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