Apply to Join
Feb 22, 2016

A Very Special Friendship

Having a chat
Having a chat

 

 

Dear friends of Kampot Traditional Music School - Khmer Cultural Development Institute,

Thank you all so much for your generous support this last month. We are so grateful for your help.

Three weeks ago, we received into our care a little deaf and blind boy aged five. He had been found by local people abandoned in the Kampot taxi rank, having been put on a taxi by an unknown person from another destination. He was severely malnourished and covered in sores. Investigation by local authorities revealed that his mother was blind and his father also blind had abandoned them at the child's birth. The mother did not want to care for her son anymore and when asked whether he was her son, she replied "How would I know, I can't see him". She refused to take him back and asked that he be put in a care centre.

The little boy had no name and was placed in a temporary shelter, but the shelter had no expert care or possibility to teach him sign language or Braille. However the shelter gave him the name *Somnang which means "Lucky" in Cambodian.

When he came to our school, he was feeling completely lost and moaned and cried. Our housemother immediately began bonding with him and in a very short time, he recognised her by touching her face and began recognising other people at our school too, by touching their hands or face. Somnang had always refused solid foods and so his stools were unhealthy and he was anaemic. Our housemother began feeding him rice, meat and vegetables and Somnang began eating them and his health improved and his stools became normal. Not knowing night from day, he was awake all night and is still undergoing medical checks to help understand why he sleeps so little. 

Not being able to see and being deaf meant that he was isolated in his own world. Using the system that Miss Sullivan used for Helen Keller when she lost her sight and hearing, the founder of our school taught our housemother and other staff special touch language, because there is no precedent in Cambodia for blind and deaf training together. For example taking his little hand and helping him touch water and then touching his housemother's mouth while she says "Water" in Cambodian - (Khmer) language. Using this system we are gradually teaching him about the world that surrounds him. It is a very long and painstaking task and our housemother and other staff are indeed very special people because of the love and patience they are able to transmit. Later on he will learn some sign language written within his hand and also of course Braille. We think that he might be able to hear something and so we will take him to an ear specialist (NGO) in Phnom Penh to see if we can help him further. Now he plays with his ball, giant letters, rattles and play dough and now and then he has a play on some of our music instruments. We will develop musical training because apart from hearing using his ears, he is able to hear through the vibrations through his body.

Somnang no longer cries or whimpers, but happily moves about and feels more secure now. He has also made a very special friendship. Perhaps you will remember our other little boy who suffered so much because his parents died of AIDS and his mother after months of pain, passed away last June leaving her son at our school. This little boy suffered anxiety attacks and had moments of hysteria, because of what he had endured. Gradually he is feeling better, is much happier and has put on weight, so that the HIV doctors who check his health and well-being each month, clapped their hands with joy the other day. Well, he has made great friends with Somnang and calls him his "Little brother". He adores him, playing with him, passing him tasty snacks and taking care of him. He chats away even though Somnang cannot hear him. Somnang feels his presence and is very happy too.  At night they share the same bed and our housemother sleeps nearby to make sure both are well and safe. Taking Retrovirus treatment, means that HIV is no longer active in his body and not contagious and it is perfectly safe for them to play together. As a precaution though he has his own bowl, spoon and cup, but that is as a responsible measure towards others, rather than true necessity.

For the sake of privacy of course we cannot reveal their full names. 

Did you know that we have 22 children living at our school full time, of whom nearly half are blind? We have many challenges to face in housing them all, providing specialised care for their different needs, expert training in Braille, special staff to care for them and of course our wonderful arts teachers who have been the heart and soul of our school for the last 22 years. Yet did you know that it has been so difficult to find funding, although we must feed, clothe, provide medical care, scholastic eductation and vocational arts training for all these our children and assist nearly 400 children with free arts lessons, including local deaf and disabled youth. We are the only arts centre of this calibre in Southwestern Cambodia and the only specialised care and vocational training centre for blind children in Kampot. Your donations are so precious for us. Thank you. Please tell others about our school too!

Together with their housemother and two teachers
Together with their housemother and two teachers
A music lesson for our older children
A music lesson for our older children

Links:

Jan 28, 2016

A new hope

Learning the Takhe and the Skor
Learning the Takhe and the Skor

Dear friends and supporters of our school,

 

Thank you so much for your wonderful support and continued kindness and generosity towards us. We would like to share our latest news to keep you in touch with how our school is developing.

As you know we have four hundred local children who come for free music, dance and Yike lessons during the week. Being so many, their classes are divided into different times, so that all can get a chance to learn about their cultural heritage. For those children who are extremely talented and have an interest beyond an extra-currcular art activity, we help them on our Scholarship Program. These students come from very difficult backgrounds and need extra support in the way of food, medical care and sometimes to be able to sleep at our school. There are many social problems in poorer areas associated with alcohol, gambling and substance abuse due to post-traumatic stress in adults from the genocide and war era.

Last year as you know, we opened our doors to providing free Mohori music lessons to blind children. This quickly developed and as their shelter closed down, these children with the consent of their parents, local authorities and the children themselves, came to live at our school. We now employ Braille teachers and the children have a special housemother to care for their needs. Now that local authorities know we have a program for blind children, they have begun identifying other children in need and bringing them to our school. We would like to share with you a true story of one of our most recent arrivals, so that you can understand how it really is in rural Cambodia.

A representative from the Department of Social Affairs asked us last November whether we could assist a little boy. His mother was blind. Whilst working at a rehabilitation centre she had an affair with a blind man and became pregnant. After the birth of her son, her companion denied all responsibility and negated paternity of the baby. A few years passed and she then went to work at an NGO in Sihnoukville (Southern Cambodia).

One day late last year, a young boy of five was found in the Kampot taxi rank, covered in sores, starving and filthy. He also had been born without eyes. He said his mother had put him in a taxi from Sihanoukville and sent him over a hundred kilometres way to Kampot by himself. He knew no one in Kampot and being blind was unable to to see where he was going or locate food. Fortunately the Kampot Department of Social Affairs was alerted to his presence and tried to track his mother done. They found her, but her reply was "If I am blind how can I know this is really my son" and she refused any contact with the little boy. The local authorities therefore put him in a temporary shelter for orphaned children and it is then they came to us asking for our help.

Today he goes to school and is learning how to read and write using Braille, he lives with children his own age and is specially cared for by our second housemother. He has begun learning Mohori music and is for the first time leading a normal, healthy life surrounded by loving people.

In November both our resident children and some of our scholarship students, as well as our blind students took part in the Opening Ceremony of the first ever International Writers and Readers Festival. The opening ceremony was held at our school and later during the festival we did our first première performance of our newly learned Shadow Puppet Theatre (Lakoun Sabaik Toch) to much acclaim. We are now preparing new performances to take to remote and rural areas of Kampot, where Cambodians have no access to their cultural heritage, but this is another story...and will be told in our next report! First however, we are going to perform at the National Cultural Competition in Phnom Penh by invitation of the Ministry of Culture and we will perform the ancient Yike with special songs written for our blind children to perform, as they have the most beautiful voices....Look out in mid-February on our Facebook page for a recording of these songs!

Wishing you all a most Happy and Peaceful 2016!

 

All photographs were taken with the full permission and knowledge of our students! We have avoided using names for the sake of their privacy.

Using Braille to learn our school lessons
Using Braille to learn our school lessons
A Mohori lesson
A Mohori lesson
Representing Cambodia at the THAI ASEAN festival
Representing Cambodia at the THAI ASEAN festival
Making things from play dough during fun time
Making things from play dough during fun time

Links:

Nov 27, 2015

Christmas Appeal for our Blind & HIV Children

KCDI Student photograph Steve Porte
KCDI Student photograph Steve Porte

Dear Friends of the Kampot Traditional Music School for Orphaned and Disabled Children - Khmer Cultural Development Institute..... Thank you for all your marvelleous help through this last year. We are so grateful for your belief in us and your support!

In December 2015 we aim to raise $20,000 for our Blind children and our children affected by HIV. In the last year our programs have expanded to create the first vocational and educational care centre for blind children in Kampot Province and to take care of orphaned children affected by HIV.

To help you understand why it is so important to keep these programs going, along with the care of our orphaned children and the free arts training to 400 local children, I will explain two different true stories from our school.

Our blind children come from remote villages where they have no access to scholastic education through Braille nor any kind of vocational training to help them through life. Our school is careful to keep in close contact with their parents and support them in the loving care of their children as they stay at our school. In rural Cambodia there is much shame associated with blindness and disability and although the children's parents are wonderful, the children themselves are subjected to continual humiliation and rejection by other family members and villagers. For example if there is a festival in the village, relatives will tell the child's parents, "If your son goes we will not come. We do not want to be seen with him there."

Our school helps them with scholastic education through Braille (we pay the Braille teachers), vocational training through Mohori music tuition, so that they can form their own professional wedding music ensemble as young adults. They live at our school and so we provide them with all their necessities, food, clothing, medical care and a special housemother to take care of their very specific needs. Our school is the only Centre in Kampot Province to help teach and care for Blind Children. 

HIV Children. To help you understand what HIV positive children and adults have to face in rural Cambodia, here is an account of one of our children aged 5, whose father died of AIDS first and then his mother. In a desperate struggle to survive, his mother herself orphaned, tried to sell sugar-cane juice to make a living, however the local people refused to buy her juice telling her that they were afraid she might "infect" them. The mother and her child were rejected and isolated by the community. The pair would go to the hospital for check-ups and the doctors told us how painful it was to see them struggling without any outside help or support. The little boy's mother became so depressed and felt so rejected, she stopped taking her retrovirus medicine and began pulling out all her hair.

Dying she came to our school and we found her early one morning at the foot of the Tamarind tree with her son. We took her to the hospital, but it was too late and full blown AIDS had destroyed her body. She died in August of this year. We took her little son to live at our school with the permisison of local authorities and he then received HIV medicine and continual medical checks by specialists. His sores have now disappeared and he has gained 9 kilos in weight. He is learning to read and write and despite such a difficult early life, is affectionate and lively.

Througout all this, we are also dedicated to the revival and preservation of traditional Cambodian arts. Recently the Director General from the Ministry of Culture visited our school during opening ceremony of the first International Writers and Readers Festival.

However because we are helping special needs children, we need special support too!

Please spread the word about our Global Giving Christmas Appeal starting 1st December 2015 at 09:00 Washington DC Time and ending  31st December 11.59pm Washington DC Time

If you feel like giving a recurring donation for a longer term, then please donate on 1st December when your donation will be matched by Global Giving (up to $200). Your recurring donations need to continue until March 2016 to be valid for the December matching funds. For those of you who would like to give a one-off donation, please feel free to do so during the month of December. Our goal is to raise $20,000 by 31st December 2015 with at least 30 donors and then we will be eligible for a special bonus from Global Giving. This would be of enormous help and keep our school going for a long period.

To help us, please click here:-

www.globalgiving.org/projects/education-orphan-disabled-children 

As you know, we are a Cambodian NGO and we have no expatriate overheads so your donation goes straight to our projects and our many children. Our school continues to run thanks to people like you and your thoughtfulness and generosity.

THANK YOU WITH ALL OUR HEARTS FROM EVERYONE HERE AT OUR SCHOOL!

 

All photos were taken with the permission of our staff and children. We have avoided giving names to protect their privacy.

KCDI students with flowers!
KCDI students with flowers!
KCDI student performing dance photo Steve Porte
KCDI student performing dance photo Steve Porte
Some of our blind students
Some of our blind students

Links:

 
WARNING: Javascript is currently disabled or is not available in your browser. GlobalGiving makes extensive use of Javascript and will not function properly with Javascript disabled. Please enable Javascript and refresh this page.