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