Saturday, December 22, 2012

Getting Started

Hi Everyone,

We hope that you are well and gathering together to enjoy the holiday season. We arrived in Siem Reap, Cambodia and were warmly welcomed back by the girls at the girl's home and had a great evening of traditional dancing, eating and ice cream . We have started the ball rolling on several projects. One project we have been very much looking forward to is a water project at one of three schools that we have been working with over the past few years. These schools have all been hoping that KIDS could assist with water and we had prioritized the school in Kauk Chrey village. We were very happy to be able to secure funding for the Kauk Chrey project from the Compassionate Eye Foundation in Vancouver, who we greatly appreciate working with. Much to our dismay, the other day when we went out to the schools, we found that all of the wells at all three schools have all but failed and water is now a critical issue for the schools. We have managed to reprioritize and stretch funding to accommodate the second school and the third school will just have to wait for now as they have a pond that they can use if the water is boiled. 

We started doing the research on which system to use last year, and have settled on one that uses a combination of a sand pre-filter, cartridge and ultraviolet light all powered by solar, as there is no power out in the countryside where the schools are located. An added bonus will be that the solar panels will also provide lighting for the classrooms so children and the community can use the building to study and for events in the evening. We went out to another rural school that had one such system and we met the person who had installed it as well as others like it for both the government and many NGO’s. The water in all the systems are tested upon completion and are found free of any contaminants and bacteria. As we spoke to the builder the children were coming and going to the two stations, one for hand washing and the other for drinking, it was a beautiful thing to see the children freely drinking from the fountains and filling water bottles to take home to their families. The water looked perfectly clean and clear and it was time to put our money where our mouths were and commit, or rather put our mouths where our money was and take a drink. In the 13 years that we have worked in developing countries we have never drank a drop of water straight from any tap, so we took a big long drink, with no ill effects to our weak foreign stomachs whatsoever.

Cutting down rice stalks
Yesterday we went out to the countryside to visit the two schools where we will be installing the water systems. The teachers had organized the children to cut down the rice stalks in the neighbouring field to the school, which the owner donates so the children can grow vegetables. Upon arriving we found about a hundred of the older children up to their calves in the muddy field, many of the 10 & 11 year olds wielding sickles to cut down the old rice stalks. In the hot sun the children worked hard as the four teams of water buffaloes, cows and their volunteer drivers ploughed the fields amongst the children. At this time of year they can plant in the wet soil as the dry season advances they will use water from the new well for irrigation. We were moved that the children wanted to help to create their garden. As always we are very impressed with these communities and how they work together around the school to assist the children and teachers. These two wells will not only serve the two schools and the 650 or so children that attend the schools but also their families.

Lunch of bread and sweet milk
On our way out to the school we picked up baguettes and cans of sweet milk, which the children love and is a rare treat for them. At break time the children brought out the desks from the classrooms and set them up under the shade of the large trees in front of the school and we distributed the bread and poured a large dollop of sweet milk into each child’s well worn bowl that they brought from home. As always when food is introduced to large groups of children here the noise level instantly drops and all energy is applied to the task at hand...eating!!. In addition to the bread and sweet milk the school cook was preparing the children’s meal for the day, which is funded by your kind donations to KIDS. Many of these children, due to extreme poverty, are reliant on the school and KIDS for their only meal of the day. Sadly some parents must travel to Thailand to find work and they either leave their children with an elderly grandparent or with the eldest child, who may be much too young to have to care for siblings...but they have no choice; these children are reliant on the school to help sustain them. Before the meal we were in the outside kitchen speaking to the cooks and they showed us the added protein that the children had contributed to the meal, several really large frogs the kids caught in the field as they were cutting the rice stalks, nothing is wasted here.

Many moments here cause mixed emotions for us, highs and lows stuck together, heavy hearts and joy with virtually no separation, like dust on dust. Seeing obviously hungry children devour food one minute and once they are done exploding into the school yard. The silence of eating instantly turns into a riot of laughter and play; full of energy as they take in, relish, and live each moment for all it is worth. These moments reinforce in us that our collective efforts to help children is working.

Rattana - The Red Nosed Pachyderm
So a version of Christmas is upon us here, even in this hot and mostly Buddhist country strains of music by Dianna Krall and other artist are crooning about reindeer, twelve days of this or that and things covered in snow which bring us back to our roots, home, family and friends. We wish we could compress the miles and be with you to have a toast.

We came across a version of Rudolf and company the other evening, in this case we will call him Rattana the red nosed pachyderm and his side kick pulling a boat delivering what, who knows where, and good luck finding a chimney here in the tropics. 

We would like to wish you and yours all the best and thank you for bringing the gift of clean water, good health, education and a better life to children and families here.

Rick and Adrianne

Monday, March 12, 2012

End of The Road

Hello Everyone,
Our time here is running short and this will be our final update.
As in previous years one of our favourite things to do is to take the girls from Samnang House and a group of boys from another shelter (that we support as best we can) to the Cambodian Cultural Center. They have many shows and exhibits about Cambodian life and how ethnic minorities live. Once we are in the gate the large group of children scatter in all directions and yet somehow we seem to meet up again throughout the day for the various shows and for the picnic dinner in the bleachers of the gala performance. The kids love it and so do we.

Girl's House - Close to completion
The girl’s home is getting closer to completion  and everyone is getting excited that they will soon have more space not to mention the relief of not having to live on a construction site with all the related dust and noise. You Vath, the director, had the blessing ceremony with the monks the other day, as she wanted us to be able to attend.
Dancing in celebration
Later that evening we had great fun in the front yard where there was a tent set up for friends, we had dinner and danced, a great time was had by all.

There are a couple of schools that we have been assisting in the country side north of Siem Reap the past two years. There are many children here who were at risk due to lack of food security. Last year we set up a food program at the school to assist a 100 plus vulnerable children. The principal was happy to report that the children are much healthier than before and it was easy for us to see the difference when we were there visiting. The water situation there is not good as there is arsenic in the water and we are hoping that next year we can build a large water filter so the children can have access to clean drinking water.

Teachers at Srey Po Free School
After leaving the clinic and carrying on by boat up the Stung Sen river we continued on to Stung Treng province to visit the women’s weaving cooperative; where we support the onsite kindergarten and daycare for the weaver’s children with two teachers and educational materials. It is always great to see our friends at SWDC. The weaving center, though a bit slow this year due a reduction in sales because of the world economy, is still an amazing force in the province that provides a good work environment, fair wages and stability for many women and their families. Srey Po Free School, in the village behind the center, is the school that K.I.D.S. built four years ago and continues to fund totally. The children attending the school were children that were at risk due to lack of nutrition and many were malnourished. It is great to see how the children have changed; they have rounded out and are full of energy and happy as they go about their day learning to read, write and play. Last year we formed a parent teacher advisory committee to give the parents an investment in the school and be more involved. The parents and teachers meet each month and discuss the children’s needs and progress. We met with the parents to see how things were going. One father represented the parents at the meeting. He was extremely grateful, happy and a little emotional as he expressed how the parents appreciate that they have a school in their village, as before there was no option for educating their children. All the parents gave a round of applause for the teachers, for the school and for the increase in their children’s health.

On the outskirts of Siem Reap we assist an organization called New Hope that a few short years ago had a tiny school and assisted a few people with home repairs and mosquito nets. They have grown tremendously and now educate 700 plus children at their school and help many more through their clinic, rice drop and vocational programs. We have helped them with many different needs over the years. This year there were four small children, recently orphaned as their mother died of liver failure. New Hope lacked the budget to bring them into their shelter home. We met these beautiful kids and have provided funding to keep them supported for a year with education, medicine and living expenses, this will give New Hope time to either secure more funding or find a safe and suitable home for them. Thanks to Kerry, the children are receiving lots of love and support.

One place we will miss this year due to time constraints is going to Mae Sot on the Thailand/Myanmar border and visiting Agape school. The border is a difficult place where thousands of children and families have fled to escape danger and persecution across the border in Myanmar/Burma. We have however arranged to transfer funds to replace a roof over the heads of hundreds of children at one school and will continue the meal program for the children at Agape for another year.

Children at Phnom Penh - Sen (in white in front)
While in Phnom Penh we visited the eleven children and youth that K.I.D.S. supports with various levels of education, from elementary school to three of them in university. One of the young adults, Sen, graduated university last year and has moved on to find work teaching English and has also opened a traditional dance school. Sen has had a difficult life to say the least; she was born in a refugee camp for survivors of the Cambodian genocide and orphaned there at a young age. Where most children spend their childhood at play and school Sen would be sneaking under the barbed wire fence evading armed guards to forage in the forest for food to fend off hunger. Thanks to a wonderful man named Sinath, Sen and about 50 other orphaned children from the camp were the first Cambodian children to be repatriated back to Cambodia once the dust and horror settled in the country. Never the less their train from the border was still attacked on its way south, luckily no one was hurt. Sen was later adopted by Sinath and his wife. Sinath now helps us to implement the education program for the children in Phnom Penh; in short he is amazing however this is Sen’s story. Sen continued to persevere and study despite a late start, when we met her she had a dream to go to university and we were able to help her fulfill her aspiration. While she studied she also tutored the younger children K.I.D.S. supported. Sen had a surprise for us when we arrived and introduced us to her fiancĂ©, a very nice young man from France. They will marry in France in May and then both return to Cambodia. When they return they have plans to start a small NGO to assist more children and give back as well as continue working at their jobs. It is a beautiful thing to see the sparkle in their eyes and their love for each other, but most of all that Sen has triumphed through incredible odds and danger and is now a bright and happy young woman full of life and promise. A very happy story for us all.

Healthier Children
We are in Bangkok resting for a few days before we head home. Doing this work we witness much sadness and difficulty; however we also witness the compassion, generosity, dedication and selflessness of others both here and at home, which is truly inspiring for us. Thanks to all of you who have contributed in so many ways to the work this year and in the past. There are many healthier children and families, many children receiving an education and 400 plus children receiving a daily meal through food programs provided by K.I.D.S.

As Sen has proved education works, persistence pays and compassion towards others is immeasurable.

Your contribution to this work is priceless and we thank you.
Rick and Adrianne

Saturday, March 3, 2012

The Clinic - Part 2

Dear Friends,

We arrived at the village late afternoon on our third day of travelling. Again our landing had some bumps, as trying to park the clinic and bring alongside the towed TLC 1 (which was on it's way to Phnom Penh for repairs) had its challenges. We managed to thump into the sloped bank and tie up to some trees and bushes, finding out later we destroyed two women’s fishing nets in the process; which we payed for. We secured the four boats we were traveling with and headed on to shore to meet the villagers and look around. Travelling through Cambodia we find there are many levels of poverty; ranging from those that
Homes barely covered with thatch or tarps
live a subsistence living with just enough to feed their families and send a few children to school to those that cannot feed their families but have access to some support or aid. Here on the Stung Sen we see the worst kind of poverty, where people live in terribly difficult physical conditions, have little food, no health care, no clean water and little support, misery and survival are the words that can describe this type of poverty. We walked through the dried mud village, where many naked and half clothed children wandered carrying younger siblings. We met some of the families, their homes barely covered with thatch or tarps and not adequate to fend off the hoards of insects or the rain. Most of the land disappears in the rainy season adding another challenge for these families as they have to find ways to float their homes for several months. The one school is on high enough ground that it can keep its doors open at least 7 months of the year but the flooding waters are slowly breaking down the structure and this year, with the worst flooding in fifty years, the water was knee deep in the classrooms. The people greeted us cautiously and were happy the clinic was back with a new more permanent facility. The children, as always were excited to meet new people. After a short walk we headed back on board the clinic, our hearts were heavy with the situation these people face.

A little later a woman came to visit us, through an interpreter she told us how her husband had drowned during the floods, leaving her with ten children. It took the community a few days to find his body, she wanted to have her husband cremated as is customary here however she could not afford this and so they tied a rock to his waist put his body in a sack and sunk him at the mouth of the river, she hopes one day she can retrieve his bones for a proper cremation and ceremony. Cambodian people don’t often cry but as she told us the story tears silently streamed down her face, while some of her small children sat quietly at her feet. As our funds were low we could only help to repair her house with some thatch and buy her a fishing net so she could try and feed her children.

Seeing Dr. Sombun
After a couple more very hot and insect filled nights we arose on Thursday to get ready for the first clinic day for the new facility. We were all busy preparing the final touches and setting up for the medical team. The team arrived around 8:00 am and immediately started bringing on board medicine, etc. It took the team about 10 hours to get to the clinic by bus, motorcycle, small boat and larger boat, they are truly dedicated and committed people. The people from the area had started arriving about 7:00 am and sat patiently waiting. The registrar took the patients family information and then sent them on to the nurse who did an initial examination of vitals and listened to their presenting issues, if warranted they then moved on to Dr. Sombun or to
Private consultation with Dr. Sombun
Mum, the midwife. After the patients were examined the nurse/midwife dispensed the needed medication. All morning we watched the people come and go, all very grateful to have this clinic and free health care. Chatting with the patients as they waited they told us of their health struggles and how much the TLC meant to them and to their children. As one woman said “before The Lake Clinic when we get sick we die, now we have a chance”. We were really impressed with the organization, empathy and professional service the team provides to this community. Sitting amongst the crying babies, elderly women and others we could feel both their concern and relief. Although there are many hardships here, we still had some good laughs with those waiting. Having a private examination room gives both dignity and privacy for the patients. TLC also plans to vaccinate for TB, measles and implement a mothers club to improve the health of infants and children.

Lack of clean water is a significant issue in this area as there are no wells or water filters. One man found one of our empty water bottles on the deck and quickly took it and put it in the river, filled it with the turbid and dark looking water for his small child. The medical staff explained how this is what is making his son sick. TLC plans to bring health education to the people here now that they have the mobile clinic.

Team moving on to other villages up river
As we were now very pressed for time we had to leave in the afternoon. We were disappointed we could not travel further up river with the team to see the other villages they serve. We decided to take a boat to the nearest city and then go on to our next destination, Stung Treng, where we would visit our other projects. Travelling this way would give us the opportunity to see the other six villages that The Lake Clinic and the mobile floating clinic would assist. On this journey we had two Board members with us and we want to thank Robyn Kemp and Rita Douglas for taking the time to come here from Canada to see and support the projects that K.I.D.S. is involved with.

The Lake Clinic brings health care and hope to people living in these forsaken and forgotten communities. Compassionate Eye, in partnership with K.I.D.S., has been able to provide this admirable and dedicated team of people a comfortable, clean and safe place to live while delivering quality health care and education to these isolated communities.

We thank Compassionate Eye for believing in and supporting this project; as they say on their website: "one day, one world, one goal", we thank our donors for continuing to support K.I.D.S. "to create better futures for children and families" and we especially thank the The Lake Clinic for their commitment to "serving the underserved".

"In Partnership"

Adrianne and Rick

Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Delivery

Hi Everyone,

Like all construction projects that seem to take on a life of their own, this one was no different. The last few days leading up to the blessing and departure of the clinic were filled with many hot, sweaty long days of work and gathering of material. But in the end, the clinic was mostly ready save for some details and fine tuning to be done on route.

Monks chanting
We arrived at the clinic last Friday to begin work in the early morning before the monks arrived (we thought at 2 pm.) Unbeknownst to us, it was not that simple. Around 9:30 a group of elderly women, most with shaved heads, arrived to prepare for the ceremony in the afternoon. They came bearing many types of foliage, sections of banana tree trunks and leaves, lotus flowers, mats, incense and candles. The women sat on their haunches for hours chewing betel nut and assembling the material into elaborate sculptures of vegetation. We thought they were done a couple of hours before the ceremony but knew we were wrong when several elderly male men in white robes arrived to put the finishing touches on the preparations; placing fruit, lotus flowers and other offereings on the alter. Soon after the monks arrived, in their tangerine orange robes. After lighting the candles and with incense burning the chanting began. They chanted for safety and good luck for the clinic while sprinking the crowd with water and lotus flowers petals. After it was over the men and women disassembled the lot in very quick order and were gone, leaving us behind to toast the completion and devour a whole roasted pig.

On Our Way
We continued working on the clinic doing last minute things and miraculously, as planned, we were ready to go on Sunday afternoon. Leaving the port was a bit tense as the pilot did not tell anyone his intensions and took off creating some frantic moments causing some of us to leap into the water to retrieve ropes and fend off disaster. Finally underway, we set off downstream through the floating village and the channel mouth and onto the lake. We travelled till dusk and anchored near the shore for the night. Before sunrise, we were off again heading south towards the Stung Sen, on our way we contined to work on the clinic and organize the piles of equipment and material on board.

Crew who went on the trip
Part way through the day we rendezvoused with another boat, as our small tow boat lacked enough power to do the job; with two boats pulling we made better time. About mid-day we took off with the small boat, while the clinic carried on, we went into Moat Kla Village, where K.I.D.S. built the school for three hundred children last year. We needed to drop off a generator, lights and fans that we had purchased; the teachers had requested these items so the kids could study at night and have relief from the heat in the hot season. We had a great visit with the teachers and children and then left to catch up with the clinic. We continued on till dark. The wind started to rise and as there was no safe harbour nearby, we had no choice but to anchor in the open water of the lake. We spent a long and uncomfortable night with much banging and crashing of waves and blowing wind, not much sleep was had by any of the eleven of us that were on the trip. We were all relieved when dawn arrived and the wind dropped and we were on our way again.

We arrived at the mouth of the Stung Sen mid-day and anchored for a while to eat, then set off up river for the final leg of the trip. Along the way we were greeted by many smiles and waves as we passed through narrow channels and other floating villages. As we weaved our way up the Stung Sen the level of poverty took a turn for the worse. Around four o'clock in the afternoon on Tuesday we arrived in the first village the clinic would serve. Almost immediately people began to gather, asking to see the medical team, that were not yet with us, as they were scheduled to arrive by bus, motorcycle and boat on Thursday morning for the first clinic.

We settled in to watch a beautiful sunset, a most amazing star filled sky and feasted on a wonderful evening meal, and the insects... feasted on us, more on that and the first clinic in a couple of days.

The push to finish the clinic was taxing to say the least and all the while back home our dear friend Mike Matthews, husband of Carol, a founding board member for K.I.D.S., became ill and has since passed away. Mike was an inspiring educator, actor and a fountain of knowledge as well as a loving husband, father, nano and friend who had a wonderful and witty sense of humour. His spirit will live on in the minds and hearts of so many. Mike and Carol have been great supporters of us and K.I.D.S. During Mike's brief and furious illness, he was the recipeint of great health care and medical attention at the Nanaimo Hospital. We know Mike would be pleased with the health care the clinic will provide for children and families. Adrianne and I want to thank Mike and his beloved wife Carol for their compassion, love and support.

With appreciation,

Rick and Adrianne

PS: Sorry for the gap in updates and being out of touch, but we have been out of good email connections for a while.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Update & Pictures

Hello Everyone,

We hope that you are all well?
Girl's Home construction
The construction of the girl’s home is coming along, the concrete and brick structure is nearing completion and soon work will begin on the roof and both interior and exterior finishing . We are all getting excited as we can now see how the extra space will look when the building is complete. The girl’s are very happy we had a nice time with them the other night when we went there for dinner.
As you know K.I.D.S assists children with education, tuition, transportation, books and uniforms. Two of these children are the daughters of Vanna and his wife the girls are age nine and eleven. Vanna is a land mine victim and has lost both arms just below the elbows and we have known him for many years. We have always admired him; he and his family are very poor and refuse to beg for a living, as many are forced to do here. Instead Vana and his wife support their family by selling books off a cart on the side of the road and Vanna’s wife hand washes clothes. The girl’s love school and this will be the second year that we will be assisting them with tuition and whatever supplies they need for the next year. Right now Vanna is down in Phnom Penh being fitted with prosthetic arms at an organization that assists land mine victims; Vanna even without lower arms manages to sells books, puts them into bags and makes change.
Solar lamps for all
Still on the topic of assisting children with education, we took a ride out to a village about an hours drive from Siem Reap to visit a program we started in a rural area a couple of years ago. We select children from the poorest families and assist them with tuition for English and Khmer school as well as other educational needs. We began sponsoring eight children a couple of years ago and added two more when we arrived this year. Hak, our friend and administrator of this program, also identified eleven more children that would love to be able to study English. When we arrived they were all waiting for us along with the principal of the school. The children that have had a year of English are doing very well and were able to answer basic questions and even asked a few themselves, we were greatly impressed with their confidence. Last fall we were given a donation to supply personal solar powered lamps for children so they child could study at night, as obtaining a candle or enough fuel to burn an oil lamp is difficult for them. We distributed the lamps and instructed them on their use and they were excited to get these useful and brightly coloured lights. We then went and visited the eleven new children and their families at their homes; this is always a very difficult part of the work here. Their stories are all very sad and similar, living in thatched tattered huts, most rented, a few families homeless and living with others or on factory land and most of the children having to work in tough conditions at the local brick factories. Many of these small 11 and 12 year old children spend the morning in Khmer school and the rest of the day hauling bricks or loading kilns at the factories, hard to believe these slight and beautiful children have to work in such hot and tiring environments. Most of the families agreed that they would try to compensate for the income lost if their child could go to school, some parents imploring us to improve their children's lot in life. Each time we asked the children if they wanted to learn English their faces lit up with great smiles and of course it is difficult to say no to such enthusiasm for learning. The cost for education is $14.00 a month per child and we will also provide them with bicycles as they have difficulty getting to school on foot as some live 5 kilometers away.
The floating clinic is nearing completion. The building and hull are finished and the electrical, plumbing and solar systems are done. We have a few days to take care of all the small details and the rain catchment system to supplement the water filtration in the rainy season. We are lining up the dedication and christening of the clinic for Friday the 17 and departure for the Stung Sen river on the 19. On the way to the Stung Sen we are going to stop and drop off a generator at the school for KIDS built last year for 330 children in Moat Kla village on the Tonle Sap Lake. We visited them a few weeks ago and the children want to study at night but they have no lights or fans for the hot season.
It should prove to be an adventure we will keep you posted.
All the best to you and yours,
Rick and Adrianne

Saturday, January 28, 2012

The Clinic

Hello All,

New Construction of Lake Clinic
This week the floating health clinic has taken a big step forward. The prefabricated building is nearing competition and is now bolted down to the floating platform (see photo of clinic and TLC1). Things have gone very well except we hit some snags with the construction of the bathroom so we will be completing it ourselves, as some of the aesthetics were lost in translation.

Bathrooms here are purely functional
New Clinic and TLC1
and on the lake they often consist of a simple frame on the back of a building covered with boards, tarps or rice sacks and one or two boards over the water and presto you have, as they say here ...a happy room. It goes without saying that this is an environmental faux pas. Health is the main focus of The Lake Clinic (TLC) along with education, disease prevention and assisting villagers with the use and maintenance of bio sand filters. The TLC wants to lead by example and so we are going to be containing water hyacinths, which are floating aquatic plants that grow like weeds here and containing them in a tank under the bathroom. The hyacinths will capture and treat the waste in an ultra low tech, cheap and easily replicated manner. Jon Morgan, the founder of TLC, is in contact with a man who has done his PHD on the water quality on the lake; his simple method of using these plants, that are voracious feeders, will quickly turn the effluent/black water to near grey water quality, not perfect but eons closer to a solution in this harsh environment with no power and miles from anywhere.

Thatched hovels
Each day we head out to the Port where the clinic is being built. As we travel through town, by the beautiful hotels and into the countryside the poverty slowly starts to emerge and by the time we are in the Port area it is hammering at your senses. The crowded, thatched hovels are crammed together over or on the edge of the lake; the dirt/mud road deteriorates into a bone jarring ride, some days we have to walk as the road is too rough. The heat, smell of rotting fish, dust and lack of toilets
On their way to school
make this a very sad place. Small children play happily in the polluted water not realising what contaminates this water holds, while others pick their way along in bare feet on the way to school (see photos). Every day we are reminded that life can be so unfair and it helps to know that together we are all assisting those that have been placed in these untenable situations.

The doctors, nurses and midwives of TLC have been facing challenges of their own of late. A few weeks ago the TLC 1 lost it transmission; a replacement is on order from Vietnam and still in transit. This has a huge impact on the clinic staff as they have to transport themselves and their gear on a much smaller boat; towing cooking material, medical equipment in an even smaller boat behind. It is getting hot here, 30 plus each day. The teams are putting in long days treating patients then sleeping and eating wherever they can find space on other boats, schools or floating homes for four days a week, basically camping on the lake. We have been out on the lake several times over the years and at the best of times it can be an endurance test. The floating clinic will be going even further afield to the Stung Sen River; with the TLC 1 out of commission that area is not being served at all at present. To say we are inspired by Jon’s vision and commitment to health care and the TLC staff is an understatement; we, the staff and no doubt the villagers are all eagerly awaiting the completion and delivery of the new clinic to serve the Stung Sen area.

Wishing you and yours all the best,

Thanks for your support,

Rick and Adrianne

Friday, January 20, 2012

Buildings, Books and Bumpercars

Hello Everyone,

Hope all is well with you and yours.

The prefab building for the floating clinic is coming along and will soon be transported and assembled on the deck of the platform, we are having a bathroom and shower built as well. In the meantime we are assembling the cooking supplies, mats, coolers etc as well as coordinating the installation of solar panels, wiring and plumbing. We will soon update this project again with more photos.

The addition to the girl's home is moving along as well; with the concrete structure almost complete and the brickwork well under way. As we visit the girl’s and check on the progress of the project we realize how cramped for space they are so we are all waiting for the completion of the new space with great anticipation.

Kompong Cham School
We took a trip to Kompong Cham, another province to the south, about a five hour drive from where we are. We went to a small isolated village on the bank of the Mekong River. We were there many years ago with a young girl whose family ran the guest house where we used to stay. We decided to return with the same Cambodian family, who are now our good friends, to assist the children of the village with educational supplies. To get to the village we had to take a small ferry across the Mekong River, the ferry only held six cars, we had three full of supplies. The village is picturesque, surrounded by pastoral farmlands, banana trees and shaded roads however the bottom line is the same, schooling is difficult to achieve for many children and the people are very poor. The woman who runs the Guest House grew up in the village and lost her brother during the Khmer Rouge regime, when she was young she worked very hard as a child, especially during the Pol Pot times. She and her family now run a very successful business and own two guest houses in Siem Reap, she wanted to give back to her village. Together we pooled funds to provide exercise books, pens, pencils, crayons and a treat for over 1000 children. On our arrival we were met by the teachers and students. They had prepared a ceremony for us and were very excited to have visitors and receive the school materials; after handing out the piles and piles of supplies we walked around the school. The principal explained that in the rainy season the school has to close for a few months as the classrooms are flooded and everyone in the village uses boats to travel from A to B. Hard to believe the red dusty roads turn into small canals, this explains why all the houses are built on stilts. The school was having problems with their water pump for their well and so we were able to purchase a new one; K.I.D.S. also bought a few tables for their library, so the children can sit and read. It was nice to see the children walking and riding their bikes home tightly holding their new materials and smiling. It was also great to see Cambodian people reaching out to assist their own and supporting education.

Sopeak and family
We have been going out to visit some of the children KIDS supports with education in the countryside. Last year you may remember a young woman named Sopeak, who we have been assisting with school, she is very bright and incredibly dedicated; she also has a hearing problem that we were able to improve with a hearing aide. We were waiting for some ear surgeons from France who volunteer annually here to see if they could help her, but due to a miscommunication she missed the opportunity in October. We hope they will return to Cambodia soon as her hearing is still deteriorating. We took a ride out to her home, which is about 15k outside the city. Her family met us with smiles and fresh coconuts from their garden. Sopeak is still doing extremely well in school, out of 66 children she is number 6 in her class, she is also progressing well in English and we had a nice chat about school and life in the countryside. She continues to put in 12 hour days riding 30 k each day to and from Khmer and English school, some of that trip is at night in the dark as there is no electricity in her village area, once home she studies by the light of the solar lamp that was donated for her last year. Her father was home, as he left his job in Phnom Penh, a city hundreds of kilometres from his village, where he had been making furniture for a few years, and only able to come home a few times a year. The factory stopped paying him a salary and expected him to work for room and board and so he has now come home to try and find a job and be closer to his family; he is a hard working man. His wife does her best with 5 children by growing vegetables and bananas to eat and sell; they live in a small one room house with a thatched roof (see attached photo, Sopeak in red shirt). Due to the families financial difficulties two of Sopeak’s younger teenage sisters have now had to quit school and work in town at the local massage places to try and help support the family, we are working on solutions to get them back in school. They are a close, loving family and everyone pulls their weight as best they can in the face of difficult odds. With donations we are going to provide them with a new well, as theirs is becoming unusable, buy the father a phone so he can look for work and buy another bike for the children; transportation and communication can improve life greatly in the countryside.
At the fair
On a happy note we took all the girls from the girl’s home and a group of boys who live at a safe house that we assist, to a fair that was in town. All together there were about 30 of us. The kids had a fantastic time, they mostly loved the trampoline and the bumper cars, the small ones rode around on the baby bumper cars...great fun. It is hard to believe these kids can jump for 30 minutes in 34 degree humid weather and want to keep jumping; everyone was hot, sweaty and happy on the ride home.

We will write again soon about the other projects. As always thanks for making this all possible.


Adrianne and Rick

Sunday, January 8, 2012

Buildings and Bikes

Hello Everyone,
Mobile Health Clinic
We hope all is well and the New Year is off to a good start. We thought we would write and give you a quick update on the progress of the Mobile Health Clinic and the addition to the Girl’s Home. The clinic is progressing very well; the welding of the steel floatation is now finished as is the wooden platform and railings around the perimeter. Work has also begun on the prefabricated building that will be brought down to the port, assembled and bolted down to the deck. The Lake Clinic staff are very happy to have this clinic built and we are working closely with them to identify their needs regarding the function of the clinic. In speaking with the doctors, nurses and midwives they are looking forward to having a permanent facility where they can treat those in need and stay in a comfortable place while working in this isolated area. We are planning to tow the clinic to its location on the Stung Sen River in a few weeks, about a 24 hour trip (no doubt an adventure), not sure how were getting back???
Addition to the Girl's Home
The addition to the Girl’s Home is coming along with the foundations and first floor support columns complete and the forming of the second floor and support beams well under way. These projects are providing work and training for many Khmer (Cambodian) people. With the construction of the Girl’s Home, the building of the clinic and work on an addition to the building we live, which starts early and goes 7 days a week, life seems to be one big cloud of dust and noise.
We took the girl’s out and bought them some new, higher quality bikes as the ones we purchased two years ago have seen many kilometres and the constant repairs were starting to add up each month. We have connected with the girl’ several times now and they are progressing well in their studies and with their English. It is hard to believe how the girl’s are growing. The older ones seemed so small a few years ago and now several of them are teenagers. We have known many of them for years and it is hard to believe that they once lived such difficult and tragic lives. They are now healthy, bright eyed, happy and keen to study and learn. We believe that this model of small groups of abandoned children and youth coming together to live as a family is so much better than living in large orphanages and the closeness of the girls is wonderful to see, they are truly a family.
After retrieving Srey Poan from the border we told her mom that we would assist her and the remaining children somehow. So we went to the market and purchased a bicycle, fish paste and various other sundries so she could make Khmer soup and transport it to sell at local market for a profit. We also purchased two bags of organic fertiliser to give the current juvenile rice crop a good start; as you recall in our last email the family lost their first rice crop to the floods a couple of months ago. With this leg up the family will hopefully be able to tide themselves over until the current rice crop matures. They were very grateful for the assistance.
We have attached photos of the clinic platform awaiting the building, the some of girl's the house mother and cook in front of the formwork of the girl's home.
We thank you for your kind messages and best wishes and will continue to keep you posted.
Warmest regards,
Rick and Adrianne