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Jul 10, 2019

Join us on the 18th July!

Playing about before a folk dance lesson
Playing about before a folk dance lesson

Dear Kind Friends and Supporters of our School,

Thank you so much for your marvelleous help and continued support. We are immensely grateful for your good-will.

Our children have been very busy learning how to make traditional shadow puppets. During the dry season we dried and coloured the cow hide using an ancient, natural technique with tree-bark dyes. Now the rainy season has begun we are making the puppets. Our children are learning this skill in the afternoon after their state school scholastic lessons and before their music and dance lessons. Our children love making puppets and find it very satisfying creating these lovely works of art. Indeed working with their hands in this way, is both calming and therapeutic. Soon our puppets will be ready for performance! Our oldest students and our masters also make puppets which can be put on sale to raise funds for our school.

I am very happy to say that after a month at our school, our new group of ten very vulnerable children are already in better health. They are eating nourishing food and are in the process of receiving medical checks and treatment. One of the children is already receiving treatment for a serious illness. Our school director Mr Sothy in coordination with the local authorities provided rice, canned fish, cooking oil and other emergency food supplies to their mothers. Their mothers were also ill and malnourished.

The new children have also been enthusiastically learning new skills, including tradiitonal Cambodian music, dance and Yike.

In the short space of a month, our folk dance teacher has said that they are also able to speak and articulate better. At the beginning they were so hungry and sick that their brain function had slowed down.

As we are now part of the ChildSafe Alliance and our staff are receiving continual training from the NGO Friends International, we now open our doors to provide temporary, emergency shelter. In the last month and a half we have received two emergency cases of battered women with very young children. We have provided them with shelter and meals, then we have coordinated with other NGOs and the local authorities to provide long-term solutions for them.

This all requires support and so we will be focusing our fundraising efforts on the 18th July GlobalGiving Bonus Day for our "Emergency Program for Vulnerable Children, Cambodia" (Project Number 40599). 

Please spread the word about our Bonus Day. It will start on the 18th July at 09.00am Eastern Time and end on the same day at 23.59 (ET). 

Donations from $100 to $499 will be matched 15%. Then donations from $500 - $749 will be matched 30% and finally donation from $750 to $1,000 will be matched 50%. The organisation who raises the most, or who gathers the most donors will also receive a bonus prize.

This Bonus Day is very important for us, as it helps as gather precious support in the middle of the year when it is harder to find funding in general.

Thank you all from everyone at the Kampot Traditional Music School!

(Photographs taken of our students and staff with their permission by kind courtesy of Steve Porte)

Folk Dance Lesson
Folk Dance Lesson
Master Samoeun trying out a shadow puppet
Master Samoeun trying out a shadow puppet

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Jun 3, 2019

Emergency Support, Education and Arts

Dear friends and supporters of our school,

Thank you so much for all your wonderful donations these last three months. We are truly grateful for your help.

Since I last wrote, we have started our program for very vulnerable and at risk children to come to our school.

These children come from from single-mother families where their fathers have died or abandoned them. Some have no proper home, no running water, no shoes, severe illness due to malnutrition and intestinal worms and can only attend state school erratically due to poverty. Although state school is supposedly free, children must wear school uniform and pay for books and extra courses. Many poor children cannot attend school properly for these reasons.

Their mothers love them, but can hardly cope. There are from three to five children per family. Some mothers have got very sick and malnourished and can no longer work. These women also have not had any education and survive by getting odd labour jobs, so that when they get sick they cannot earn anything at all. There is no social welfare in Cambodia for such people.

The children are at great risk of ending up on the street becoming beggars or being sucked into substance abuse and child gangs involved in theft and illicit activities. 

After coordinating with local authorities and careful discussions with the mothers of these children, our school firstly organised emergency food, (rice, cooking oil, canned fish) and then we began the procedure of assisting the children at our school.

We provide the children with transport to our school so that they can have a nutritious meal, receive clothing and medical care and Arts education. We also provide them with school books, pens, soaps and other materials. In the evening after their dinner, our school organises transport home so that they can be with their mothers again.

Mr Sothy our school director is also negotiating with local state school heads to facilitate their schooling for the end of this term. We will then assist them with their schooling at state school for the new upcoming terms. We are also coordinating with the local hospital for health checks and medical treatment.

It's very important that wherever possible children stay with their parent or relative. We do also have another program for resident children, but these are children who have nobody responsible left to care for them and who have been abused or sold by extended family and so cannot stay with them. Our program for blind children is done in coordination with their parents and works as a college format providing rehabilitation and education as they would not be able to receive this in remote rural areas. 

Such is the magnitude and gravity of their situation, I have set up a specific micro-project entitled "Emergency Support for Vulnerable Children" Project Number 40599. If any of you are interested in giving specific support or sharing with others, please do so. We will also have a special Bonus Fundraising Day on GlobalGiving on July 18th, with matching funds given by GlobalGiving. 

I will not show in this report the conditions in which we found the children, as this would not be dignified or respectful and I'm sure that as life gets better for them they would not like to be remembered in that way. However their situation is very serious. I will show photographs of different children and their activities at our school as an example of what we do. These photographs were made by Steve Porte with permission given by our children and staff.

Thank you for your kind attention and for all your precious help.

Having a laugh during a dance lesson
Having a laugh during a dance lesson
Mohori music lesson
Mohori music lesson

Links:

May 17, 2019

Lyda sets up her own Dance Company

Lyda and Catherine Geach (founder) in main hall
Lyda and Catherine Geach (founder) in main hall

Dear Friends and Kind Supporters of our School,

Thank you for your wonderful help these last three months and to all those who so generously give each month.

You may wonder what happens to our former students when they graduate from our school. Well one boy Sameth who had lost both legs to an anti-personnel mine and who graduated in 2002, won both a scholarship to Thailand and then to Switzerland. He is now married with two children and a manger of a resort in Siem Reap. Sambo who also graduated in 2002 went to University in Phnom Penh before working at the National Theatre and Royal Palace as a Pin Peat musician. He now works at our school part-time whilst working at the Department of Culture in Kampot. He also specialises in research of minority artists and assisting Pin Peat musicians in the Province of Kampot to further their skills. Mao became a Pin Peat teacher and teaches in her district in Chumkiri. Saveth worked first for the Ministry of Culture and worked on a notation project to document traditional Cambodian music to prevent it from being lost. She now works in the Council of Ministers. The list goes on. Some former students went to teaching college and are teachers with a speciality in the arts, others decided to be farmers, accountants, technicians and most have married and have children. A very few sadly got lost on the way, but most have built their own lives and are well.

How about Lyda? Lyda came to our school in around 1997. First came her older sister Di in 1994, then Lyda who was the youngest and then Ngèth who was the oldest of all. He walked to our school when the Khmer Rouge were still active and the police took care of him and fed him when he came to a checkpoint. He decided to come when his granny wanted him to stay at home. They lost their father when they were very small, then their mother disappeared for many years, during which time the children came to our school. She then returned out of the blue. The children were then able to re-establish loving contact with her, but less than a year after her return she got sick and died. We nursed her in hospital, but alas there was nothing the doctors could do.

Lyda is a lovely, mischevous person and full of fun. We still remind each other when she rolled Sameth's wheelchair into the fish pond. Luckily Sameth wasn't in it at the time. 

She is (like her brother and sister), extremely talented. Di after graduating from University now teaches dance for a local NGO in Chumkriel and Ngèth performs in a jazz band as well as working with Lyda. But Lyda is the one who is full of courage. She formed her own Dance Company which not only teaches local children in her village, but also as an accomplished singer, she sings while her brother performs the stringed Tro in weddings and exhibitions. They are becoming more and more successful. Lyda manages the bookings both for dance performances and music, as well as managing the other artists attached to the company. She is married and has a lovely little son aged three. 

Lyda also works part-time at our school as our Folk Dance Teacher. She is an excellent choreographer and is loved by us all. She regards our elderly Mohori music teacher Loak Kru Samouen as a father and comes to him for advice on all aspects of Mohori and Wedding music. Mohori music is used to accompany Folk Dance as well.

Our director Mr Sothy gave Lyda and her husband (when they were newly weds) the use of his countryside cabin to live in and he paid for their electiricty and water until such time as they were self-sufficient. 

Lyda's students recently performed during the visit by Her Excellency the Minister of Culture Phourng Sackona to our school and also during the opening ceremony of the Kampot Arts Festival in January 2019.

One of my favourite photos is one taken in January of this year when Lyda has come back from perfoming in a wedding, she is very tired, but is her usual optimistic, hilarious self and she and I are sitting for a chat during a pause at our school during Folk Dance lessons. The photographer Steve Porte took it quietly without us noticing! He comes from time to time and with everyone's permission goes round and takes photographs of our daily life. 

Just a quick note about our main hall roof. After raising some funds, but unfortunately not all the sum we needed on our GlobalGiving microproject, we have at last begun to repair our roof. We had to order tiles from Vietnam as Cambodia does not make them anymore. After interviewing nearly ten construction companies, we at last found one willing to scale the roof and to wear protective ropes etc; I also did raise a little funds in the UK in a concert in Leominster in April. Those donors who gave support towards our roof will be receiving their project report in the next few days.

 

* The full names of former students are not given in order to protect their privacy.

** Our thanks to Steve Porte for his beautiful photographs. The third photo was taken in 2000 before we knew Steve!

Some of Lyda
Some of Lyda's students perform at KAF ceremony
Lyda on the right and Di on the left in 2000
Lyda on the right and Di on the left in 2000

Links:

 
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