Updates from The Schools, Kamau, Chanthai and The Guesthouse

In CategoryJohns blog



– we have updated a number of “Pages” – photographs have been added to the “Village Children’ Page and in particular the …

DONATE” Page is as SECURE and as SIMPLE as it could possibly be:



1. If you use the Paypal button (Donate Page to the left of screen) we have your DONATION available to us in Cambodia within TWO DAYS of you clicking ‘send’.

2.The RAWCS  (Rotary Australia World Community Service) is now a ‘hyperlink” and that is through Rotary (obviously) and gets to us within a week.  The hyperlink is http://www.rawcs.org.au  (click on it and search for our project – The project name is  “Cambodia 55 2007-08” …. we were registered as that name and number – International project – BEFORE naming it EducatingCambodia, so the above registration name and number is how to find us  through this RAWCS donation pathway- it will take you one minute to find the project.

Its up to you which you might choose – PayPal or RAWCS – Members of Rotary tend to choose the Rotary (RAWCS)  link and that is partly because  – within Australia donations are tax deductible – for anyone.  ANYONE can donate through either the Paypal link OR the RAWCS link. The PayPal link is easier and just as secure but Rotarians might prefer the Rotary pathway.

We will start with introductory notes for all first time visitors to our website: The paragraphs below, in italics, appear before every post.

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

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

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

so now – today’s post –

(There is complex detail in today’s post so please read all the notes – otherwise it will be very difficult to follow.)

 Ren has a laptop – a prize possession in our villages.


Our last post was on August 1 2017. The second half of that post was a report on our School Maintenance needs.

I am absolutely delighted to tell you that we have received some money – wonderful donations in the last few weeks  from our friends around the world  – 

in alphabetical order: Bob Feinberg – Susie Gaardsted – Peter Greenwell -*Linda Jackson – *Mark Jackson -Theresa Jamieson –  *John Mann -Jane Scheckter – Anni Julitha Watkins – The Rotary Club of Beaudesert – Jana Zehr.  (the ‘Donors’ list in the index to your left is updated.)

Linda, Mark and Johns’ donations were spent on The Guesthouse. Linda and Mark paid for major attention to the rear stairway – also, staying with Linda and Mark, for new rear stair foundations and new rail and runners to the large vehicle gateway (destroyed by a caterpillar tracked bulldozer) and for an oil based treatment and finish for all the unpainted (ie most) surfaces: -: John (me) paid for the new ironwork and attachment to the front wall – as per Government requirement.

– all the other donors listed above gave exclusively to the Schools. We still need another $1000 for School and play equipment maintenance – if you, or anyone, can help we will be very grateful. 

Donors lists: if it’s inaccurate, particularly if we’ve missed you off the list please tell us by email  – john@educatingcambodia.com

We treat The Guesthouse as a TOTALLY separate building from our School Buildings, Teachers’ salaries  books etc and school maintenance. ie. All donated money is for the Schools and Teachers unless the Donor specifies something else.. eg. individual children, a family, an individual teacher, village farm equipment, a vehicle or The Guesthouse. so, money for the school cannot be used for anything or anyone else.

 Obviously with 1340 children across 10 classrooms (including the preschool) in two shifts every day, our classes are BIG…. But as every photo we have ever taken (these photos are brand new) has shown – good teaching and learning is happening. HOWEVER – We need three more rooms in one building

There is detailed costing in many earlier articles but basically

“We need $30,000 – that will build and equip a strong three classroom building. – three 10 metre by 10 metre rooms. The new building would be where the play equipment now is and we would re-locate the UNICEF play equipment adjacent to the school entrance. If you and your friends find you can help us with this amount you will be remembered by our children forever.”  John. 


    In the above photos, in the hat we have Sonita – and Ren and Samun, gardening with their children during a break. Wonderful teachers.


Next, we say “hello,” again to Kamau!


These three photos (above) are already added to Kamau’s section of the Village Children Page (within the index to the left of your screen).  Find Kamau’s section and see her life through the years. I took the first of these three photos about six months ago (photos and the story of the earlier wedding are within her ‘section’) – – next is Kamau – NOW – August 2017 – with her son) and the little boy is with Nat, Kamau’s mother, on the front steps of the Guesthouse.



Chanthai in the striped top in the two photos above and the twelve photos below.

I have looked after Chanthai since she was six years old (she is 18 now). Chanthai lives in the Guesthouse and is our Housekeeper. Cleans and cooks and believe me, NO ONE crosses Chanthai. She is clever friendly and FIRM. – (In the Village Children Section of this website you’ll see Chanthai’s history and some of those photos I reproduce here today)

So far we have had very few guests mostly because I have been ill and probably lazy – I haven’t yet adequately promoted the idea of, say, gap year students, not to mention PhD students working and studying and writing among our amazing villages.  My next plan is to contact US and European Universities.

….anyway what the above paragraph means is that paying any money at all to Chanthai for much of the year comes from my personal money.. SO I’ve set Chanthai up with the very beginnings of a shop and beauty salon. I paid for a makeup and hair course for her last year. The idea is that in the village Chanthai can dress and prepare the ladies and girls for weddings and parties. If you know this website well you will know that they LOVE getting ready for all the festivals and weddings etc throughout the year. …. Chanthai’s salon and tiny shop (convenience store) is very near the Guesthouse. Chanthai will, I hope, have her own income. Chanthai’s father died when she was 4 years old and her mother lives in Thailand.


At the moment the shop sells whatever Chanthai thinks her friends and neighbours want which is a combination of canned drinks cooled in ice (delivered by pony cart daily) – good snack food made by locals with shared profits, lots of junk food such as crisps (see the photos) and a very popular line of Chanthai’s – they choose a snack that needs frying and Chanthai obliges and puts it on a wooden stick (skewer). (Peery – Nang’s daughter is sitting on the corner of the ‘day bed’ that in Cambodia doubles as a table cum raised meeting platform – Jana (in the Donors list) and I support Peery).



A bit of Chanthai’s history which many of you know well:- school is in two shifts which means that children are free to help in the home or fields for half a day. A very early village photo – Chanthai at the front of six on a motorbike – a moto – on the way to school. Then, a favourite photo – Chanthai had a cow to look after 24 hours a day so when she started school (One of our original intake – her cow was tethered outside. the third photo is of Chanthai, in her butterfly tee-shirt, lining up ready for her first day at school – indeed The School’s first day!! Among the adults at the back are Chanthou our number one Khmer person, without whom none of this would ever have happened – and to this day. Also in the background is Warn our main builder… There’ is another photo of Warn below as he works on treating the unpainted wood of The Guesthouse.

 When eight years old Chanthai lost all her front teeth (eight) in an accident and growing adult teeth were also crushed..

Three years ago through the generosity of one wonderful Donor – Jana Zehr (who also donates to Nang’s daughter Peery) together with the generosity of Bophal Uch my favourite Dentist and her Dental Clinic  – Pachem Dental Clinic – Chanthai’s life changed completely with eight implants done brilliantly by Bophal in Phnom Penh. …. If you scroll through the posts – index on the left of your screen – to November 2014, you’ll see the full dentistry story.


In November 2016 we were visited by a big group of wonderful people from Wagga Wagga in Australia, they are ” Help Cambodia Wagga” .I’ve talked of them frequently since and in the first of three photos above Chanthai is painting and drawing in The guesthouse using one of Wagga’s fantastic donated “art sets’.

Then – in the kitchen of The Guesthouse, watching “Shaun The Sheep” on my phone.

Chanthai in Green – three days ago, all dressed up ready to go to a wedding in the next village. Her white bag was part of a bag of donated clothes I had brought with me from Australia. The strap was broken – fixed in Phnom Penh for $1 and it’s Chanthais favourite thing.


Play and learning in The Guesthouse



Rain ? Wonderful stuff.



The two photos above and the two photos below will make sense to Australians. Steve Parish is Australia’s best known nature and animal photographer – he also writes children’s storybooks, also about animals. I took the photos on the ground floor of The Guesthouse. Two of our children looking at Steve’s book – “Kookaburra’s Loud Laugh” – it had been donated to us in a pile of other books.


…continued from above … Steve is on Facebook and I wrote to him.

So, this brings us very nicely to inside the Guesthouse

Preserving all the unpainted wood.


From the safety of distance and through computer eyes, our villages, school buildings and rice fields  look quite magical; in reality NO ONE  from advanced countries (other than me) has found it acceptable or even possible to sleep for more than ONE night in our villages – in all these years, one night was the maximum. So – we built our Guesthouse. It is acceptable and young people particularly would stay in it for weeks at a time. Central to village life and one kilometre from our main schools. It is beautiful and traditional, made  entirely of Cambodian hard wood and terracotta tiles from Mekong clay. It was expensive and needs looking after.

The money came from private individuals (Linda and Mark) and as with its maintenance – as I wrote earlier today – above – not one dollar or cent comes from School, village or health related donations. It WILL pay for itself eventually with any surplus money going to the schools – but not yet. (also see earlier in THIS post for Guesthouse maintenance donors.)

these next 20 photos show work done over the past three months.. I took the photos. All the work had to be done.

In two of the photos (above) we see Warn working in the ‘coffee room’. All – ALL the wood throughout the building is Cambodian hardwood and we’ve left it unpainted in most places BECAUSE it is a truly beautiful hard wood.  Warn was in charge of cleaning and preparation – helped by a LOT of children – and applied all the oil based coating himself. Warn is the best craftsman I know. He built our first and second schools and his father built the third. In the Guesthouse, Warn, faced with 5 metre long hexagonal wooden columns on top of circular concrete bases, hand plastered the columns with cement to make the entire column lengths hexagonal. (I was and am very impressed.)



  Well done children – preparation is so important. Children know that they can visit freely and the whole community treats the vast downstairs area rather as you would a favourite house and village meeting place. Workers are easy to find because they love their Schools, the Guesthouse and the ‘barangs’ (foriegn visitors).

     inside and out.

… and why are we telling you all this? We need YOU to visit us. The children need you; their families and villages need you.

The front wall and gates

 Note the incredible versatility of Peter Greenwell’s tuk tuk. (member of Beaudesert Rotary Club) Tomorrow the tuk tuk will be reconstructed for the High School run. (see notes above re – the steel reinforced foundations for the gate running rail had been destroyed by a caterpillar tracked bulldozer – so we rebuilt it with deeper and stronger reinforcement.)

and next the ironwork for the wall.


 A secure and striking front wall and gate were a REQUIREMENT of the Government. Its not only a secure statement, its a Statement: Presence – and “Face” are VERY important things throughout South East Asia.

We are, sadly, “THE six poorest villages in Cambodia” – Sao Ri said – the old Leader of Don Kong Commune of the Kamchay Mear District of Prey Veng. Sao Ri features in our first ever posts years ago as we calculated village needs and how it might all be done.

The people are lovely BUT it does mean that we COULD attract theft and as I’ve said often before when I am in the villages I have to pay for police presence. Beaudesert Rotary recalls that one particular year with ten Beaudesert folk in the village we had 22 (yes twenty two) police looking after us day and night. HOWEVER having said all that, I have been here for a long time, often as the only ‘foreigner’ and often with hundreds of dollars in my pocket and the entire collective mass of villagers care for me and I feel and am safe .


It’s more a VERY obvious border and threshold than an impenetrable barrier.

In January of this year you might recall that I had to argue RATHER STRONGLY to keep our wall when the 4 metre wide road was becoming a 20 metre wide road. We kept the wall but road drainage had to come along the inside of our wall and in the process the gateway and concrete base for the gate rail and runners were destroyed (utterly) by a caterpillar tracked digger.

If we’d lost the wall we would have had to rebuild it at OUR expense (that’s the way it is.) because the wall is a Government requirement.  As it was we had to rebuild the gateway from it’s foundations to gate rail and runners…. BUT we hadn’t completed the wall – those valleys within each section of wall were designed to take the ironwork that as you can now see matches the two gates (vehicular and pedestrian!). We had the money dedicated for the wall ‘requirement’ so this week it is complete. We WILL paint the wall but not just yet – my attention will very soon turn back to School maintenance.


…. So – when you come to stay with us ..

Soooo when you come to stay with us and get to know the children you have so often seen and read about – you will love the long slow evenings in The Guesthouse surrounded by rice fields, Srok Khmer ( rural Cambodia) and the families – and you will crave the occasional escape to a town on The Mighty Mekong for a restaurant meal.. Just 45 minutes by motorbike or 4 wheel drive is the town of Prey Veng nestled on the East bank of that rather special river..

Love to you all,

from John.

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