Dear Friends of the Kampot Traditional Music School for Orphaned and Disabled Children,
First of all on behalf of us all at school, we would like to profoundly thank you for your most amazing help and support during the Giving Tuesday and End of Year Campaign. Thanks to your generosity and to our chairman Dr Peter Carey's wonderful networking, we raised $10,000! That is an incredibly important contribution as it provides our school with over one third of our annual budget.
Your support is being used to provide our children with food, clothing, medical care, electricity, water, support for our Braille teacher, our arts program and our childcare program. All our staff are Cambodian so that each donation goes straight to our school programs and our children without any waste on expatriate overheads, administrative costs etc, our board of directors is of course entirely voluntary.
In January of 2018, we helped organise the first Kampot Arts Festival for Cambodian artists together with Epic Arts and Sarawasati Publishing. We are deeply concerned about the neglect of the traditional arts by the Cambodian Government and the sharp rise of Westernised practices which are threatening to wipe out Cambodian culture altogether. First there was the war, then the genocide and now greed and indifference.
The opening ceremony was held at our school and our students performed the Robam Chuon Puor (Blessing Dance), Mohori and Pin Peat music (by our blind students) and traditional shadow puppet theatre. Epic Arts also gave a beautiful contemporary dance performance with their adult students some of whom are deaf or wheelchair users. The local youth club also gave a rendition of a lovely Folk Dance. The local Director of the Department of Culture came too. The next day we gave workshops on how to learn traditional Cambodian dance moves, Pin Peat music and how to make shadow puppets out of cured leather. Epic Arts also gave a contemporary dance and painting workshop at our school too. What was so lovely, was the queue of young Cambodians from the public wanting to take part and participating with such interest and enthusiasm. It really lifted our hearts, because it showed there was still hope for the arts in Cambodia.
In December we had a Belgian technical team come and visit and give expert help in re-wiring our main hall and bedrooms, they even installed a washing machine and also generously donated new mattresses and cooking utensils. Meanwhile medical staff and doctors from the Sonja Kill Memorial Hospital in Kampot gave our children and staff a workshop on preventative hygiene and our cook went on a cooking and food hygiene course given by a local Italian Chef, who kindly did everything for free. This is because the Ministry of Social Affairs has issued new regulations for centres and schools such as ours, so our cook who is actually already a very good cook, undertook this extra training.
Some of you also very kindly helped donate for two earlier appeals, one for transport for those of our special needs children who need to have medical care, some of it life-saving in Phnom Penh and in other provinces and in particular for one of our girls who suffered such a lot in her earlier life. Thevi (Not her full name) is now doing much better and after being diagnosed with epilepsy like her younger sister, she regularly receives treatment from the Russian Hospital in Phnom Penh, while her sister who is under fifteen, receives free medical care from the Kunthea Bopha Hospital. One of our little boys who has HIV and was hospitalised in December with the flu is now very well.
We are now developing our Outreach Program, so as to give free performing-arts lessons at our school to more children from local villages and pagodas, who would not otherwise receive this kind of training. I will keep you all updated on our progress.
We do not at present have any major donor or sponsor, although for the first decade and a half, we were very lucky to have complete funding from Terre des Hommes (Netherlands), Memisa and various embassies and foundations. Today Cambodia is not considered as an emergency, although around 75% of the population live in rural areas, which have remained in absolute poverty and developed little in the last two decades. Cambodia seems to be two countries, one for wealthy urban Cambodians and expatriates and one for ordinary Cambodian people for whom human rights violations, land grabs, difficult living conditions, destruction of the environment by foreign investors is a fact of life. Still much of the population in rural Cambodia have no electricity or clean, running water, sewage, toilets, functioning health centres and so on, Tuberculosis is endemic and Malaria a killer and HIV still rife. Parents leave their children and disappear into Thailand to try and earn a living. Today thankfully there are less orphaned children, yet still we see that much of Cambodian society is not ready for loving and adequate foster-care. Many of our children have suffered as a result of being abused or sold into slavery by their extended family, or rejected for having HIV by their communities. The Ministry of Social Affairs is doing it's best to enforce strict regulations on childcare for orphanages and care centres and this has helped eliminate "false" orphanages and unfortunate practices. It is a lot work, but it's worth it!
Thank you all so much for your heart-warming support. Each one of you has contributed to keeping our school open and running.
My thanks also to Steve Porte for his most marvelleous photographs!
With warmest wishes from us all
Dear friends and supporters of our school,
Thank you so much for your incredible support and kindness in supporting Thevi.
Thevi's problems have been very challenging and varied and I will try and raccount the voyage she has undertaken towards healing.
As you will remember from her history, Thevi's mother died when she and her sister were very small and her father left them with their aunt. He went the other side of Cambodia to Battambang Province. A few years later her father then returned and took her and sold her to a couple. She therefore became a slave. The couple abused her physically and for three years from the age of eight onwards, she was forced to work for them and to endure neglect and violence. It took her aunt and remaining relatives three years to save enough money to "buy" her back from the couple. A sum of $100 with interest.
It was not long after this that Thevi came to our school. Both she and her younger sister were in an extreme state of emotional and physical distress and needed immediate medical care to help them recover. They were severely malnourished and their hair was so full of lice, that the lice could not be removed properly and their hair had to be cut short and their old clothes thrown away.
In time of course Thevi, (which to protect her identity is not her real name) developed Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and psychosis. She needed urgent psychological help and treatment to assist her in overcoming her disorder. This treatment she continues to have.
When I wrote our appeal last month, Thevi had been diagnosed with a tooth absess which if left untreated could have created inflammation of her brain. Before we managed to return to the dentist however, Thevi collapsed with what appeared to be an epileptic fit. With the funds raised from your wonderful donations, we have been able to assist Thevi in the following way:-
° We took Thevi to Kunthea Bopha Hospital in Phnom Penh, 137 km away for a brain scan.
The doctors diagnosed epilepsy (her younger sister also has epilepsy). However because Thevi is now fifteen, the doctors could not give her the medical care she needed and sent her together with her housemother to the Russian Hospital in Phnom Penh to receive the correct medical treatment and prescription for further treatment.
° Thevi received an explorative x-ray for her tooth affected by the absess to check on the feasibility of the operation. (This was done in Kampot)
° We then took her to Phnom Penh for her operation and treatment by the dentist. This went well
° The dentist in Phnom Penh showed us that her teeth were very uneven and that this could create serious problems in the future. He very kindly offered to treat her for free and has fitted her with a brace. How wonderfully kind of him. She has regular check-ups and treatment in Phnom Penh.
Thevi has now gained some much needed weight, because with all her health problems, especially with epilepsy, she was quite thin. She is blooming and feels much better and much happier.
Just think how you have all helped her and improved the quality of her life. A Belgian NGO also gave us a donation and this helped us too, as we have to care for her younger sister who has very severe epilepsy and must travel to Phnom Penh each month for treatment at the Kunthea Bopha Hospital.
The project to help Thevi was completely funded by you all. For this we are profoundly grateful. You have helped make a huge difference.
Thank you so much for having supported us all through this last year. Your generosity has helped keep our school open and running. Thanks to your help we have reached out to many children from local villages, who come daily to our school for their music and performing arts lessons.
We have been teaching Pin Peat and Mohori music, Yike theatre and shadow puppet theatre. This year our Mohori teacher has had health problems. He was held prisoner by the Khmer Rouge and miraculously survived, but this and the years of deprivation took a toll on his health. We wish him good health and strength for the New Year!
Cambodia is often assessed as doing quite well economically in comparison to ten years ago. However those who make these kinds of assessments are looking only at the capital city Phnom Penh and the rise of urban development there. Yet the majority of Cambodians live in rural areas. Their lives have not improved and many live without clean water, electricity, toilets, or proper health centres. Although schools are supposed to be free, the reality is that rural children have to bring gifts of money or rice to ensure that they can get the schooling that they need. When someone in a family gets sick, family members have to sell livestock, even their houses to get medical treatment for their loved ones. Even then many people die of preventable diseases, because of lack of expertise in medical doctors and poor hygiene in hospitals.
People who are in their late thirties and upwards suffer from trauma linked to the decades long war and the Khmer Rouge genocide. This has resulted in severe affectivity problems, depression and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, having a knock-on effect on the younger generation of Cambodians. There is now a sharp increase in drug-use, glue sniffing and alcoholism amongst the young. Many very poor people in the middle-age bracket, to alleviate their suffering take to gambling and alcohol with cheap rice spirits, devestating to their health. The government is mired in corruption and Buddhist religious institutes are no longer the bulwarks or role models they were ten or twenty years ago. This means there is no symbolic figure or meaning in people's lives to focus on and help them look up to a better future or better ideals.
Teaching young children and youth who face difficulties in their families, or who come from a life of poverty, helps them to look to new horizons. It helps them train as professional musicians. The very act of learning music and concentrating on something that is in itself so harmonious and positive, brings wonderful pyschological and emotional benefits. It also disciplines the mind and increases concentration levels. Because traditional Cambodian culture is in danger of dying out, it is extremely important to give high quality tuition by real masters to pass their knowledge and skills onto the next generation of Cambodians.
If you would like to really help these children who come during the day, as well as our orphaned and blind children who are resident at our school, then please join our End of Year Campaign 2017.
The End of Year Campaign has been running since November 29th and will end at 23.59.59 on December 31st 2017. Global Giving will give prizes to those NGOs who raise the most funds and the most donors. Please tell your friends and relatives to join in too.
You can donate to this project here. Donations can be made using Paypal, Credit/Debit cards, Gift cards and transfer.
The End of Year Campaign is of vital importance to our school, because it helps us raise significant funds to keep our school going. Cambodia no longer receives the attention or aid it used to, this has an effect on projects working with children and youth, like our school. If you help support our school, not only do you ensure tuition is given to local village children, you also help those of our children resident at our school who have no parents and who have nowhere else to go.
Our school does not have any expatriate overheads or administrative costs, so that each donation goes straight to the heart of our programs and to the children we assist.
Thank You for Your Help!