Dear Kind Donors,
How can we thank you enough for the enormous help you have given us this last year....?
As we all feel the immense pain of our world in turmoil and so many of our fellow beings and little Children caught up in horrendous wars and unfathomable suffering, it is hard to feel Hope.
Yet even though there is so much suffering around the world, it is important to keep the Light of Hope shining in our Hearts and to be courageous and share this Light as much as possible.
Even though the Children in our School have gone through so much loss, grief and suffering from a very early age, yet they are happy, and our School with its large garden and many trees, flowers, birds, squirrels and fish ponds is as an oasis, a sanctuary for them to live in Peace. So too are our beloved Staff, some of whom have been with us nearly three decades.
Because of the way the world is at the moment, few know of what is happening in Cambodia. Before the elections in July this year, the ruling party banned, imprisoned and exiled nearly all key political opponents. Those working as civil servants were forced to vote and their fingers dyed with permanent dye and their names put on a computer database. Many are those assassinated or imprisoned who have imposed the military regime that has been in power since 1979, with a brief period of respite after Cambodia's first free and fair elections in 1993.
After the ruling party "won" the recent July elections, the son of the prime-minister was then placed in power as the new prime-minister and most ministers in key military, defence and interior positions were replaced by their sons. Immediately an international embargo was placed on Cambodia and no more rice was exported, factories shut down and the market was in turmoil.
To guarantee food for our Children in case of civil war, or unmanageable inflation, we quickly bought extra rice, dried fish and canned food supplies.
Although the world bank and IMF declare Cambodia as having an economic growth from 2.5 to 5%, the reality for 70% of Cambodians, (most of whom live in rural areas) is completely different. Often driven by large multinationals or Oikna (powerful businessmen and friends of the prime-minister), ordinary people are dispossessed of their lands to make way for development and are imprisoned or shot if they resist. As prices have risen, many, without anything other than the few dollars they earn each day, have struggled more and more. There is still no drinkable water, many do not have latrines or running water. If a family member falls seriously ill, the family is forced into debt, or must sell everything to get medical care.
Alas the horrors of the Khmer Rouge Genocide (1975-79) are still keenly felt in the dysfunction seen in many parts of society. it is no wonder that Cambodian society is still haunted by accumulated and generational trauma. Today we see many Children inexplicably abandoned, sold into slavery, neglected and abused.
But there are many wonderful, courageous, good people and this is felt and seen in the network of our Childsafe partners and local authorities, who do care when they see Children suffering and do all they can to help and to bring them to our School if necessary.
We help Children both in the long-term and for shorter-term emergencies. Those of our Children who live at our School for many years have lost everything and everyone, or they have been subjected to life-changing injuries because of domestic abuse.
Many are the complexities and depths of caring for Children. We have two little girls , whose father was a drug addict and who disappeared. Their mother re-married, but their grandmother afraid for their safety with the the new step-father and herself in poverty affected by Polio and living in a remote area, asked our School (through the local authorities) to care for them. The girl's Grandmother is able to visit them regularly and they go to stay with her during the holidays, so that their vital family relationship is kept in tact and nourished.
Other small Children have parents in prison for an indefinite amount of time. One little girl, aged eight, was abandoned by both parents and left with her grandmother, who is an alcoholic and had frequent episodes of wandering off in an alcoholic stupor and leaving the little girl alone in the house for days, without care, food or help. Therefore the local authorities fearing for her safety brought her to our School.
We also provide Emergency Temporary Shelter for Children who are found on the streets and have lost or been separated from their parents, for battered mothers and for those parents with little Children who have been suddenly made homeless. In coordination with our Childsafe Partners, we work to find a long term solution and to help rehabilitate Children back into their families (when safe) and to find ways of assisting parents with small Children to go back to their original province.
Additionally, we give Emergency Food Packages to families in great difficulty and counselling as well. In the last year, we have assisted over 1,000 Children on this program. Although we receive a little funding from Unicef for this, we are nonetheless grateful, especially because Unicef are extremely exigent about the care of Children and in general do not support the institutionalisation of Children, but they do support our School. Our Staff receive regular training with Friends International, our International Childsafe partner.
Our older Students are doing well. One of our girls resident and now aged 17, passed her high school exams and is preparing for college. We will support her all the way through these different stages, because she is alone.
Our Blind Students who have formed their own professional Traditional Music Ensemble - Duntrey Pikar Vichak' Santapheap - The Way of Peace, recently recorded 10 beautiful Mohori Pieces with double drum rhythm, a speciality beyond normal Mohori Music. Now we are putting everything together and soon their recordings will be ready for sale, so that they can earn an income when they perform for official ceremonies. Gradually they are becoming independent adults. When their recording is ready, we will share this news with you all.
We continue to teach Pin Peat Music to students from the TaPream Primary School from Tray Koh District. We sponsor their transport and every week day they come by tuk-tuk, from their village to our School and study with Loak Kru Sambo. Some of the girls also study Traditional Khmer Ballet. For those who need a meal, we provide this too.
We have a large and wonderful network of almost all our former students and many come and visit us, share news and in general stay in touch with our School and with each other.
After the genocide and with the rapid Westernization of Cambodia, all these Art-forms risk disappearing and so we are taking great care to preserve them for future generations.
Your Wonderful Donations have helped keep our School open and running, have provided all our Children with good nourishing meals, with medical care both at the local doctor and at the Sonja K. Children's Hospital, with Clothing, all material and sanitary equipment, school books, electricity, water, support for our Childcare Staff and program and support for Traditional Music, Dance and Yike Theatre program. Since many of our Children live at our School for long periods, it is essential that our lovely Cambodian Staff are also properly supported. What they give, is beyond any work, because it is done with real love and dedication. To them, as founder, I owe them everything.
This August, we celebrated our 29th Anniversary since the founding of our School in 1994. We gave a little Concert and Performance for friends, families and our former students, with whom we are in touch. As we cut our Cake, we gave our Profound Thanks. We look back and see when there was war and the Khmer Rouge stronghold not far from our School, we remember those colleagues in the Districts who were assassinated by the Khmer Rouge, or those who passed away in 3 decades of Service, we give thanks for all our Children who grew up and have Children of their own and we send Love to them, to our Children at School now and to all those who will come in the future.
Thank you all!!