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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:

Oct 27, 2015

How Mohori Music Brought New Hope to a Blind Boy

A small group in the garden
A small group in the garden

 

Background

Tai is a very special boy with exceptional qualities. Born in a remote village in Kampot Province, he has been blind since early childhood. In Cambodia there is very little hope or opportunity for blind people. Those born in remote and poor villages are usually destined to live and die in extreme poverty, sometimes begging in the city, but tragically considered shameful or useless in Cambodian society.

Several years ago a small shelter was set up in Kampot by an Australian man, himself blind, to offer a better opportunity in life for blind children in Kampot. Last year our school was contacted by this very same gentleman who asked us to teach music to the children in his shelter. We agreed and began giving free tuition of Mohori music to the children. From ten children the number settled to eight, because two children moved to the capital Phnom Penh.

In a short space of time the children's hardwork and patience bore fruit and they began to put together their first Mohori orchestra ensemble. Coming diligently to our school everyday they studied with our Mohori master and our own sighted students resident at our school also helping the music master in teaching. Mohori music is an excellent form of vocational training, because Mohori music and Plein Ka music (a branch of Mohori) are used for festivals and weddings and because in Cambodian society, weddings are not considered complete without Plein Ka, then it is possible for musicians of this music genre to earn a good living. Forming an ensemble can help them have their own professional working orchestra.

One day we were told that their shelter was to close, through lack of support and funding and because the creator was himself elderly and no longer able to manage. He had already asked us earlier in the year whether we were willing to care for his children should the worst come to pass and we promised him that we would do all that is possible to help them.

So today we now care and house these children at our school. We met their parents and we were given their permission together with the Department of Social Affairs in Kampot to help them in the development of their young lives. We also contacted the other few organisations concerned with the blind in the capital Phnom Penh to ask for their advice, which they kindly gave.

We felt that we had to help them, not only had we grown so fond of them during the months that they had studied with us, but also we knew that back in their villages, they had no chance of ever creating a sustainable future for themselves. The two Braille teachers allocated to the entire Province were available in Kampot town only and not able to teach in the different, isolated villages,  so rather than send them to an institute in another Province far away from their families, we said a big "Yes" to caring for them.

This means a lot of adjustment for our staff and children, not only on a physical level, (adapting our bedrooms and bathrooms to be more user-friendly for non-sighted children), but also to find Braille teachers and sponsors for Braille equipment and materials and to employ a special house-mother who can be on call for them 24 hours (doing shifts with two other staff already at our school).

 

Who is Tai?

Tai is one of our students aged 15 who in learing Mohori music at our school, revealed an extraordinary musical talent and a most beautiful voice. In July of this year, the Cambodian Ministry of Culture invited our school to participate in the ASEAN Conference "Art for All" in Thailand. So Tai together with our Pin Peat teacher and a representative from the Ministry of Culture, went to Thailand and performed at the conference to great acclaim. Tai and the other children are very important for Cambodian society, because their success teaches Cambodians to recognise that all people have a special value and can contribute to their country.

Now Tai and the other children are at our school, continuing their studies. Two passed their recent scholastic exams and are getting closer to their dream of university

Their presence has brought our children and staff great joy and empathy and they enrich our lives with the special qualities that they have.

 

Thank You

Thanks to your continued help and support, we have been able to help these special children. However we would like to receive your support in the future too, because we must provide extra food, medical care and clothing, as well as support for the Braille teachers and the special housemother. Please help us make this project a long-lasting one, so that not only these children are assisted, but all those children who are blind and who need help in Kampot can come to our school and build a future. We would like you to know that this is now the only special needs school -centre for blind children in the whole of Kampot Province.

Studying Mohori
Studying Mohori

Links:

 
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