Sep 7, 2016

One Journey away from a better life

Artistan puppets made by students
Artistan puppets made by students

If you go into rural areas in Kampot, away from the main road, you will find many people still without electricity and running water. None of the water whether in the city or the countryside is drinkable without being boiled. Children often go to school barefoot and sometimes miss lessons to work in the fields and assist their families.

Due to lack of government policy regarding the past and the Khmer Rouge genocide (1975-79), there has been no form of truth and reconciliation. An entire country has been left to overcome enormous traumas while their former perpertrators go free. The result is not suprisingly a mess. Many older generations suffer from PTSD and have affectivity, gambling and alcohol problems and issues with violence. The younger generation of Cambodians has felt the effect and too many middle class youth have drug, gangs and glue-sniffing problems. There is also an ever widening divide between the rural poor and the wealthy ruling class, with ordinary people dispossessed of their land, forests decimated and people's livlihoods along with it. Many people in rural areas are desperate to create a better life for themselves and their children and some leave their children behind with elderly relatives and head for Thailand to work there, sometimes never to return.

Outside Kampot town, there lies a village called Phum O' Toch, where there are children who struggle to get by day to day, because some of their parents are not only poor, but have alcohol and gambling addictions. They would very much like to come and study at our school. Our Pin Peat teacher lives nearby and discovered that many of them are naturally very talented artists. For them coming to our school would mean receiving serious vocational training, shaping their futures as professional artists in traditional Cambodian music, dance and shadow puppetry. However many of them are too poor to own a bicycle and are fearful of coming home from classes at our school by themselves in the evening on the main road from Kampot. They would like to come and study at our school if we can provide them with group transport. Coming to our school also means receiving a hot meal, medical care and help for the poorest and most vulnerable of the children, making a big difference in their lives. Please visit our micro-project to support their transport costs for this year.

Rithy* is eleven and has been a scholarship pupil and would really like to continue his studies. He is a very talented Pin Peat music student and last year performed at the first International Writers and Readers Festival as well as several other official events. He used to come and eat at our school and sleep there too, when things got too rough at home. Sometimes he didn't know when his next meal was coming, because his parents were out gambling. He loved coming to our school. However financial support for our programs has dwindled and because our school could not provide transport any more, Rithy could not come. We would really like to continue supporting and teaching Rithy and all those children from Phum O' Toch who dream about coming to our school.

Thank you for all the support you have given and your kindness and generosity through all this time. Please spread the word about this project to make it possible for our village children to have free lessons at our school too and create a real future for themselves.

Thank You!

*To protect his privacy, Rithy is not his real name.

Traditional Folk Dance!
Traditional Folk Dance!

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Aug 17, 2016

One journey away from progress

Performing Pin peat for Shadow Puppet Performance
Performing Pin peat for Shadow Puppet Performance

If you go into rural areas in Kampot, away from the main road, you will find many people still without electricity and running water. None of the water whether in the city or the countryside is drinkable without being boiled. Children often go to school barefoot and sometimes miss lessons in order to work in the fields and assist their families. 

Due to lack of government policy regarding the past and the Khmer Rouge genocide (1975-79), there has been no form of truth and reconciliation. An entire country has been left to overcome enormous traumas while their former perpetrators have gone free. The result is not surprisingly a mess. Many older generation people suffer from PTSD have affectivity problems, alcohol and gambling problems, and issues with violence. The younger generation has felt the effect and too many middle-class Cambodians have drug and glue sniffing problems. There is also an ever-widening divide between the rural poor and the wealthy ruling class, with ordinary people being dispossessed of their land, forests decimated and people's livelihoods along with it. Many people in rural areas are desperate to create a better life for themselves and their children and some leave their children behind with elderly relatives and head for Thailand to work there, sometimes never to return. 

Outside Kampot town there lies a village, Phum O' Toch where there are children who struggle to get by from day to day because their parents are not only poor but also have gambling and alcohol addictions. They would very much like to come and study at our school. Our Pin Peat teacher lives nearby and discovered that many of them are naturally very talented artists. For them coming to our school would mean receiving serious vocational training which can shape their futures as professional musicians, shadow puppeteers and/or dancers. However, many of them are too poor to own a bicycle and are fearful of the main road to Kampot in the evening after classes. They would like to come if we can provide them with transport. Coming to our school, receiving training and when needed a hot meal and loving support, as well as medical care and counselling can make all the difference in their young lives. Please visit our micro-project to support their transport costs for this year.

Rithy* is eleven and has been a scholarship pupil and would like to continue performing. He is a very talented musician and performed last year at the first Kampot Writers and Readers Festival. He used to come and eat at our school and sometimes sleep there too when things got too rough at home. Sometimes he did not know when his next meal was coming, because his parents were out gambling. He loved coming to our school. However financial support has dwindled and not being able to provide transport, he could not come anymore. We would really like to be able to continue supporting Rithy and all those children from Phum O' Toch who dream about studying at our school.

Thank you for all the support you have given and for your kindness and generosity through all this time. Please spread the word about our project to help make it possible for our village children to have lessons at our school too.

Thank You

*To protect Rithy's privacy we have not given his real name.

Performing in a national cultural competition
Performing in a national cultural competition
Singing the national anthem at the KWRF Festival
Singing the national anthem at the KWRF Festival

Links:

Aug 15, 2016

Unsung Hero

Thiyeu gives constant care to our blind/deaf child
Thiyeu gives constant care to our blind/deaf child

Taking care of children is a life-long task, as any parent will know. Taking care of special-needs and orphaned children is an incredibly difficult and rewarding role.

Day to day care with all it's challenges, tears, pain, joy and satisfaction remains unseen to the outside world. No camera, no media, no hype can truly define the daily, hourly work of looking after young lives. Because it's such painstaking and slow work, it can't be measured in high numbered graphs and statistics and when children have grown up and become adults, the world has moved on.

It is thanks to people like you who do believe and do understand that this extraordinary work of caring for others can take place.

I would like to tell you all about Thiyeu who is our senior housemother and whose work and dedication are not "seen" in the wordly sense, but should be recognised.

Thiyeu comes from a very poor minority Muslim family. Although Cambodia is predominantly Buddhist, there is a small percentage of people who descend from the Kingdom of Champa which ran through the centre of Cambodia nearly a thosuand years ago and whose King was defeated by the King of Angkor. When Thiyeu was thirteen her father became sick with Tuberculosis. In those days there was no proper cure or free treatment, so Thiyeu gave up her education and began working in building-sites to earn money to pay for medicine for her father.

In 1994 when building our school, a construction worker asked to work at our school after construction had finished. Her name was Thiyeu and she became our cleaning lady. Shortly afterwards, (after several years of illness), much to her grief her father died and our school became her second family.

She was forced into an arranged marriage by family members which ended in disaster and so we took care of her ourselves. Noticing her talents and her quick mind, we offered to give her a formal education, because at the time she was illiterate. She quickly learned to read and write as well as maths. From there she grew and her multiple talents blossomed, until she became senior Housemother. She married again, this time of her own choice and the Imam came to our school with her future husband to ask me, then director, formal permission for the marriage, which was a great honour. Thiyeu now has two beautiful children aged 11 and 13. When they were born, she was able to bring her babies with her after maternity leave and nurse them and stay with them whilst at our school.

She recently undertook accountancy training, has taken a first aid course and will do nursing training with the Cambodian Red Cross in the near future.

Last year, when our little boy who had grade three HIV was seriously ill and his mother lay dying in hospital, it is Thiyeu who took care of them both, in an emotionally, physically and psychologically very taxing period. She also supervises our blind students, takes them to state school lessons and then picks them up again, bringing them back to our school. After being taught some physiotherapeutic exersises she now ensures that our blind children do these exercises reguarly to build up muscle strength.

When our blind and deaf boy first arrived at our school, so lost and distressed, it is Thiyeu who stayed with him until he could find trust in the people around him. She refused to go home and have a rest, even though of course it is her right. So her children came to stay with her at our school. As with all those who live and work at our school, she doesn't see her work as just a job, but as her family and her other home.

It is also Thiyeu who helped with the selection of a second housemother to provide assistance, knowing exactly what qualities are needed in this job. Our second housemother, an older woman who has also gone through much trial and tribulation, is also a marvellous person too. Now they share the care of our children with HIV, our little blind and deaf boy, our blind children and our orphaned children, one of whom has epilepsy.

Without Thiyeu and our other caring staff, our school could not exist as a care centre, but would only be an arts centre. Being both is exceptional and it is thanks to Thiyeu and to all those who work so hard and with such integrity at our school, that this is possible.

Here is a quote from a Child Behaviour Specialist Doctor from the University of Oregan, who visited our school early in 2016:-

"I was very positively impressed with the enthusiasm and committment of former residents (Now teachers), for their successes and the excellent English spoken. I was very touched by the progress of the little (blind and deaf) boy. His progress, as well as the genuine fondness with which he was treated by staff and other children. Overall the warmth of relationships amongst everyone there and the kindness and happiness expressed, were very impressive."

 

Thank You So Much for supporting our work.

If you would like to continue helping, please do so. If you would like to help with a specific project, please visit our homepage and look at the micro-projects currently running. We are currently raising funds for one of our children with HIV to have specialist treatment in Phnom Penh. We only have 80 days left, but his need is urgent. Please spread the word!

Thiyeu with our Yike teacher and two children
Thiyeu with our Yike teacher and two children
Working together 22 years - Catherine & Thiyeu
Working together 22 years - Catherine & Thiyeu
Thiyeu integrates an orphan whose mother just died
Thiyeu integrates an orphan whose mother just died

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