One of our residential children
Dear Friends and Supporters of our School,
Thank you for all your wonderful support. A special Thank You to all those who generously participated in our Bonus Day at the beginning of August.
As you know, we have multiple programs and so I will try to give you as many updates as possible here.
Our Emergency Outreach program for Ten Vulnerable Children is developing positively. The children who come from situations of extreme poverty and whose fathers have left them, are doing well. Their health has already improved and they are less anxious and more happy. They are studying Traditional Cambodian Performing Arts at our school, as well as having nourishing meals with us. We also faciliate their state school studies too. Additionally we provide them with clothing and medical care. They go home every evening to their mothers. We are very happy to be able to make a positive difference and we thank you for your support of this program. I will be writing a specific report next week for all those who donated to this program.
In late summer our residential and blind children did their national exams in line with the national curriculum. The National Centre for the Blind (Krousar Thmey) in Phnom Penh is now government-run. This means that all Braille materials are no longer sponsored by Krousar Thmey and we must purchase Braille materials ourselves. We are concerned for the future of Braille-teacher training at Krousar Thmey and we do hope that there will continue to be an influx of trained teachers, so that our school can continue to hire Braille teachers in the future.
Our school together with Epic Arts and other partner NGOs (Friends International- Phnom Penh, M'Lop Tapang - Sihanoukville and APLE - Phnom Penh) have set up the Childsafe Movement in Kampot. The first step was to receive training at our school together with Epic Arts staff. The training was given by M'Lop Tapang and Friends International. Our director Mr Sothy also went for furher training in Sihaoukville at the M'Lop Tapang centre. This was followed by the first conference on Childsafe in Kampot. Our school partnered with Epic Arts and the local authorities, police, social services and hospital doctors attended the training conference at the Department of Social Affairs. We were very pleased at the response and the determination by authorities to prevent abuse and protect children in Kampot, especially with the huge influx of expatriates now living in the town. This problem has suddenly got very big and out of control. Authorities have been struggling and so it was vital that we harnessed people's attention and efforts under one umbrella to create a workable and sustainable program.
Our school will participate in further training next week given by M'Lop Tapang and hosted by our school. Epic Arts will also attend. Our senior staff will receive training in how to train local hotels, restuarants and taxis (tuk-tuk drivers) in specific preventative measures and child protection training. We will also host APLE next weekend and members of the Swedish police to discuss progress being made. Next week we will also receive a training session given by Friends International in Kep and an assessment at our school. These assessments are regularly given and help our school to develop in expertise.
We will also be receiving support so that we can have an in-house Social worker. Apart from the care we give to residential children, blind children and our vulnerable outreach children and children who come and study for free during the day, we have opened our doors (the only NGO so far in Kampot) to receive emergency cases. We provide emergency temporary shelter and food for battered or homeless women who have very young children, as well as street children who have got lost from their families. Working together with the Department of Social Affairs and our partners in Childsafe Epic Arts, we coordinate to make case assessments and help provide reintegration and transport back to their homes or a safe place.
There is so much work here, that our director Mr Sothy and our senior staff are rather overwhelmed, hence the need for a Social worker who can help with assessments, coordination with Epic Arts Social worker and the multiple documents needed to be filled with local authorities.
We are also working on trying to rehabilitate and house a group of street children in Kampot. The situation is very complex as Cambodian adults are also involved in a lucrative begging business. The problem is greatly exacerbated because of the presence of hundreds of foreign tourists and residents, who hand out money and gifts to children, thereby encouraging the begging business. Some of the children are addicted to glue sniffing or drugs. Together with Epic Arts we will distribute educational leaflets (created by Friends International) to all hotels, bars and restuarants, which give important tips to tourists on how to behave appropriately towards children.
We ourselves had a heart-breaking and unique case of taking care of a boy who had lived on the streets, but who had issues with dependency and begging. For his safety and well-being we coordinated with another NGO in the countryside to provide foster-case to this child in a safe place with a loving Cambodian family far away from the town. For sixteen months he did well, but then began to revert back to stealing and begging. He ran away and is now once again in Kampot town and part of the group of begging children. We all want to help him together with the other lost children.
We will be having a new Pin Peat music teacher from the Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh, as Mr Sambo who is our accountant and also a Pin Peat teacher cannot for obvious reasons do both.
Mr Sambo was able to raise funds amongst Cambodian business people in Kampot to create a clean, safe play space at the back of our dining area. We are very pleased at the positive participation of Cambodian people, who often donate rice and food to help us.
The Minister of Culture, Her Exellency Sackona will donate some special Chapey Dong Veng instruments in December, so that our blind and sighted children can learn a new art form.
Master Samouen our Mohori teacher has been busy making shadow puppets with our students. Following the ancient art of drying leather and using tree-bark dyes to colour it during the dry season, we then use the wet season to cut out and create our beautiful puppets for new plays and also to sell too. Our children love making puppets and often make small ones for fun and personal use too.
We recently had the Pchum Bun Festival where Cambodian people pay homage to their departed loved ones. Those children with more functional extended-families were able to spend time in their villages with them, whilst some of our children who would be in danger if they returned home, stayed at our school with special staff members.
This year is our 25th Anniversary. To celebrate we have been posting archive photos and stories on our Facebook page. We will give a special concert in December and hold Buddhist ceremonies to bless our school.
Thank you all for being part of our journey and for your beautiful support!
(Photographs kind courtesy Steve Porte: Taken with the permission of our students and staff)
Tro Sau lesson with one of our blind students
Folk dance practice