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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


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's students perform at KAF ceremony
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


Mar 4, 2019

Project Report/Free-Arts-Training-Children-Cambodia #13106

Two Hundred Children visit Our School
Dear Friends and Donors,
Thank you so much for your wonderful help and generosity. We deeply appreciate your support!
In January we hosted the "Kampot Arts Festival" in coordination with our festival partners, Epic Arts. One of the events was a series of workshops held at our school (KCDI). Over two hundred children came to participate and our school was just buzzing with energy and excitement. 
The children divided themselves into groups and took turns in trying out the traditional arts, such as classical Cambodian dance, Folk dance, Yike dance, how to make leather Shadow Puppets and how to play Mohori music. The traditional workshops were held by our teachers at KCDI. Contemporary dance and face-painting were taught by Epic Arts, while SVA prepared a mobile library under the shade of the trees in our garden. These kinds of workshops are important for young Cambodians to get to know their artistic heritage, especially after the destruction by the Khmer Rouge and the deaths of so many people during the genocide. Cambodia is also currently facing the challenges of rapid Westernisation and mass tourism, which is threatening to wipe-out ancient cultural traditions, as well as creating further economic hardships for a large percentage of the population who live in rural areas.  Our school is dedicated to the care of very vulnerable children and the preservation of the traditional arts for future generations of Cambodians.
Not only do we teach the traditional arts on a daily basis to local, impoverished children, we also do large workshops, so that as many children and youth as possible can have a go and get to know their cultural heritage. These workshops often result in children coming afterwards and with permission from their parents, continuing with their favourite art-form on our Outreach Program, which you so kindly sponsor.
Through the years our school has taught very poor children from Chumkriel and Tray Koh villages. These former alumni have grown up now and some are themselves professional musicians and teachers. We have taught classical dance to girls from Samdech Ta Primary school and taught the arts to over four hundred children from Di Pok State school. We also teach Mohori music to disabled youth and also a group of girls from the local Lycée. We taught traditional music for over a year to disabled students from Epic Arts. We also help liaise and care for those children who are very poor and who sometimes need a meal or other support. Much of this has been possible with your kind donations. Thank you.
Our Outreach Program is the second of our main programs. Our first main program is for Residential Children and details of this program can be found on GlobalGiving (Education-Arts-Orphaned-Disabled-Children-Cambodia). On our Residential Program, we take full-time care of children who have no parents and nobody who can take care of them. Many of these children have been abused and neglected by extended family and have been placed into our care by local authorities. Some of them have life-changing illnesses and injuries. We also provide rehabilitation and care to blind children in coordination with their families and the authorities. Both able-bodied and disabled children receive complete care at our school from infant school until university level. Those who have a safe family link are able to visit their families regularly. We follow International Child Safety Guidelines and all our work is done in close coordination with the Department of Social Affairs, as well as the Ministries of Education and Culture for both our academic and cultural programs.
In order to assist more children through our Outreach Program, I met with the director of the Kampot Department of Social Affairs last month, to discuss our new project, which is to reach out and give substantial support to very vulnerable children who live with single mothers and whose current life circumstances put them at great risk. Some of these children beg in order to survive and don’t go to school, because they are too poor. We will be providing them with food, clothing, school uniforms, school books and stationary, facilitating state school education and of course free arts training, as therapy and vocational training. In the late afternoons we will then provide transport for them to go back to their mothers in their villages. I will keep you informed about this project.
In our world today, we often underestimate the importance of the arts as an essential form of healing and a higher form of human expression. The arts are always the first to be cut from government budgets and many people consider culture a waste of time, without  ever having the opportunity to learn about it’s benefits. Many people’s goals are to earn a lot of money and climb up the social ladder.  They may go through their lives never knowing that the essential things of life cannot be bought.
From personal experience in teaching Mohori music at a rehabilitation centre near Phnom Penh,  I have watched war-injured ex-soldiers recover a sense of dignity and smile again just by learning a musical instrument. My own experiences as a professional musician has allowed me to have the privilege to play not only for a large public, but to bring joy to people with Alzheimer and to quietly sing to dear friends who are dying and who at their request want to hear a beautiful song to relieve them from fear and pain.
In our rush to get through life, we forget that we have been given the gift of music, dance and visual arts to express our higher selves and bring peace and something very special to not only ourselves, but to those around us.
So thank you for helping so many children receive free arts training and for being part of a bigger picture, where young people can learn not only about their heritage, but benefit in immeasurable ways from participating in music, dance and theatre lessons.
Author: Catherine Louise Geach
Position: Founder
Address: 1, Ousaphea, Kampong Bay, Kampot, Kingdom of Cambodia
Facebook. Official Facebook Page:
1)Neark Kru An Teaching Visiting Children Traditional Cambodian Dance: Photo courtesy of KCDI
2) Children learn ancient Yike dance with Neark Kru Savorn (KCDI)
3) Learning how to make Traditional Shadow Puppets
Mobile Library run by SVA in our Garden (KCDI)
Mohori Music Workshop with Loak Kru Samouen (KCDII
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