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Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia

by Khmer Cultural Development Institute
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia
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

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Bath time for our cats! Photo courtesy Steve Porte
Bath time for our cats! Photo courtesy Steve Porte

Dear Friends and Supporters of our school,

Thank you for your most wonderful and kind support. This Christmas season we raised over $10,000 from your donations. This is quite amazing and incredibly helpful. We will use your donations to provide our children with food, clothing, medical care, transport to hospital, Braille materials, Braille teacher support, our childcare program and our traditional arts training program.

I have been at our school this January and would like to let you know how everyone is doing, most especially our children.

As you may remember, almost all of our children in residence have suffered severe trauma.

We have two sisters, the older of whom after their mother died was sold into slavery by their father and was neglected and physically abused by her "owners". Her younger sister has severe epilepsy requiring monthly treatment 137km away in the capital Phnom Penh. One child of ours lost her eye because her uncle hit her accross the face with a bamboo stick. Her parents disappeared into Thailand years ago when she was a baby and there has been no word from them since. Another little boy whose father disappeared while his mother was pregnant, nursed his dying mother until her death. Five children of ours all sisters with their little brother were abandoned by their abusive mother and their father who is a gambler put them in an orphanage where they were abused and neglected for years. Our blind children have also endured verbal abuse and isolation due to the profound ignorance of villagers and family members in their communities.

Having these children in our care, means that we also know their villages and rural districts in Kampot Province. Many people, too many, are dying from preventable diseases because of poverty and lack of expert medical care. None have clean drinking water and malnutrtion takes it's toll, with a high rate of tuberculosis causing death or lasting health problems post-treatment.

For two years some of our children were really quite (understandably) disturbed, suffering from post-traumatic stress, nightmares, anxiety, psychosis, behavioural problems, bed-wetting and so on. It is only now that a feeling of peace and stability has been found and real healing has begun. I cannot thank my staff enough for their dedication, patience and love.

One example is our classical dance teacher Madame Kim An who comes from Phnom Penh to teach Cambodian ballet. She is originally a dancer from the Royal Ballet and her knowledge and skill are renown. She of her own volition and love of our children takes complete care of our adolescent girls. She understood that they were quite wild and stood in danger of going down the wrong path and getting lost in life, because they had never had a mother figure to guide them in early childhood. Although we have other staff, it is at this moment that our adolescent girls need Madame An, with her kind, sensible firmness and good education and use of language. They have flourished under her guidance and are doing very well.

Our little children are also doing much better. I spent a lot of time with them listening to their accounts of their early childhood and working with them to find relief and let go of fear and pain. This is a continual process, but I have found that they are happier and more serene than before. I have shared my findings with our staff and will now work on other ways for us to give assistance and comfort to our children. In particular I will be assisting our folk dance teacher Mrs Vy Lyda to learn how to give childcare for their specific needs. In Cambodian culture there is no interpretation or specific words for psychological-emotional issues and so this is new territory. Mrs Lyda is a former student at our school whilst I was director there. She is now an adult, married with a young child and has founded her own dance and music troupe! As she grew up at our school, she has a closer understanding of the meaning of therapy and how trauma can affect behaviour.

In order to help all our children on the path of healing, we have decided not to take in any more new resident children for the moment. We need to keep the equilibrium our children have found, until they are sufficiently strengthened to cope with the challenges of a new child or children coming to our school.

However we have not forgotten the needs of those children who live in and near Kampot town who are desperately poor and in danger. I met with the head of the Department of Social Affairs to organise the assistance of several children who have no father and whose mother uses them for begging. They do not go to school because they are too poor. Our new project will include facilitating state school education, providing them with clothing and school uniforms, giving them meals and of course tuition in traditional Cambodian arts and then providing them with transport so that they may return to their mothers' in the evening. Our school together with the Deparment of Social Affairs will make an agreement with their mothers requesting that these children will not ever more be used for begging or other such activites.

Our Outreach program continues to expand. We have several children from local schools who attend traditional dance lessons and Mohori music lessons. We have a group of girls from the Lyceum who study Mohori music with Master Samouen. Additionally we have several youth with disabilities who come and study traditional singing.

Last month as part of the Kampot Arts Festival which we did in partnership with Epic Arts and which we hosted, we gave dance, music and shadow puppet making lessons to over two hundred school children. The organisation SVA also brought their mobile library.

Kampot town is currently in a bizarre situation which is difficult to know where it will lead. Thousands of expatriates have decided that this little town is ideal for their new home. Although there are some responsible and well behaved expatriates, unfortunately too many have alcohol and drug problems, as well as behavioural issues, whilst others are just culturally insensitive. The sheer numbers of foreigners (over seven thousand and counting) has created economic problems for the local population, pushing the price of goods, food, housing and so on to levels which are unreachable and untenable for ordinary Cambodians. There is now no longer any bar or restaurant along the river front that is Cambodian.  

Investors want to buy swathes of land towards Kep by the sea and turn it into luxury resorts. This would alienate local Cambodian people even more, so that it would become a Kampot within a Kampot. Following on from this, we are involved in meetings with the local Ministry of Tourism and other concerned agencies to find a way forward so that Kampot can have more measured levels of tourism, protecting the environment and making sure that Cambodian people are not pushed out of their own lands.

Very seriously the large number of foreigners of whom their past is unknown has raised concern. Local authorities know that there are foreign phedophiles and criminals in Kampot and they are very worried.  Our own staff are very gentle people and have had to learn very quickly that even foreigners wanting to "help" must not have any contact with our children and that we do not allow any volunteers at all. We have come accross some very unbalanced individuals and we have put into action several protective measures to protect our children and our school.

In January I held over the course of two evenings special Child Protection Workshops for our staff, based on International Child Safety Guidelines. This involved discussions on stranger danger, reinforced protection policies for our school, a deeper understanding of the UN Covenant on Children's Rights and the recapitulation of our own Child Protection Policy. We also covered childcare and hygiene standards for our school.

Additionally I met with local authorities to discuss concerns about child protection not just for our own children, but for all children in Kampot. I have also started coordinating with M'lop Tapeng from neighbouring Sihanoukville Province, who are experts on child protection. We are now organising extra workshops not only for our staff but also for police, school teachers, social workers in Kampot on child safety and identifying suspicious activity. We are also now in contact with APLE (and local police) in the eventuality of emergency intervention to save a child in danger and to request an arrest if necessary.

Our school has been very busy recently. The Kampot Arts Festival which lasted three days was hosted at our school including the opening and closing ceremonies. Her Excellency the Minister of Culture Phourng Sackona came on an official visit and was very pleased and supportive with our work. Additionally Uon Sambo our Pin Peat master and myself gave an interview in Khmer language for VDP radio in Phnom Penh about our school. We also visited the University of Fine Arts (near the Royal Palace) in Phnom Penh to reinforce our communication and friendship with the University and Cambodian music professors there. As Kampot is far away, it's quite important to keep contact, as our own arts professors come from the University of Fine Arts or the National Theatre. We also collected new shadow puppet making tools from the puppet masters Sovannah Phum.

We  began our documentary film project to show how the ancient art of shadow puppets still continues. The film maker Ian Wiggins and sound recorder Rob O'Hara are very kindly and generously assisting us with this project free of charge.

We are doing a project to raise funds to repair our main hall roof, as storm damage blew off roof tiles and there is leakage. This micro-project on Globalgiving has now closed but anyone wanting to help us can give on our main project link.

Very sadly the wife of our director passed away last week and so we are all in mourning. We loved her very much and we miss her a great deal. Our hearts go out to our dear director Mr Sothy and his wife's family for their loss.

On a happier note the first photograph of our report is of two of our girls who have just given a bath to their beloved cats. Our children really love their animals and this photo captures beautifully the joy and the laughter that reverberates round our school.

Thank you for reading this report and thank you all once again for your extraordinary help!

Brother and Sister at KCDI. Photo Steve Porte
Brother and Sister at KCDI. Photo Steve Porte
Our blind boys in Concert: Photo Steve Porte
Our blind boys in Concert: Photo Steve Porte
Singing the National Anthem official concert
Singing the National Anthem official concert
Playing with the cat. Photo courtesy Steve Porte
Playing with the cat. Photo courtesy Steve Porte

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Our oldest girl having a Mohori music lesson
Our oldest girl having a Mohori music lesson

Dear friends and supporters of our school,

I would like to take this opportunity to thank you all for the incredible generosity and wonderful support you have given our school. I cannot express enough how important and heart-warming your help has been. There are those who donate each month and then there are those who give super donations at critical times and during campaigns. There are those who donate when I am least expecting help and they don't give their email or want to be thanked and these suprises are so deeply moving. Each of you inspire profound gratitude.

This year we will be starting our most important fundraising campaign starting with #Giving Tuesday on 27th November 2018 at 00:00:00 ET ending 23:59:59 ET on the 27th November. This is super important for us because all donations will be matched by GlobalGiving, so what ever is donated we receive extra! This means even more help for our school.

Then on Wednesday 28th November at 00:00:00 ET our Year End Campaign starts and runs all the way through December ending on the 31st December at 23:59:59 ET. We aim to raise $10,000 and more. Please invite your friends and family too, every donation even the smallest, makes an important difference. With funds donated on #Giving Tuesday and the End of Year Campaign we will give our children food, clothing, medical care, transport to school for our blind children and bicycle repairs for our sighted children to go to school, Braille materials, Braille teacher for our blind children, childcare, counselling, hygiene products, cleaning and cooking materials, electricity, water, school materials and arts training.

So as not to bore you too much, I will write the details about how to donate at the end of this report. For now I will update you all on what we have been doing.

 As you know we work with children who have been left behind and forgotten. Our efforts can sometimes feel lonely and uphill, especially in the current Western influenced climate of condemning and ostracizing care centres, without proper knowledge of the historical and social challenges that country faces. None of these "experts" have taken into account the severe damage done to the very fabric of Cambodian society by the Khmer Rouge genocide and the two and half decades of war. How many Cambodian people have difficulty giving love because they are so hurt themselves. How old social-cultural beliefs affect the way Cambodian people view orphans and disabled children, as inferior beings.

Each one of you has been with us supporting us and read our reports about our children, about those who have been so badly abused that they have been disfigured, or who have been sold, neglected and abandoned. I am thankful to say that all our children are doing well and healing, some more gradually and some quickly in leaps and bounds. There those of our children who have severe epilepsy, HIV or asthma and so need constant medical care. You have supported our blind children and you have also learned through us of a great challenge in Cambodia, which is the education of girls. How we have experienced  both heartbreak and success in  helping girls to reach higher education, facing the difficulties of extended family who once abandoned them step in and try and claim them back for early marriage or factory work. Yet those who visit our school have no inkling of the trauma so many have been through and there is lots of fun, joy, laughter, camadarie and also lots of love.

These last two months I have been working in coordination with our director Mr Sothy,  on organising a series of training workshops for our staff with different Cambodian professionals who will kindly volunteer their expertise and time. Although our staff are loving and caring, they still need continual training and development in childcare, hygiene and children's rights. These three, important areas of training will be taking place starting from December 2018 and going through the year of 2019. We are extremely grateful to these wonderful Khmer (Cambodian) people for their precious help and good-will.

Our oldest boy has graduated and is doing vocational training in Phnom Penh under the protective umbrella of another NGO. Our oldest girl is preparing her graduation for next year.  We have been notified by authorities of a little boy who has lost both parents and is in dire circumstances, so we are investigating his situation. We have also been notified of other blind children who need assistance in education and rehabilitation.

Our wonderful classical dance teacher Madame An has rejoined us after being on leave for family reasons and she has opened a new class for children who live outside our school to receive free dance lessons at our school. There are many children from outside our school who live in poverty or difficult family situations who benefit from free arts education at our school.

We will be starting to make new shadow puppets now as the dry season sets in as we cure the raw leather with ancient techniques of natural drying methods and tree-bark based dyes and we cannot do so in the rainy season. We will be making a documentary film about the making of shadow puppets with the help of the filmmaker Ian Wiggins who has kindly made beautiful documentary films for free in the past. As you know our school revived the ancient art of shadow puppet theatre in Kampot Province which had been completely lost in this part of Cambodia.

This last year we did a micro-project to raise funds for new beds for all of our children. Through the generosity of donors we are now making new beds for all our children, having already completed several. You can see our project report and photographs on GlobalGiving. 

Our blind children received top marks in national school exams this year. This is a special achievement given that the other national participants were all sighted.

We also made traditional music recordings for an international radio station and gave several official concerts including the opening of the Kampot Arts Festival. 

Mrs An will also help us as assistant director until we can find a suitable person. We have been looking for some time, but it is quite difficult to find a loving, compassionate person with the right qualifications. We only have Cambodian staff at our school. Our director Mr Sothy has had all of this year a very sad and difficult family problem and has had to be in hospital with that family member in Phnom Penh for long periods. 

I was at our school for June and July and could help our director for that period and my observations on our school led to us creating the upcoming childcare workshops for our staff and doing our plastic recycling project. (You can look at our facebook page to see what we have been doing to combat climate change and prevent pollution).

Due to climate change in Cambodia, Kampot has seen over two years of perpetual rain without proper seperation of the dry season and the wet season. This has led to problems with pepper and salt production, but has also damaged buildings. This year unprecendented storms tore tiles off our main hall roof and the constant rain rotted the roof beams. We have now set up a micro-project on GlobalGiving to raise funds for repairing our roof including wooden beams and tiles. Our main hall is essential for us, it's where we teach our children the arts, where we hold workshops, concerts and therapy sessions. At the back of the main hall are a series of bedrooms where our residential staff live. A leaking roof and rotten beams puts people at risk and so we feel this problem needs urgent resolution. It seems for the first time in over two years a proper dry season is emerging and we would like to take advantage in order to repair our roof and make our shadow puppets (we also make our shadow puppets in the main hall).

Today as Cambodia boasts economic growth and international and government donors have withdrawn almost all aid from the country. Great swathes of society (approximately 70%) who live in rural areas have not been included in economic statistics and have been left completely behind. Still today hundreds of thousands of Cambodian people are without running water, clean drinking water, access to health care, adequate schooling and many die of preventable diseases because of poverty and under-qualified doctors making serious mistakes in diagnosis and treatment. There are those who sell everything they have to get medical treatment for a family member. In order to receive a complete education, children have to pay for extra courses which many cannot afford and so they drop out. 

As many wealthier countries have turned to Cambodia to invest in rubber, sugar, oil, minerals and tourism almost nothing has been done to address this extreme poverty. Richer countries ignore human rights violations and the erosion of democracy has been seriously under-reported by international news agencies. In this way many are complicit in allowing violations and poverty to continue.

If you would like to participate on our #Giving Tuesday and End of Year Campaign it is a good idea to donate to this project only, because the more donors we receive on a single project the more likely we are to recieve bonus prizes. All donations raised reach all our children and all our projects at our school. Payments can be made using credit card, debit card, Paypal, Apple Pay and official GlobalGiving Gift Cards. Unfortunately cheques and wire transfers cannot be accepted for #Giving Tuesday because of the length of time it takes for them to reach GlobalGiving.

Thank you for taking the time to read this report and for your lovely help!

Kind wishes to all from everyone at the Kampot Traditional Music School

 

 

 

 

  

Shadow Puppet rehearsals
Shadow Puppet rehearsals
Official performance by our students
Official performance by our students
Yike dance class
Yike dance class
Football!
Football!

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Tong looking through the lens..
Tong looking through the lens..

Hello dear friends and supporters of our school,

I would like to share some important news with you all....

Normally I don't like to bother any of you between large campaigns such as the Christmas one, because you all give so generously. There are even those of you who most wonderfully donate each month! Therefore I feel it's just not appropriate to keep on appealing, despite it being common pratice amongst NGOs.

We do send out three-monthly reports through GlobalGiving so that if you want you can read about what we have been doing at our school with yours' and others' support. You can safely read these reports without being appealed to!

However please might I ask each one of you to invite a friend or family member to participate on our  33 - Hour Bonus Fundraising Day on this Wedndesday September 12th? This would be of enormous help to our school.

It starts at midnight ET on Wednesday the 12th September and ends at 08.59am ET on Thursday 13th September. GlobalGiving will give up to $50,000 matching funds for early donations. These kind of events can make an important difference to a school like ours, so we would deeply appreciate it if you can share this information with others.

As you will have gathered, running a school like ours is incredibly complex, because we are dealing with multiple issues involving the care of vulnerable children, blind children and special-needs children with life-changing illnesses. We must make sure each child receives proper loving care and adult guidance, healthcare, nutrition and a thousand other things. We must provide a proper scholastic education and we have to follow up each child's progress, school attendance, homework, national exams and then guide them through life-choices.

We also work (a bit like the voice crying in the wilderness such are the challenges we face), with the preservation of traditional culture and performing arts and running different programs, helping talented students develop well, helping less-talented students just enjoy themselves and always keeping an eye on the overall shape and where we are going. Our older girls have also started vocational training at the weekends and our blind students receive computer lessons too.

We want to focus this year on providing much more childcare training to our staff, in partnership with other organisations. This is a very important work- in- progress part of our program and is ongoing. We are also focusing on assisting more blind children in Kampot Province and providing more outreach through free arts lessons to disadvantaged children in Kampot as well.

Thank you for reading and if appropriate and possible for sharing with others!

 

(Photograph by kind courtesy Steve Porte - permission given by KCDI student)

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Learning the Gong Vong Thom
Learning the Gong Vong Thom

 

Dear friends,

On behalf of us all I would like to thank you for your loving and kind support to our school.

Some of you are very generously donating each month and we are so grateful to you.

As with all organisations we are continually growing and facing challenges, learning to overcome these challenges and keeping our hearts and minds focused on not only our vision and mission, but remaining internally balanced with integrity.

On my last visit to our school in June and July I spent a long time observing and listening before finally working with our staff and children to create positive changes and to strengthen our school in various areas.

Our Cambodian staff are all doing a wonderful job and each person tries their very best. I am very grateful to them for their loving kindness and devotion to our children and to our school. They are not just doing a job but giving their all.

We are looking for an Assistant director to assist our Director Mr Sothy. He is currently quite overwhelmed with the masses of paperwork and legalities required by the Cambodian government to run a school such as ours. He is also responsible for liasion with the different ministeries and departments because we have a complex program which involves special needs children, orphaned children, abandoned and abused children as well as resident blind students and outreach students. Our program also of course involves academic education and national exams, cultural curriculum and performances, Braille materials and tuition, English and computer studies and vocational training for older students who choose a career outside the arts or academic field.

We felt that a woman (retired) with experience as a teacher could help guide our childcare program and direct our teachers and childcare staff. We are currently looking for the right person who has an understanding and compassion for vulnerable children and who is well educated.

This year has been very painful for us and we have united our strength and respect for each other to be able to resolve our challenges. Last month we agreed for one of our children to live in a different centre far away from the town in order to receive rehabilitation because he had been adversely affected in the years before coming to our school by his late mother using him to beg. With an enormous and unfortunately dysfunctional expatriate presence in Kampot as well as negative changes within Cambodian society, there was a danger to exposure to further begging, drugs and harmful  youth gangs, as well as human trafficking. We felt he would be safer far away from the town centre. We are coordinating with that centre for his well-being and long-term care.

In late May, one of our special needs children passed away, and this was utterly devestating for us. Again we came together in our profound pain and we have come out the other side stronger than before, although at the time it felt as though we would be broken by our loss. In June I did a workshop with all our children to help them express and overcome their bereavement. Of course grief and loss take time and this is an ongoing process for them, but we are hopefully now over the worst and we are walking on the path of healing.

Some of our staff have had their spouses affected by serious illness requiring chemotherapy and so we are trying to be as close and as supportive as possible at this time. We are also praying for the health of our senior advisor, who no longer works at our school but who has continued to impart wisdom and advice whenever we have needed it.

During my visit, we did much needed repairs to the children's bedroom ceilings as roof tiles had slipped through and broken the ceilings during last years replacement of the roof. We then painted their bedrooms, dining room and kitchen. We put in extra wardrobes and clothes racks too. 

I also did more training of our staff in hygiene and teaching our children on how to keep (together with their housemother and our cleaner) their bedrooms, dining room and the rest of the school clean and tidy.

The children's playroom which had had it's walls painted was rather bare and unjoyful, so we re-organised extra book shelves making a proper library, hung lovely ceiling mobiles, stuck wooden letters on the wall, painted a Boddhi tree on the wall with birds and flowers and golden hearts, made a table cover and hung curtains and did hand-prints on the wall. Now the children have a much nicer play room. I also brought lego and board-games as communal activities together with painting and drawing. 

Plastic and waste being a huge problem in Cambodia, we had a workshop with all our staff and children about recycling and which bins can be used for plastic waste and not throwing waste around the school grounds. We also organised a cart to haul off any broken items placed behind the school. This kind of awareness and training is ongoing as our children easily forget and need to be reminded often (as also our staff).

We gave a wonderful concert on the 30th June with Mohori and Yike music performed by both our blind and sighted students our Yike and Mohori masters and myself. We raised nearly $200 for our school in the process. Later on Master Samouen our Mohori master and I made some recordings of Mohori music and a mix of Hildergard von Bingen ancient music for voice and a Cambodian instrument. We had wonderful fun and our children were very taken with it too.

We are now organising vocational training for our oldest blind student who would like to explore the possibility of being a professional masseuse. Our oldest (sighted) girl will also start part-time vocational training this summer holiday, she will continue with her school studies. As often happens with children who have been orphaned or abandoned, they start their schooling much later and find themselves in quite low grades when they are teenagers. In our girl's case, she would like to establish skills and choose a career for herself outside the academic field, although by law she needs to finish her 9th grade at school, hence doing part-time vocational training. She has also some learning difficulties and needs protection and care at our school for some time yet until she is ready to face the world.

Krousar Thmey who used to sponsor our Braille materials have now amalgamated themselves with the Cambodian Government and therefore no longer give this kind of support. We now have to purchase all materials as well as sponsor our Braille teacher. 

We would like to focus later this year on assisting more blind children and we will be meeting with officials from the Department of Social Affairs to this effect. Our current blind students recently spoke with me about the devestating effects of the unkindness and cruelty they received from their families and villagers. Thoughtless and unkind words have greatly affected their confidence and we spent time together trying to get them out of negative thinking and to regain faith in themselves. I reassured them that they would stay with us and would be supported by our school until they could earn a living and be independent. Mr Sothy also helped them and emphasised the importance of continuing with their school studies and music training as well as their other training. 

We have also asked our wonderful dance teacher Mrs Kim An to return to us. She had taken long leave to take care of her elderly mother and we had younger dance teachers replacing her. We felt however that their knowledge was not sufficient and that they might damage dance heritage should they be allowed to continue! We are also starting a training program for local children again with Mrs Kim An so that more children can benefit from this wonderful art form.

Despite all our challenges, we have emerged stronger than before and as with all suffering, we have transmuted our experiences into wisdom and love.

Thank you for staying with us and for helping us so much. Your help provides care for children who have been completely forgotten or rejected by society. Taking care of such children is a very great and sometimes overwhelming responsibility, but it is also one of the most beautiful and rewarding tasks on earth.

Thank you all,

* Photographs made with permission of KCDI students by kind courtesy of Steve Porte

KCDI Outreach shadow puppet making lessons
KCDI Outreach shadow puppet making lessons
Playing in the garden at KCDI
Playing in the garden at KCDI

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Organization Information

Khmer Cultural Development Institute

Location: Kampot Town, Kampot Province - Cambodia
Website:
Facebook: Facebook Page
Project Leader:
Catherine Geach
Founder
Kampot Town, Kampot Province Cambodia
$66,261 raised of $80,000 goal
 
697 donations
$13,739 to go
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