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