Dear friends of our school,
Thank you all so much for continuing your vital support for our school. We send you our gratitude and warmest regards!
In this report I would like to focus on our blind children, but before doing so I feel it is important that you all know about the current situtation both in Kampot where our school is and in Cambodia as a whole.
In July Cambodia will hold elections. However the prime-minister who has been in power since 1980 (except briefly after Cambodia's first free elections when the opposition party one), has imprisoned the opposition, whilst others have gone into exile. Many human rights activists are also in prison. Some environmental activists have been killed, as well as one political activist who exposed corruption within the ruling family. Many newspapers and radio stations have been closed down, including the Cambodia Daily, Radio Free Asia and Voice of America. Cambodian journalists including an Australian journalist have been arrested and are in prison
In the past Western countries had a significant influence on Cambodia's freedom of speech and the press was relatively free. However in the last five years the role of China has increased ten-fold, with a donation of 500 million US Dollars for "Cambodian development". This sum has dwarfed any Western contribution including the USA, reducing any voice the West may have had on democracy, the environment and human rights. Chinese development includes the building of large dams, power-plants, rubber plantations, garment factories, the Chinese tourist industry and so on. The negative effect on the enviroment that these developments have had, have been well noted, but continue none the less.
In parallel to these developments, Cambodian society has also begun disintegrating at an alarming rate, with Cambodian youth particularly at risk with widespread drug-use and glue-sniffing addictions, as well as alcohol and gambling addictions in both young and older generations. New very dangerous drugs continue to be churned out with seemingly little control or ability to stem the tide. Kampot which is a micro-cosmos of Cambodia has also been much affected by these unfortunate developments. The drug problem is now so serious in Kampot that some families have invited the police to arrest their children in order to save them from further drug use. There are even some police who have been arrested for meths use. Tuk-tuk drivers offer drugs to foreigners and several tourists have died in Kampot from drugs cut with sand or cement. The drugs problem is so overwhelming that we are all reeling and have not yet any statistics or figures to hand. We now have to be very careful that our own adolescent children from our school don't get involved in drugs through some fellow school-friend, when they attend state school for their scholastic lessons.
Exacerbating these severe social diseases, has been rampant, uncontrolled tourism. Many tourists are now coming to Cambodia for it's reputation of cheap drugs, as well as pedophillia and the sex-trade. As Thailand has been clamping down on these unsavoury persons, so they have turned to Cambodia. Many tourists then settle down in Cambodia on longterm visas and places like Kampot are now tragically full of alcoholics and people of dubious background.
If one can immagine what effect this must have on a society still overcoming deep trauma from the effects of the Khmer Rouge and the civil war which lasted until around 1999, then one can understand how devestating it is.
Paradoxally many foreigners in Phnom Penh come to do business and major business companies are now part of the capital city. Very expensive, private schools stand next to slums, there are luxury resorts and golf courses and many foreigners and wealthy Cambodians live well, quite cut-off from the tragedy which is unfolding in the rest of Cambodian society and possibly oblivious to the poitical state of the country.
Another fall-out is from well-meaning, more respectable tourists "pitying" what they think are homeless children and giving them dollars, gifts and food. Encouraged by this wealth, children are abandoning their families and becoming sucked into the horrors of life on the street. Many get stuck in gangs and become addicted to glue-sniffing and drugs, whilst their families are desperately looking for them. Unwittingly tourists have contributed to a very serious social problem and made it worse.
In the midst of all this, our school sits in Kampot town and we are blessed with being on land that was a former Pagoda, where we have a large garden with flowers and trees and our staff do their very best to give loving guidance to our children, to protect them and keep them well and safe. It is a challenge and we are deeply worried about what is going on outside our school. We stay positive and focus on that which is good, but we remain aware and alert.
Having been in Cambodia for twenty-seven years and with my school since it began for twenty-four years, I am profoundly saddened with what I see. It feels a little like walking in the darkness and searching for a light to see the way ahead. This also applies to the never-ending search for funds to support our children's needs and run our childcare, education and arts programs. My staff are wonderful and are always making efforts to help our school by growing some of our own fruit or vegetables, spices, making shadow puppets to sell and so on, but these efforts though valient are not enough to support all our needs. Yet although the world has moved on from Cambodia and taking care of orphans is no longer "in vogue", there are children at our school, more than at any time in our history, who have endured tremendous suffering and have nowhere else to go, making it imperative that we help them.
Our blind children are doing well. Since they began nearly three years ago, they have developed in their music studies wonderfully and are able to perform with great musicality Mohori, Pin Peat and Yike music. We would also like them to learn the Chapey Dong Veng instrument and we will look for funding to enable them to do so.
They are also progressing well with their academic studies and being assisted by their Braille teacher. We thank the wonderful NGO "Krousar Thmey" for supplying us with Braille paper and paper-punching frames, abbacas for maths and so on. Our school of course sponsors our Braille teacher and all other expenses. Our secretary Miss Sophea also teaches them English and computer studies, meaning that they have the widest skill learning range possible, so that even if they don't choose music as a subject when they leave school, they will have other important skills as well enabling them to work in the civil service for example.
Thank you all for your marvelleous support.
With best wishes from us all at our school!
(Photographs by kind courtesy of Steve Porte, taken with our childrn's permission)
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
Hello dear friends,
We would like to invite you all to participate in our two most important fundraising events. These are #Giving Tuesday on the 28th November and our Year End Campaign from 29th November to 31st December 2017.
It is because of your wonderful help each year, (indeed there are some of you who help each month), that our school is able to keep on running.
Your precious help enables us to provide food, medical care, clothing, schooling, Braille for our blind students and traditional arts education to all our children resident at our school and to children from local villages too. Today special care centres are no longer considered by international NGOs as a priority and so children who have lost their parents, or who have been abused by their extended family are left by the wayside. Cambodian society is not ready to take care of children properly by fostering them. Blind children are completely forgotten both by the state and society and the traditional arts need help to survive more than ever. Taking loving care of children in a small family-like centre like our school is for now the only solution. So please keep on helping us.
We would like you to know that Global Giving has visited our school twice now and that we have acquired Superstar status and Top-ranked organisation for the last two years running.
What is #Giving Tuesday?
This begins at 00:00:01 EST (Washington DC time) on 28th November 2017 and lasts nearly 24 hours until 23.59.59 (EST)
Firstlly and importantly, Your Donations will be matched by Global Giving, but also if we can raise more than twenty donors and $5,000 we will also be able to win a prize as well. Because the campagin on Giving Tuesday is so short, only payments using Paypal and Credit/Debit card wil be accepted.
What is The End of Year Campaign?
This Campaign begins on the 29th November and lasts all the way until 31st December 2017 at 23.59:59 (EST). By raising more than forty donors we will be eligible for a prize too. In this campaign we aim for $10,000. You can participate in both campaigns, your donation will be considered seperately.
Donations for this latter campaign, can be made using Paypal, Credit/Debit Card, Apple Pay, Gift Cards, Transfer and Cheque (Cheques are best in before 20th December).
Please kindly donate for both Campaigns on this Project: Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children Cambodia - #16371
Because, though the funds raised will go to all our school activities and all our children, if we try to raise funds on too many different projects, we won't be able to gather enough donors and funds to one single project, in order to be eligible for a prize at the end.
Thank you dear friends for your kind understanding, your thoughtfulness and the time you have taken to read this, and of course for all your help.
Before I begin I would like to thank all of you who have been so generously donating to our school.
Our school stays open and running thanks to individual donors. You are amazing people and have done so much for us. Thank you.
This report is about a hidden problem that we are facing and we would like to tell you all about it.
As we care for children who have very complicated and life-threatening illnesses, we have to provide them with proper medical care. These include correct drugs, Magnetic Resonancing (MR) and Cat scans for severe epilepsy for one young girl Srey Ka* and psychologial support and MR for her older sister who was sold into slavery by their father as a little girl and severely physically and emotionally abused. She was also kicked in the head by a cow leaving her in a coma without proper medical care while living in her former village before coming to our school.
We have some children who were born with HIV and their parents died of AIDS. They did not receive retroviral treatment until coming to our school, this means that their HIV levels became border-line with AIDS. People who have HIV although they can prolong their life and live relatively normally, can sometimes suffer from complications such as specific tumours, almost unique to HIV patients.
As you all probably remember, we have our little deaf and blind boy 'Da* who was put in an orphange at three months old and there neglected and abused until he came to our school and began a new life. He receives treatment for his hearing disability from the wonderful NGO "All Ears" in Phnom Penh. Gradually his life is being re-built, but he needs constant care and assistance to help him heal and also realise his full-potential.
Then we have our children who are blind. Mostly we can do eye-tests and give assistance locally, but one of them a young girl was so severely abused by her uncle that after being hit accross the face by a bamboo cane, she lost the sight of one eye. This eye must be constantly monitored in a proper eye hospital. Eventually her eye will have to be removed and a prosthesis put in place.
We live in Kampot Province. There is no Magnetic Resonancing, Cat scan, Pet or Tac. There is no medical assistance or expertise for severe epilepsy, no proper specialists in psychology or psychotherapy. There are no specialists for the deaf and no equipment as such. The nearest eye hospital is in Takeo Province. There are not even anti-rabic injections (Rabies is a problem in Kampot). For each child who becomes severely ill, or who has a life-threatening condition which needs regular treatment, for those who are deaf or have health or sight complications, we must take them to the capital city Phnom Penh 137 km away.
We do not own our own car. We must hire a taxi and share it with other passengers and then hire a motorbike taxi in Phnom Penh. Even if we did own our own car, the cost of petrol for a total of 274 km each time we take a child to the capital for treatment, is very high.
We are very happy to take our children to receive proper treatment and we would not consider anything less for them, however this necessity requires extra budget support and it has now become really urgent.
If you would like to help or think someone you know would like to give support, then the 5th October is the perfect time to do so. We have set up a micro-project especially to deal with this urgent requirement: You can find it on "Save Lives Through Providing Transport" Project Number 29610. It is affiliated to this - our main project. GlobalGiving will be matching funds on the 5th October, starting from 9.am Washington DC time and lasting until 11.59pm
If you can't find our micro-project, then it's fine to help our transport project and other needs on this project page (Education/Arts Orphan, Disabled Children #16371). If you didn't make it for the 5th October, no problem, our micro-project is running until the end of October.
Thank you all for your wonderful support!
(* With thanks to the photographer Steve Porte for all his lovely photos.
*To protect their privacy the names given are not our children's full names)
Hello dear friends and supporters of our school,
Please join us for International Youth Week on GlobalGiving from 7th August starting 9am -Washington DC time until 12th August at 11.59.59pm.
This is such an important occasion for us, because for a limited time donations to our NGO will be matched 100% by GlobalGiving. So please celebrate the wonderful work our school does.
In today's world small local organisations such as ours do not receive foreign government or large NGO funding. The world has changed and funding policies have changed also. This makes it so important for us that our project is supported by raising funds online and creating greater awareness of our work and what is happening in Cambodia.
During International Youth Week we will have some key focus points:-
° Psychological, physical and emotional support for our children who have suffered severe abuse from their extended families
° Special medical care and transport to hosptial and special centres in the capital Phnom Penh for our children who have complications due to level 3 HIV, severe epilepsy and deafness.
° Continued support for our program for our Blind children so that they can get a proper education. We raised almost a third of our goal on our recent micro-project fundraiser, but we still have two thirds to go.
° Support for our special arts education program: Which revives traditional performing arts and gives our children a chance to become professional artists and to benefirt from the therapeutic side of learning music, dance and theatre.
Cambodia is often misunderstood by the West as now being a lower-middle income country and so not in need of aid. The reality on the ground could not be more different. Although there is a very tiny percent of super-wealthy Cambodians, more than seventy-percent of the population live in rural areas. Too many people are dispossessed of their land, or their farming affected by climate change. Basic, essential medical care is lacking. Sometimes people die in agony from menangitis because a rural doctor has misdiagnosed the illness as a migraine. Tubercuolosis is drug resistent and endemic. HIV and AIDS is still too high and many parents abandon their children to elderly relatives so as to earn desperately needed money across the border in Thailand.
Cambodia has been pushed by large international NGOs to promote foster care especially amongst extended family members. In theory this is a good idea, because it avoids institutionalised care, which can sometimes be awful. This is based on the model used in the UK and the USA. However recently in the UK it was discovered that an alarmingly high number of children suffered abuse and neglect in foster homes and some were shifted about from home to home without ever settling down. The current reality in Cambodia does not yet support foster care. Although it would be wonderful if extended families or neighbours really loved and took care of orphaned children, this is not the case in many foster homes. Too many children are subjected to abuse, physical and sexual. Others are neglected and many are denied the chance to go to school and complete their education. Socially they are thought of as inferior and used as servants.
In April we battled to complete all the Ministry of Social Affairs legal custody documents in time before the Khmer New Year. Why? Because a little girl given into our care must not go back to her extended family. One uncle hit her so hard accross the face with a bamboo stick that he blinded her in one eye for life. She was also sexually abused by another uncle.
Another of our girls suffered a psychosis from post-traumatic stress because after her mother's death, her father sold her to a married couple, who beat her and neglected her. She now goes to a pscychologist and psychiatrist.
Yet amongst all these tales of incredible suffering and bravery, our school has a beautiful arts program, which is so healing and positive. Our arts program on a larger scale restores back to Cambodia traditions which were thought lost after the Khmer Rouge genocide.
Imagine therefore the complexity of running such a school as ours. The wonderful Cambodian staff we have who try so hard. Of our children - those who live in our school and have so many needs, firstly as children and then physically if they are ill and because all children need caring for properly. Emotionally, because they are are all in need of love and attention and healing. Then the coordination of getting everyone to their academic lessons...our blind children with their Braille teacher, our littlest one to kindergarten, our slightly bigger ones to primary school, middle school and then lyceum. Then extra English lessons for everyone and computer courses for our blind children. Medical and specialist visits for some of our children. Clothing for everyone...the uniform for school, recreation clothes, ceremonial clothes for performances and pyjamas. Our performing arts course, traditional Pin peat and Mohori music, classical Cambodian ballet, folk dance, Yike theatre and making and rehearsing shadow puppetry. We don't just teach the children resident at our school, we also give free lessons to around a hundred children from very poor local villages.
We also have programs that promote peace and inter-religious and cultural harmony. So we have done exchanges with Vietnam (former enemy of Cambodia). We have hosted and been hosted by Qatari high school students. Most especially we continue to do education and awareness about the Cambodian genocide from 1975-79. Because of government policy (some members of the government were themselves former Khmer Rouge soldiers), the younger generation of Cambodians doesn't know enough about the Khmer Rouge genocide. The trauma from the older generation who survived and the lack of interest by the youngest generation, combined with affectivity problems by the generation in the middle has created a social vacum. There are today severe problems of drugs and substance abuse amongst Cambodian youth, alcholism and gambling addictions across all generations and abandon and abuse of children by high numbers of parents because of post-genocide trauma. We have hosted photograph exhibitions about the U.S. carpet bombing of Cambodia and we have screened for free, films and documentaries about the Khmer Rouge genocide. These are normally visual materials that ordinary Cambodians have no access to. In this way we try and build bridges between the different generations and create understanding, healing and peace.
By supporting our school, you have helped and continue to help, this extraordinary richness of multiple projects. You have been helping so many children who vitally require assistance and you have supported the preservation of Cambodian culture. This latter considered World Intangible Cultural Heritage by UNESCO. International youth Week is therefore indeed a real celebration. In August we celebrate 23 years since the birth of our school in 1994.
Well done. You have helped so much!
Thank you everybody
*All Photographs of our students and staff were given with their permission and taken by Steve Porte. We have not photographed those children whose personal difficult histories were described in this report. This is because we would like to protect their identity.
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