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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
KCDI Students performance. Photo Steve Porte
KCDI Students performance. Photo Steve Porte

 

Dear friends of Kampot Traditional Music School,

 

Thank you so much for all your wonderful support! We are profoundly grateful. Did you know that your donations comprised over a third of our annual 2015 budget?! So thank you so much!!

I would like to bring your attention to a very serious problem in Cambodia and especially Southwestern Cambodia where our school is based. Still today in rural areas girls are seen as a comodity, are married while still adolescents, sent to work in factories or sold into sexual slavery.

Why is our school speaking about this? Because for twenty-two years we have been battling to keep our girls safe and make it possible for them to receive a higher education and a career. So many times little girls are given into our care by the local authorities, because they have either been abandoned or their parents are dead, nobody wants them, they are not "useful" and as such are discarded.

We take these little children, care for them and they receive their scholastic lessons, become good scholars, good musicians, wonderful dancers and become adolescents. As they flower into early woman-hood, so their distant relatives awake to the fact and suddenly want them back; But not to continue their studies or create a sustainable future, no, they want them back to use as cheap labour, to marry off for financial gain or to sell them.

In our other project report, (free arts education for 400 children cambodia) I have mentioned *Ani, who has a brilliant future ahead of her as a classical Cambodian ballet dancer and who is a lovely, intelligent girl. Coming from a home where her father abandoned her mother after Ani's birth, her mother suffers from severe mental illness and despite medical treatment she is a danger to Ani, which is why local authorities asked us to care for her. She is able to see her mother, but it is not safe for her to live in the same small hut as her mother and grandmother. Now her grandmother and her relatives want her back, but their intentions are very dubious and Ani may risk her life and certainly her future if she goes back. She is in danger of being sold. We have of course alerted the local authorities and village chief. Ani's  dilemna represents many other girls like her not only in our school, but all over Cambodia and especially Kampot Province.

Ani, like all our children, comes from a rural village in Kampot, Southwestern Cambodia. This area of Cambodia was a Khmer Rouge stronghold until the early 2000's and during the Khmer Rouge genocide it was known as the zone where the Khmer Rouge were at their most brutal, being led by Ta Mok, the "butcher" of Cambodia. Imagine the mind-set of villagers who have lived under the Khmer Rouge or even sympathised with them for thirty years and more! 

When we took into care orphaned children from remote villages we had to make sure that we got back into Kampot town before 3pm, otherwise we risked being captured by Khmer Rouge.

How can we reach across to people in remote villages, who have closed their minds against progress and see girls only as a comodity? Well we thought we could do so by using Traditional Shadow Puppet Theatre. This ancient art form is very popular, but died out in Kampot during the Khmer Rouge genocide and we revived it late last year. We plan to create a special story-line, songs and drama to portray the message that girls are a wonderful resource for society and the higher they study, the better their capabilities, the happier and more fulfilled they are, the more society can change for the better.

You can help us by joining our March 16th Bonus Fundraising Day on Global Giving. Beginning 09:00am Washington DC time, donations can be made using Credit Card or Paypal. Global Giving will pro-rate any matching funds based on the number of donations made that day, so the more donors the greater the chance of matching funds. Our aim is to raise $650 for our Shadow Puppet Project which will go towards the making of our own puppets, special lighting, hiring a van and meals for our students and teachers as they perform in the districts during the evening. We also need to raise a further $5000 for our blind children. At Christmas thanks to your wonderful generosity, we raised $5,000 which is amazing! Our goal was $10,000, so we have another $5,000 to go. We need to provide food, clothing, medicine, full-time care, Braille and music teachers for our blind children for the next six months.

To donate, please use this link www.globalgiving.org/projects/education-arts-orphan-disabled-children-cambodia

Please share and tell everyone about this campaign, it's so important!

Thank You.

 

*To protect our student's privacy, we have not revealed her real name.

Dance! KCDI student. Photo Steve Porte
Dance! KCDI student. Photo Steve Porte
Performance of Shadow Puppets KCDI Students
Performance of Shadow Puppets KCDI Students
This little deaf/blind boy needs special help
This little deaf/blind boy needs special help

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Having a chat
Having a chat

 

 

Dear friends of Kampot Traditional Music School - Khmer Cultural Development Institute,

Thank you all so much for your generous support this last month. We are so grateful for your help.

Three weeks ago, we received into our care a little deaf and blind boy aged five. He had been found by local people abandoned in the Kampot taxi rank, having been put on a taxi by an unknown person from another destination. He was severely malnourished and covered in sores. Investigation by local authorities revealed that his mother was blind and his father also blind had abandoned them at the child's birth. The mother did not want to care for her son anymore and when asked whether he was her son, she replied "How would I know, I can't see him". She refused to take him back and asked that he be put in a care centre.

The little boy had no name and was placed in a temporary shelter, but the shelter had no expert care or possibility to teach him sign language or Braille. However the shelter gave him the name *Somnang which means "Lucky" in Cambodian.

When he came to our school, he was feeling completely lost and moaned and cried. Our housemother immediately began bonding with him and in a very short time, he recognised her by touching her face and began recognising other people at our school too, by touching their hands or face. Somnang had always refused solid foods and so his stools were unhealthy and he was anaemic. Our housemother began feeding him rice, meat and vegetables and Somnang began eating them and his health improved and his stools became normal. Not knowing night from day, he was awake all night and is still undergoing medical checks to help understand why he sleeps so little. 

Not being able to see and being deaf meant that he was isolated in his own world. Using the system that Miss Sullivan used for Helen Keller when she lost her sight and hearing, the founder of our school taught our housemother and other staff special touch language, because there is no precedent in Cambodia for blind and deaf training together. For example taking his little hand and helping him touch water and then touching his housemother's mouth while she says "Water" in Cambodian - (Khmer) language. Using this system we are gradually teaching him about the world that surrounds him. It is a very long and painstaking task and our housemother and other staff are indeed very special people because of the love and patience they are able to transmit. Later on he will learn some sign language written within his hand and also of course Braille. We think that he might be able to hear something and so we will take him to an ear specialist (NGO) in Phnom Penh to see if we can help him further. Now he plays with his ball, giant letters, rattles and play dough and now and then he has a play on some of our music instruments. We will develop musical training because apart from hearing using his ears, he is able to hear through the vibrations through his body.

Somnang no longer cries or whimpers, but happily moves about and feels more secure now. He has also made a very special friendship. Perhaps you will remember our other little boy who suffered so much because his parents died of AIDS and his mother after months of pain, passed away last June leaving her son at our school. This little boy suffered anxiety attacks and had moments of hysteria, because of what he had endured. Gradually he is feeling better, is much happier and has put on weight, so that the HIV doctors who check his health and well-being each month, clapped their hands with joy the other day. Well, he has made great friends with Somnang and calls him his "Little brother". He adores him, playing with him, passing him tasty snacks and taking care of him. He chats away even though Somnang cannot hear him. Somnang feels his presence and is very happy too.  At night they share the same bed and our housemother sleeps nearby to make sure both are well and safe. Taking Retrovirus treatment, means that HIV is no longer active in his body and not contagious and it is perfectly safe for them to play together. As a precaution though he has his own bowl, spoon and cup, but that is as a responsible measure towards others, rather than true necessity.

For the sake of privacy of course we cannot reveal their full names. 

Did you know that we have 22 children living at our school full time, of whom nearly half are blind? We have many challenges to face in housing them all, providing specialised care for their different needs, expert training in Braille, special staff to care for them and of course our wonderful arts teachers who have been the heart and soul of our school for the last 22 years. Yet did you know that it has been so difficult to find funding, although we must feed, clothe, provide medical care, scholastic eductation and vocational arts training for all these our children and assist nearly 400 children with free arts lessons, including local deaf and disabled youth. We are the only arts centre of this calibre in Southwestern Cambodia and the only specialised care and vocational training centre for blind children in Kampot. Your donations are so precious for us. Thank you. Please tell others about our school too!

Together with their housemother and two teachers
Together with their housemother and two teachers
A music lesson for our older children
A music lesson for our older children

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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

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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

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Learning how to make puppets
Learning how to make puppets

 

Looking at the Past

 

During the period of the Khmer Rouge genocide, it is estimated that perhaps 90% of Cambodian artists died.

If you look at old photographs taken of the Royal ballet and the Royal musician's troupe some years before the Khmer Rouge took power, there are hundreds of people, smiling and hopeful, completely unaware of the future that awaits them. The capital Phnom Penh in the 1960's was not only a hub of traditional music and dance, but also in nearly every Pagoda in the countryside there was a Pin Peat orchestra, the villages had their own Mohori and Plein Ka wedding ensembles and one could be sure that there would be a marvellous shadow puppet troupe in the Province, touring from village to village.

Cambodia was also the epicentre of rock and roll, with the King himself an enthusiastic musicians and composer, fusions of musical influence from abroad thrived in this beautiful country. Famous singers such as Sim Sissamouth sang popular songs. There was an acceptance and harmony between old and new.

First came the overthrow of King Sihanouk by General Lon Nol and the descent into corruption and war with the Khmer Rouge guerillas, who graduallly overtook Cambodia, then the secret bombing of Cambodia under US Presdient Nixon and Seretary of State Kissinger, causing over one million refugees to flood into the capital Phnom Penh. Then from 1975 - 1979 the Khmer Rouge took power and evacuated the capital Phnom Penh forcing the entire population of Cambodia to live in the countryside. Cambodian artists were among the first to be executed. It is said that the singer Sim Sissamouth was forced to dig his own grave. A beautiful ballet dancer who danced a duet with the son of the King was decapitated and the list is so long, that it has never been compiled or completed. Only at the end of the regime, was such a great emptiness and the few survivors began looking for each other and trying to rebuild from scratch a history which had spanned over 1000 years.

 

Sabaik Lakoun Toch (Shadow Puppetry)

Today in our school we have several tradiitonal cultural formations, including the tuition of Pin Peat music, Plein Ka and Mohori music, Traditional Cambodian ballet, folk dance, ancient Yike dance and theatre, Trott dance and Chayyam dance. These art forms are taught by skilled Cambodian teachers who come from the National Theatre and Royal University of Fine Arts in Phnom Penh. For a long time we have wanted to add to our teaching curriculum the art of Shadow puppetry.

It is thought that this art dates back at least a thousand years. Shadow puppetry still brings great pleasure and is much loved by Cambodian people, however in the Province of Kampot where our school is based, there are no surviving puppet artists at all and so no puppet troupe exists in the entire Province.

With the assistance of Cambodian Living Arts we have been running a workshop for our students and teachers, as well as local state school students and teachers on the art of making and performing Small Shadow puppets.

The puppet master comes from Sovannah Phum in Phnom Penh and he has been teaching how to cure cow leather, to paint it, cut it, draw puppet characters and ornament them, then make bamboo sticks to move each puppet. Shadow puppets are figures held up by thin sticks which propels the characters along. The performance takes place behind a lighted screen to the accompaniament of voice interpretations and Pin Peat music. Small shadow puppet theatre as opposed to Large puppet theatre (Sabak Lakoun Thom) gives artists the freedom to create themes and mix ancient characters and art forms with modern day social themes. In this way, especially for our school the process becomes highly educative.

Students not only learn handcraft skills in making the puppets, (therebye ensuring a vocational skill for the future and the continuation of this art form,) they also experience freedom of expression, have much fun and give lease to their creativity  in interpreting the voices of the characters. The creation of a theme which reflects current society, also offers teachers and students an opportunity to examine themselves and their surroundings, identifying areas which they feel need special attention, which can be AIDS prevention, the promotion of education for girls, the importance of education for all as a brighter future and so on.

On this course, our students and teachers have been enjoying themselves enormously and the puppet master has been quite suprised by their skills in learning. We can't wait to have our first puppet performance!

Although the course itself has been specifically sponsored, still we would not have been able to go ahead or even exist if  donors like yourself had not assisted us in the first place. We still have to feed, clothe, house and care for the many children at our school before any course can take place.

Therefore thank you for believing in our school and for all your generous help.

Concentrating
Concentrating
The finished result
The finished result
Buffalos, monkey and butterfly
Buffalos, monkey and butterfly

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Organization Information

Khmer Cultural Development Institute

Location: Kampot Town, Kampot Province - Cambodia
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Project Leader:
Catherine Geach
Founder
Kampot Town, Kampot Province Cambodia
$59,931 raised of $80,000 goal
 
668 donations
$20,069 to go
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