’ or are actually retired – contact me, John, or anyone at The Rotary Club of Beaudesert in Australia for advice.

This is the first letter clearly stating that the Guesthouse is ready for business – not only volunteering – also just being part of a Cambodian village! – there will be more of a BIG launch soon.

Meanwhile we are very VERY happy with our Ambulance and there will be many more reports on its adventures…… AND ……

We NEED money – please..  from John on behalf of all the children and all the families….. AND lastly today….

………..I’ve most certainly not forgotten Soit, the girl we ‘rescued’ back to School (scroll down for the story so far with Soit) – more on Soit soon. John.


The ‘why?’ the ‘certainty’ the ‘passion’ and the ‘how?’

In CategoryJohns blog

“If you are ‘certain’ and ‘passionate’ and the ‘why’ is absolutely clear, then the ‘how’ will appear.”  – These are more or less the words of a current Australian writer – Keith Abraham – his words are I think almost entirely true; I say ‘almost’ because there are conditions. I try to deal with them today in relation to our current work in Cambodia.

For the past few weeks, long days have been spent thinking through ‘education” for our children beyond age 15 – also ’employment’ and ‘village health’.

Planning, diplomacy, negotiation and money, together, make it possible for our projects to happen –

– first though we must be CERTAIN that promoting Education and basic help to our villages is the right thing to be doing. A simple look through our website will show what things were like before we arrived and then quite quickly the sequence of letters or updates show that we ARE helping and improving lives on a very considerable scale, for example, in eight years we have not lost one girl to sex slavery, sold overseas or sold anywhere. At any one time we have 500 girls in our schools (and 500 boys)… before we arrived it was constantly reported that every girl who left the village to work and send money home was quickly lost to the sex industry. We thought schools were the answer and the UN agreed with us.. ( United Nations – ‘Sex Slavery in the lower Mekong’ 2008 )…. even when there is a high mortality rate and zero health care, as in our villages, a ‘school’ should come first.

The question ‘why?’ is well explained throughout the website, so then we get to ‘how’? – ‘how’ involves a lot of talking and sharing ideas – working closely with all sections of Cambodian society, particularly in our District covering 30 villages – our schools serve 12 villages – children, families, leaders, village committees, monks, police and all other levels of government including the bureaucracy.

We ask you and everyone else for money and always why we need any particular amount of money. So money is vital for what we do, without it we will not have our projects BUT although money is our basic need, it may not seem to be an obvious part of the real planning and doing but it most certainly is.

Recently there has been a lot of talking and planning for how we can possibly make tertiary education possible for even just a few of our students – and could we create local employment other than their own families subsistence rice farms? It is not necessarily bad that large numbers of our adults go to distant towns or distant foreign owned factory farms or to garment factories – 500,000 Cambodians work in stifling, slave like conditions making well known brands of clothing that we all wear – $3 a day for a 12 hour day – Employment WILL be better if one day our children can work locally.

In Cambodia there is a very good and efficient system of sending money home from distant jobs and returning to the villages to raise families so even from that perspective it makes good sense to educate our children to the highest level possible.

In Cambodia, the village of a person’s family is all important – distant workers return home several times a year to be part of all the religious holidays. Everyone needs the village elders to agree to a marriage, apply for a passport and the village is probably where you will raise children in your wife’s family home and village. Almost all ‘permission’ comes from or passes through the ‘elders’. Village elders are not the same as elected members of the District or Provincial Government. Elders rise from the village gradually by village consensus. Everyone knows everyone. The children are raised by the family and the village. Most local, family and inter family problems, right through to violence, are dealt with quietly by the village and the elders. Right now, in 2015, in OUR villages, village elders are wise BUT that wisdom is limited because OUR children are the first to EVER receive an education.


Some weeks ago I said we were working on an educational future for Soit – you might recall that we brought Soit back from farm work in far South West Cambodia to our school  to resume her education (this is only possible through the financial assistance of Ros from England). Bear with me a little longer.. we have a plan for Soit and  Soit is learning basic English.


We have been talking for 18 months about an ambulance. We will be able to make a positive and definitive announcement about an ambulance in a very few weeks.

Working behind the scenes for Soit and all our children for that matter requires money and we are very very grateful for specific donations. The ambulance and regional health support that will come from us supplying an ambulance comes from diplomacy, negotiation and money from targeted donations ie “I want to give money to help to buy an ambulance.’

Two of our police –

– the smiles in these photos are not simply diplomacy; we actually LIKE the people with whom we deal – and just like us, they can judge whether someone likes them or not. As I have repeatedly stated over eight years we have never had an issue with our local or District Police and we have never bribed ANYONE or been asked for a bribe. The man on the right of the photo is the senior policeman for OUR twelve villages – in this photo they had called in for a friendly chat and a cup of coffee. (I have introduced an appreciation of instant coffee to the villages.)

Wat, Kamau’s brother, age 15 – he is sick, so we are looking after him.

Remember Wat? Wat joined our local monastery (coincidentally called a wat) 3 years ago at age 12. When the monastery boys are sick they are sometimes sent ‘home’ to be cared for. Our Guesthouse is the nearest thing that Wat has to a home (other than the wat itself of course)….. so we care for our sick boy monk (he’s not very sick at all – it’s a cold),

Wat’s robes drying upstairs at The Guesthouse.

Yes that is coffee and mango and it is Wat’s washing, drying upstairs – coffee and indeed cigarettes are allowed for Cambodian monks. I have often written about monks and I have nothing but good to say about them. Monks serve a wonderful suite of roles – weddings, funerals, counseling, huge village celebrations on wat land, caring for the mentally ill if the village itself can’t manage – a terrific institution in a country where the State itself can’t manage.

A rare photo. Brother and sister but Kamau, left, knows the literal rules about being this close to a monk (her 15 year old brother) – see below for explanation.

You might recall that Wat is Kamau’s younger brother. (Kamau was married on December 3 2014 – pregnant in this photo taken in late May 2015 – and if you go to the index on the left of your screen and find December 2014 you will find the story of Kamau’s wedding.) They look awkward in this photo – Kamau looks awkward – Kamau was VERY unsure about being physically close to a monk and a literal interpretation of the ‘monk rules’ would say that Kamau is right…. This rule automatically and instantly relaxes if and when a monk stops being a monk!

That’s enough writing for today. A number of things are developing as you can see so I will be writing again soon.

I have to ask for donations. There are many specific projects you can help with. Please..please join us in maybe one area or as some people say “where it’s needed.’

Bye for now, John.



Major Guesthouse News – and an appeal – onwards

In CategoryJohns blog

To frequent readers and to first time readers: We did not ask for one dollar towards building our Guesthouse because it was the private project of two people – Beaudesert Rotarians, Linda and Mark Jackson –

Linda and Mark have given – yes, given – DONATED – the Guesthouse and land to Educating Cambodia. It has been donated via Rotary Australia World Community Service (RAWCS) to Educating Cambodia – putting the Guesthouse on almost the same footing as the Schools and Clinic buildings. I say ‘almost’ because the schools and Clinic buildings are on Cambodian Government land; Educating Cambodia owns the land beneath the Guesthouse.

There are thousands of photos on this website and 170 of and in the Guesthouse itself. This photo of the front stairs was taken in January 2015 as the Beaudesert Rotary Club was conducting an early trial run of our accommodation.

We are in a very remote village setting – heavily populated, desperately poor but remote. Briefly we foresee school and clinic visitors and volunteers and indeed people who might want to see or experience remote Cambodia and village life. We will very soon price accommodation to cover all costs and provide money for the schools. We will then advertise appropriately.

  NOW – Educating Cambodia urgently needs US$10,600

Please – we need a total of US$10,600 to complete and pay for the last building jobs.

We can ask for your help now because Educating Cambodia now owns it.  The Guesthouse is now part of our ‘Prey Veng Schools Projects’ and is registered by Rotary International as project number #70656.

We urgently need US$2100 for a solar hot water system, pipework and header tank.

US$  800 for a large rainwater tank with connection to existing gutters

US$7700 for last purchasing of cement, sand, bricks, tiles and labour



How to Donate.

Every dollar counts and adds up.. If you can help in a small (or large) way  then please click on the ‘Donate’ section on the left of your screen and pay by Paypal  – this is linked directly to the Educating Cambodia section of the bank account of The Rotary Club of Beaudesert and the Club then sends 100% of your donation to Cambodia and in this case for the Guesthouse.

If you want to pay some other way e.g. Educating Cambodia’s bank account by online banking then email me personally at or maybe a message to our facebook page on

Again: to Linda and Mark Jackson,

“Thank you for your VERY kind and extremely generous donation of THE GUESTHOUSE”!

On behalf of all our children and their families -thank you to everyone,

from John.

Passing The Guesthouse on the way to School.

In CategoryJohns blog

The first photo today is taken inside the Guesthouse – in the kitchen.

 In the kitchen area of our Schools Guesthouse – Chanthai is helping Maigin get ready for school. We have cared for Chanthai since the very beginning of EducatingCambodia and she has her own section in the ‘village children’ section – see the index to your left – Chanthai often helps at the Guesthouse.

All the remaining photos today are taken either OF our brand new Guesthouse gates or on the track next to them.

 The gates are new and so is the 60 metre southern wall you can see in this photo. Both the gates and secure walls are required by our local government and the police who look after us. (During the many years we have known all levels of Government and Police we have ALWAYS had an honest and cheerful friendship.)


  one of our School boys, Chen,  helping with the decorative paint.

A series of photos now, mostly of our School Children coming and going. There are two shifts of classes – the morning children and the afternoon children.

 This is Tian, one of our teachers

  (The Guesthouse wall on the right) There are villagers cycling and walking through the villages selling home grown fruit and vegetables and snacks they have made. Everything costs the equivalent of a few cents.

 The little boy, Thon, is with Danni who helps at the Guesthouse. Beaudesert Rotarians who visited in January will remember Danni.

 This is what happens if you ask people to smile!

 All on the Guesthouse motorbike. Peery (you know Peery – Nangs daughter) then Mab driving, then the twins, Soklep and Sokleah and last is Soit who you also know… on the way to school. (please don’t tell me there are five people on a two seater 100cc motorbike AND no helmets. It’s one kilometre on slow dirt…. and ANYWAY this is VERY VERY rural Cambodia.)

 This man makes fruit and vegetable drinks – VERY healthy!

 Again the Guesthouse motorbike, this time with Maigin at the back.

From our Schools and the villages, the children hope you like our photos and stories. We need your financial help. If you can help in any small way or LARGE way – look to the left of your screen and find the Donate. page.. Thank you, John.









‘Nang’s 100 Day Ceremony’ – Nang – Death and Khmer Buddhism. ‘Bon Nang’

In CategoryJohns blog

‘Bon Nang’ translates to ‘party or ceremony for Nang’ but more particularly ‘The 100 day Ceremony’

We start today with a short video of the ‘Welcome to Nang’s 100 Day ceremony – Bon Nang’.

The music, chanting and prayers continue from dawn to dusk.

These are  notes that I wrote on the day of the 100 Day Ceremony, together with thoughts that have settled a little since. This is how Khmer Buddhism works after death and – specifically about Nang.

Nang died on February 1 2015 and was cremated the following day across in the small ‘extended family’ field set aside for cremation bonfires. One hundred days later we hold ‘Bon Nang’

The strong (total) belief is that for sometime after death both Nang and the Spirit World are unsure what should happen to Nang’s Spirit or Soul. The 100 day ceremony is for everyone who knew Nang – family and friends – to show their support and love for Nang – to be together all day, eating and talking and praying – our local monks and nuns are here too -…. All this is to show the Spirit World things they might not know or may have missed, to encourage a favourable ‘onward’ journey.

 This is Nang’s shrine for the day, set within a marquee. The photo at the bottom right is Nang age 16. (the other photo is of Nang’s Grand Parents)

I took every photo ever taken of Nang; many of them are within Nang’s Story, to your left in the Index. Nang died at age 24.


About 500 people are expected so lots or friends and family are involved in preparing food.


It’s an all day ceremony from dawn till dark..Older monks have often moved back in with their families and are a great source of ceremonial knowledge and wisdom. They sit together and wait as do the older women, some of whom (with very short hair) are nuns. They too are a good source of advice and history.



We haven’t got dressed properly for the day in the third photo above. This is Nang’s mother, Cheng and Nang’s daughter, Peery.

My writing today …..  I will do as well as I possibly can. If you read ‘Nang’s Story’ to your left you will see that Nang was important to me and I was important to Nang…five times I have used the phrase ‘We don’t necessarily believe in miracles but we do rely on them” – time and time and time again Nang fought through and stayed alive…(read Nang’s Story)  and I was given and took a role at both her funeral and throughout this ‘100 Day ceremony’.. and she remains important.

So: there is a total belief that what we THINK and SAY about a person after their death effects their ‘pathway’ or ‘onward journey’.. It is all about helping Nang as best we can.

This ‘onward journey’ can take any form. Almost everyone expects re-birth either into a better life for good people, or for bad people – a worse life.  Nang did nothing wrong so everyone who knew (knows) Nang expects a better life for her this next time….. BUT….

….BUT…. there are two more options – if Nang was perfect or was at peace eventually with perfection then TWO options are put to Nang by The Spirit World:

1 Nirvana – go to paradise …. (Nang fought death right to the last second. Nang was desperate to be alive so not necessarily at ‘peace’.)

2 She can voluntarily become what the Tibetans call a ‘Boddhisatva’, a kind of living angel. This would mean that Nang is given the chance of Nirvana (Heaven) or she can be reborn to help the WORLD. (we have possible examples of Boddhisatvas in say Mother Theresa, or even Nelson Mandela or Ghandi – controversial names I know but I hope you get the idea. In other words, ‘there is far too much to do in THIS world for me to live in Paradise!’…

There are other possibilities – stay around as a GHOST (Khmer people are VERY scared of this option and have all sorts of prayers and practices to stop Ghosts getting into their home …)

…… or live on through others!… consciously being part of other people…… BUT most people think ‘re-birth’ for ALMOST everyone.

‘Bon Nang’ was all day. A marquee, food, a dais and hundreds of people – sitting, talking, laughing, crying, eating, chatting and milling around – prayers, chanting – a very good day.

Peery and I get ready to receive guests and get through a long day.


I have a great many photos of everyone in the villages. I have enlarged many of Nang’s photos partly to ensure that 6 year old Peery has a chance of remembering her wonderful mother. My personal favourite is the second photo in this row. I took it after Peery’s first day at School. Peery had already started to learn to draw the Khmer alphabet and she was teaching her mother. Nang never went to school. No one went to school before we built the first School.

 A very interesting photograph. It is a photo-shopped version of the other one – the original – see below.


  Nang’s mother took my original to a  small internet stall in a Market and got them to add extra hair and a business jacket.. Its a very moving piece of wishful thinking. Nang’s mother wanted this photo in the shrine but I won the discussion. I wanted a real photo.

There was a small official ceremony in the morning and a BIG ceremony in the afternoon, with people sitting around tables, 8 people to each table, eating and drinking in say 30 minute sittings right throughout the day – five hundred people

It costs money to hold this special day for Nang; the monks need paying, there’s a lot of food and drink – there are chairs, tables and marquee hire and sound equipment. (All the official prayers and chanting is broadcast all day from a loudspeaker)….. So there is an entrance fee of about $1 which most people can’t afford, so ‘most people’ give a small bag of rice and/or a couple of home grown vegetables… The day unfolds within the photos so you should be able to find written comment from me that matches one or more of the photos.

I was ‘family’ and was there, setting up, hosting the monks and nuns, helping with food and eventually saying Bye bye to everyone and packing everything away. Everyone knows everyone and it was a friendly, loving, day – for Nang – but also of course for the family and cohesion of the villages.

Peery not entirely sure what to make of the day.


Food being prepared throughout the day. Woks of chicken and rice soup constantly simmering.


The day was expensive – food, monks to pay, marquee, chair and table hire – but most people couldn’t afford the $1…. so most people paid with a small bag of rice or a home grown vegetable or fruit.

 we’ll eat later after everyone else.


All day long, the tables fill and the people move on to chat and tell tales of Nang’s life.

Food is given to Nang.. The door to the ashes shrine is open so people can chat to her or with her.


Our monks are VERY good. The head monk or Abbott on the right  (There are many small articles in which he features through this website) does lots of official prayers but the more important parts are basically a eulogy.. Nang’s life from the village perspective.

Nang’s Doctor (See Nang’s Story) – ‘OUR Doctor – Doctor Tour Suy – wrote to me . “Nang is with you and me always” and I replied ‘Always”… Right now,- Nang is with me..

Nang’s Story is far from over. Nang has inspired me to fight without hesitation- to cling to our goals and life – to make our Clinic work and to get ALL our boys and girls as far as we can. And Peery will thrive. Jana from Australia (Jana also paid for Chanthai’s Dentistry) is giving $50 per month to ensure Peery is safe and well into the future and I will help with the rest. One of the very good things about our villages is that they are remarkable examples of the old saying “The village raises the child”. There is an entire village to care for Peery.




We went to get Soit – and we’ve got Soit

In CategoryJohns blog


(There is an extra photo and notes added at the end of this post – added on June 15 2015)

If you haven’t already seen  ‘Bye bye Soit…’  it is immediately below this post –please read it now because otherwise none of this post will make any sense.


In writing today I have mostly simply linked my actual scribbled notes that I write constantly in an exercise book at the time of anything happening.


…everyone loves this story and we’ve only just started!…


That ‘bye bye Soit report and linked emails and Facebook Page really pulled at heart strings…and so far very few people know that we …….now have her back safely!



This is how getting Soit back happened so apparently quickly. Apart from myself, a large number of people were quite affected by the ‘By bye Soit’ report. My own daughter with a PhD in Education said it was the saddest thing she had ever read from me. Within days, my good friend Ros from England asked how much we might have to pay Soits family so that she wouldn’t have to work at age 14  -12 hours a day on a farm for US$3 per day…..


…. We came to a figure of US$100 per month for one year – and Ros would pay. Ros sent me the first US$100.


There was a very difficult two weeks while I did verbal battle with elders who have zero concept of the value of Education particularly for a family with a clever child…. They even talked about “jobs are difficult to get”….. Then “the value of education to a girl of almost marriageable age” reared its ugly head again (haven’t heard that one here for eight years)… I was ready with important Khmer identities in the wings – ready to help my arguments – but then after literally waving $100 notes in front of old village people – saying “well it obviously matters to us”!… the village agreed with me…


… but then they told me that the Chinese farm owners would not pay her unless she stayed for one more month – I responded almost automatically with, “they needn’t pay her, we will pay her”…


…. Then, it was, “it’s a boat and three buses, she can’t do that by herself’ …… that clinched it for me!!!!


She needed ‘rescuing”…. I put together a small team of friends – no ifs, buts or excuses, we are coming to get Soit.



From now on these are cobbled together notes from me, first in Koh Kong (the far south west) and also on the journeys there and back. To start the trip I  took a team of three plus me, knowing it could be an involved ‘rescue’ from Koh Kong Island which is 60 miles from the main land town with the same name.   The note under the first photo I wrote on the morning of the 11th

‘Rescue Soit’ starts today. We’ll be at least five days depending on all variables! If you look at an Internet map and first find Kamchay Mear in the north east of Prey Veng province – then find our destination – Koh Kong Island in the far south west near the Thai border: The  photo is of the rescue team having breakfast on the first leg near the Mekong (Prek Temak bridge).  We are, me, my friend Tier, Danni and Chanthou. (This is the start of a better future for Soit).  

Hours later, time to eat again an hour south west of Phnom Penh, in Kompong Speu (pronounced ‘Spoo”).

We meet up with the fifth member of our team, Dareth. Dareth lives in Koh Kong; I have known Dareth for nine years and he knows the area very well – he is a local tuk tuk driver and will be our transport, local guide and a big help generally.

 We get to the Island to discover that the farm is surrounded by Security and the won’t let us in.



. It was one of the possibilities I had planned for. It just needs patience and a little embarrassment.. I  said gently, “I’m not leaving without the 14 year old girl who should be in school in her village”.


(Chinese security Guard)…as I also knew the Chinese owned  industrial scale farm weren’t paying her and they wanted her to stay ANOTHER month and then they’d pay her. I said “‘there’s no need for you to pay her – I will pay her mother an EXTRA $100 – ( I waved $200).. The Guards then tried “we don’t understand what you are saying, please come back tomorrow.” …


…I was prepared for that too… I said, “its 100 kilometres to the nearest hotel; I’ll sit here all night and wait – or you can just give her to me now”


They brought Soit out to the security gate. ($200 is now already with Soits mother – 100 plus the 100 she wasn’t being paid “unless she stays”.



One happy girl ready to study again.



I wrote these next notes as we all travelled back to a hotel on the mainland.

-“We’got Soit. It’s a big story. Difficult from Security on the island 100k from Koh Kong town. Much sitting, diplomacy and veiled threats. Expensive but Soit is here with us”. 




I wrote  at 11pm local time Tuesday May 12. “It’s now a two day holiday on the rivers and through the mangroves before we all head back through Phnom Penh and on back to the villages…”



 Chanthou on the left, Danni, Soit (still with her precious hat) and Dareth – getting supplies eady for our all day boat trip through rivers, mangroves and waterfalls.





   T.he next day we caught a bus from Koh Kong bus station to Phnom Penh (on the way back to the villages) We have a big meal in a small Restaurant on Riverside, Phnom Penh, overlooking both the Tonle Sap and The Mekong……… THEN just as we are eating, right outside our Retaurant from a boat in the the river theres a massive FIREWORK Display…. It was just as if it was for us and our successful mission… It was in fact King Sihamouni’s Birthday Fire work Display… The Palace is 100 metres up river.

As I sign off today, we have arrived back in Chuor Ph’av Village – (Ros has also paid for half the cost of the ‘rescue mission’ itself)…

…there might be MUCH more to go with this incredible story…. but enough for now….. I’ll keep you posted. John.

ADDED on May 22 2015

I tried to add these next two photos on May 19 2015 but there was zero internet in the villages – trying again now!


I took these two photos (above) On May 19 -It was Soit’s first day back at School. She is with her friends, the twins, Soklep and Sokleah and six year old Maigin. They are standing on the steps of Soit’s one rom (total) home – although for the next year I want Soit looked after in the Guesthouse.

We give out uniforms as soon as we can afford to buy any. I thought today was a very appropriate day for new uniforms! – You sometimes donate money for specific things and sometimes generally but EVERY CENT goes to our Schools and villages.If you’ve read me on the subject of uniforms before: we have no rich children – many can’t afford strong clothes and in some cases, clothes of any kind for smaller children! We buy uniforms locally (they are made in Cambodia for western shops!) The uniforms we buy are strong and SHARED by the wider family.               John

ADDED on June 15.

Yes Soit is back at school and this photo was taken on June 13 2015 Soit has been given this months US$100 from Ros to support Soit’s family so that the very bright 14 year old Soit can keep going to School.
    This is a very special photo. Yes we have hopes and plans for Soit and one day for all our kids. The money is actually 410,000 Cambodian Riel. John.















Bye Bye Soit – for now …

In CategoryJohns blog

My daughter Nell says that this is the saddest post she has seen – and she has seen them all. Nell has a Doctorate in Education.

Our dreams and goals are continually challenged.

Our aim is to provide basic education in the Khmer language to ALL our regions children. This effectively means, Khmer reading and writing, mathematics, science, history, geography and  a lesson akin to General Studies (or SOSE in Australia.) Tian, one of our teachers also teachers very basic English.

A new or secondary aim WILL BE at least a selective High School level of Education. This WAS planned through a major fund raising Dinner by a Golf Club in The South of France – this Dinner and hence the High School is now sadly on hold or cancelled – see a recent Blog.

We have at any one time around 40 students age 14 –  15 who the teachers regard as of eventual University standard. The first problem is getting the students to a distant High School which we can do for about ten of ‘OUR’ graduates in the Tuk Tuk kindly donated by Peter Greenwell of Beaudesert Rotary. …….

……. Today illustrates the second problem.


……. Soit (pronounced ‘sew it’ said quickly) was one of our top 40 students. Soit is 14 years of age. Her father died 3 years ago. They are one of our very poorest families. They don’t own a rice field. Basically they cannot afford for Soit not to work. (our schools are free but the family has to eat)

In the photos you see Soit desperately insisting that she wear this hat  (from The Rotary Club of Beaudesert) getting into a mini bus with her mother to trave with her hat to the far south west corner of Cambodia to the Island of Koh Kong where she will work on a Chinese owned flower farm for US$3 per day. She will not attend a school. (if you are not crying at this stage – I certainly am)

There is no ‘buying her back’ or a belated scholarship at least yet – we have to let this go for at least a year or two.. I will stay in touch through the extended families.

Soit was one of our founding students and so has had a full six years of Education. In a big way we have achieved what we set out to do – given her the start (at least) of a basic education. She has not been sold into the sex industry and knows a little of the world from her schooling. Even if Soit never goes to School again we will have an educated mother one day. As I said the other day in my previous post – she WILL come back to the villages so – me being a somewhat determined kind of guy  – Soit will have to wait but is not forgotten.