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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
Thiyeu gives constant care to our blind/deaf child
Thiyeu gives constant care to our blind/deaf child

Taking care of children is a life-long task, as any parent will know. Taking care of special-needs and orphaned children is an incredibly difficult and rewarding role.

Day to day care with all it's challenges, tears, pain, joy and satisfaction remains unseen to the outside world. No camera, no media, no hype can truly define the daily, hourly work of looking after young lives. Because it's such painstaking and slow work, it can't be measured in high numbered graphs and statistics and when children have grown up and become adults, the world has moved on.

It is thanks to people like you who do believe and do understand that this extraordinary work of caring for others can take place.

I would like to tell you all about Thiyeu who is our senior housemother and whose work and dedication are not "seen" in the wordly sense, but should be recognised.

Thiyeu comes from a very poor minority Muslim family. Although Cambodia is predominantly Buddhist, there is a small percentage of people who descend from the Kingdom of Champa which ran through the centre of Cambodia nearly a thosuand years ago and whose King was defeated by the King of Angkor. When Thiyeu was thirteen her father became sick with Tuberculosis. In those days there was no proper cure or free treatment, so Thiyeu gave up her education and began working in building-sites to earn money to pay for medicine for her father.

In 1994 when building our school, a construction worker asked to work at our school after construction had finished. Her name was Thiyeu and she became our cleaning lady. Shortly afterwards, (after several years of illness), much to her grief her father died and our school became her second family.

She was forced into an arranged marriage by family members which ended in disaster and so we took care of her ourselves. Noticing her talents and her quick mind, we offered to give her a formal education, because at the time she was illiterate. She quickly learned to read and write as well as maths. From there she grew and her multiple talents blossomed, until she became senior Housemother. She married again, this time of her own choice and the Imam came to our school with her future husband to ask me, then director, formal permission for the marriage, which was a great honour. Thiyeu now has two beautiful children aged 11 and 13. When they were born, she was able to bring her babies with her after maternity leave and nurse them and stay with them whilst at our school.

She recently undertook accountancy training, has taken a first aid course and will do nursing training with the Cambodian Red Cross in the near future.

Last year, when our little boy who had grade three HIV was seriously ill and his mother lay dying in hospital, it is Thiyeu who took care of them both, in an emotionally, physically and psychologically very taxing period. She also supervises our blind students, takes them to state school lessons and then picks them up again, bringing them back to our school. After being taught some physiotherapeutic exersises she now ensures that our blind children do these exercises reguarly to build up muscle strength.

When our blind and deaf boy first arrived at our school, so lost and distressed, it is Thiyeu who stayed with him until he could find trust in the people around him. She refused to go home and have a rest, even though of course it is her right. So her children came to stay with her at our school. As with all those who live and work at our school, she doesn't see her work as just a job, but as her family and her other home.

It is also Thiyeu who helped with the selection of a second housemother to provide assistance, knowing exactly what qualities are needed in this job. Our second housemother, an older woman who has also gone through much trial and tribulation, is also a marvellous person too. Now they share the care of our children with HIV, our little blind and deaf boy, our blind children and our orphaned children, one of whom has epilepsy.

Without Thiyeu and our other caring staff, our school could not exist as a care centre, but would only be an arts centre. Being both is exceptional and it is thanks to Thiyeu and to all those who work so hard and with such integrity at our school, that this is possible.

Here is a quote from a Child Behaviour Specialist Doctor from the University of Oregan, who visited our school early in 2016:-

"I was very positively impressed with the enthusiasm and committment of former residents (Now teachers), for their successes and the excellent English spoken. I was very touched by the progress of the little (blind and deaf) boy. His progress, as well as the genuine fondness with which he was treated by staff and other children. Overall the warmth of relationships amongst everyone there and the kindness and happiness expressed, were very impressive."

 

Thank You So Much for supporting our work.

If you would like to continue helping, please do so. If you would like to help with a specific project, please visit our homepage and look at the micro-projects currently running. We are currently raising funds for one of our children with HIV to have specialist treatment in Phnom Penh. We only have 80 days left, but his need is urgent. Please spread the word!

Thiyeu with our Yike teacher and two children
Thiyeu with our Yike teacher and two children
Working together 22 years - Catherine & Thiyeu
Working together 22 years - Catherine & Thiyeu
Thiyeu integrates an orphan whose mother just died
Thiyeu integrates an orphan whose mother just died

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Sharing a joke after playing the Tro Sau
Sharing a joke after playing the Tro Sau

Dear friends and supporters of our school,

 

Thank you for your continued support and interest in our activities. We are so grateful for your kindness and generosity!

Normally our reports focus on our children and what's going on at our school. As you know we have multi-layered programs, we give scholastic education, full-time care and traditional Cambodian music and performing arts to blind children, orphaned children with HIV and orphaned children who have no-one left to care for them. We also give free arts training to four hundred children, including very disadvantaged children and deaf and disabled youth. Our programs also help girls and focus on their higher education.

But who are the marvelleous people who give all that care and training, who dedicate not just their teaching hours, but their lives to the care and education of so many children? One of them is Loak Kru Samoeun*. Loak Kru means "Master" and comes from the Sangskrit "Guru" , because older teachers are greatly respected in Cambodian society for the knowledge and skills they possess.

Loak Kru Samoeun was born in Srok Sau Kik in Kandal Province in 1946. He grew up in a farming family and his parents tended their rice-fields and grew vegetables and fruit. As an adolscent boy Loak Kru Samoeun fell in love with Mohori and Plein Ka music. Beautiful music played on different string instruments and dating back a thousand years. He studied from the elderly musicians near his village and within a very short space of time he became a gifted musician and began working on a professional level, performing at ceremonies and weddings all through the Sihanouk era and the Lon Nol regime, until US B 52 carpet bombings and Khmer Rouge guerilla incursions forced him and many others to flee to near Phnom Penh.

On April 17th 1975 when the capital Phnom Penh fell to the Khmer Rouge, the entire population of the city and indeed towns and cities all over Cambodia, were forced to leave their homes in a gigantic exodus, including the sick, wounded and the elderly and infirm. Loak Kru Samouen and other young Cambodians like himself made their way back to their villages of origin. Avoiding Khmer Rouge patrols, they cut accross the countryside and to survive picked fruit and vegetables from the abandoned fruit and vegetable gardens. He was captured by the Khmer Rouge along with ten other Cambodians and blind-folded and his hands and legs tied and put in a boat and taken up river to a Khmer Rouge prison where he was held for a month. Each day the Khmer Rouge interrogated prisoners and those who had worked for the previous regime, or who were doctors, teachers, engineers or people from Phnom Penh, were led away and executed. Loak Kru Samoeun survived because he came from a farmer family and not an educated intellectual background. He was eventually released and allowed back near his village where he was put to forced labour.

First he was made to plough fields with oxen, but his slender frame and lack of food made it difficult for him to physically resist the effort and he was then whipped and beaten and sent to work in giant vegetable gardens. Together with six others he had to tend six hectares of land, going back and forth from the Mekong River to water (with only watering cans) all the fruit and vegetables on the huge plot of land. Starving from lack of nutrition and given only gruel, he, as all other Cambodians were forbidden on pain of death to pick vegetables or fruit, catch fish, or even eat lizards, mice and frogs. The "New people", those originally from the cities and towns were targeted by the Khmer Rouge and were executed in large numbers together with their families, including babies.  Again Loak Kru Samoeun despite being a musician, was lucky enough to be considered a farmer and though ill and starving was not specifically targeted by the Khmer Rouge, nor were his parents, although many family members died of starvation and disease.

When finally the Vietnamese invaded Cambodia and after ferious battles the Khmer Rouge fled into their mountain and jungle bases, the Cambodian people could return to their homes and try and find their loved ones. A third of the population perished and every family lost someone, some as many as nineteen family members, even King Sihanouk.

Nintey-percent of Cambodian artists died, most executed, including popular artists and traditional ones. It is said that the much loved singer Sim Sissomath was forced to dig his own grave before being executed and Prince Sihamoni's dancing partner, the beautiful daughter of Yeah Khan was decapitated. In 1981, as one of the few survivors, Loak Kru Samoeun was called by the Cambodian Government to come to Phnom Penh and teach at the Royal University of Fine Arts and be a performer at the National Theatre. There were no proper salaries at the beginning, but he was paid in rice and food and together with a scattering of artists, he pieced together their lost heritage.

He married and had a son and is now a proud grandfather.

In 1990 and 1991, when the founder of the school (Catherine) came on request of the Dean of the Royal University of Fine Arts to teach violin in the Western Music Department, Loak Kru Samoeun saw her and their paths crossed, although neither would know at the time that Catherine would build a school in Southwestern Cambodia and that Loak Kru Samoeun would come and teach there!

Loak Kru Samoeun was formally invited to come to our school in 1997 and was granted permission by the Ministry of Culture and National Theatre to do so.

I wanted to tell this story in hommage to this lovely, humble and greatly talented man and wonderful human being. Dear Loak Kru Samoeun who has taught so painstakingly and patiently many many students, all of whom love and respect him and who with great skill and insight has taught our blind children to perform at a very high level, that they may have a future as professional musicians too.

Thank You Loak Kru Samoeun from the bottom of our hearts!

 

* In respect for his privacy I have refrained from writing his full name.

Teaching Blind Students Mohori music
Teaching Blind Students Mohori music
Making Traditional Shadow Puppets
Making Traditional Shadow Puppets

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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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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
$60,829 raised of $80,000 goal
 
680 donations
$19,171 to go
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