Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Happy New Year

Hi to All,

Some of you may remember the young student that we wrote about in 2011 named Sopeak. We will not repeat all the previous information of this inspirational young person but will attach the original story and photo if anyone would like to revisit it, or in case you are new to our contacts have not received the original email. (PDF of original story)

Sopeak graduated from high school with good marks and started university in September. For years she rode her bike long distances and for many hours each day to and from school rain or shine, focused on her dream and goal, an education. Now that she is older and can live alone we wanted to save her the long ride into town from the countryside on her bike and allow her to use that commute time to study. So she lives in a room that KIDS has rented for her in town and we provide her with a $30 a month living stipend to add to the bit of money that her parents can afford to give her.

Smart Kids promoting education through village
We have another program of twenty rural children, called Smart Kids, that we sponsor; these young people are monitored by our program manager Hak. Every Sunday Hak heads out to the village where the children live and go to school to teach English and support them in their studies. Sopeak has been going with Hak and assisting him to teach English and she speaks to the children about the value of education and staying in school. Recently Hak and Sopeak, together with all the students of Smart Kids, walked through the village one afternoon with banners promoting education. Sopeak is a great role model and example to other young female students and she will pay particular attention and focus on keeping and recruiting more girls to stay in school.

From the very minute that we met Sopeak about six years ago we were struck by the clarity of her english. Many rural children speak some english but they tend to have heavy accents and can be hard to understand as they mostly learn from other Khmer teachers. Sopeak had an english teacher from America for a short time and with her diligence her pronunciation was amazing.

Recently we took Sopeak to the Australian Centre For Education (ACE). ACE is an international standard english school where all the teachers are from engish speaking countries. Each prospective student must take an entrance exam to rank their skills and determine the grade level that they will study at. Sopeak being from a rural village where education is scarce has worked very hard and taken advantage of the opportunity that your support through KIDS has provided for her in both primary and high school.

Sopeak at ACE with Level 6 lesson book
As she walked down the hall to take the 45-minute exam we sat with with Hak and waited. While we discussed different education ideas Hak told us that many students who have lived in the town of Siem Reap with much easier access to education, and after graduating from university with a BA, will only rank at maybe a level 5 on their ACE entrance exam. When Sopeak came out of the exam she said that it was very difficult, and was not sure how she did...a few minutes later the examiner returned with a beaming smile and showed us her results...level 6…our jaws dropped collectively. A remarkable achievement considering she has a hearing disability, came from an isolated village and up until an hour before the exam had no idea that we were taking her to ACE so she had no chance to prepare or study.

As Sopeak’s dream of completing a university education moves ever forward to reality she is without a doubt proof that with persistence, dedication and perseverance one can achieve difficult goals.  

Happy New Year, may your dreams and goals come to reality in 2014.

All the best,

Adrianne and Rick

Friday, December 27, 2013

Books, Boats and Water

Hi All,

Hope you are well and had a great holiday. We are back at it and thought we would send you an update.


One of the projects that we are very happy to be working on this year is a library for Kauk Chrey School. For rural children often the only material that they have to read is what the teacher writes on the blackboard or what they write in their exercise books. We have seen the enthusiasm that children have for reading at other schools that are fortunate enough to have a library. The children will not only have books to read while at school, they will be able to check books out and take them home. This opportunity helps to spread knowledge to younger siblings not yet in school and to older siblings and parents who may not have had the chance to attend school at all. The building materials are being delivered as we write, ground will be broken and construction will begin on January 1st. A good start to the New Year for the children Kauk Chrey!


The Lake Clinic - TLC#4
We recently returned from a two day trip from the capitol city of Phnom Penh aboard the brand new catamaran built for the The Lake Clinic Cambodia (TLC).  The new boat will greatly assist the medical teams to spread their important and life changing work further, faster and more efficiently. K.I.D.S. sponsored the fuel for this inaugural trip. The boat was funded by Impact Norway however operating costs are challenging to find. Although the fuel costs are outside our projected budget allocation for this year, we are hoping we can work on increasing K.I.D.S. support for the TLC and its new boat to include fuel costs as this is greatly needed.

This new boat, with its seaworthiness will transport the medical teams more comfortably.  The boat will allow them to arrive rested and ready to work, while the speed and fuel efficiency will allow for less transit time and permit the teams more time to care for rather than getting to patients. The TLC #4 will no doubt end up transporting ill patients to more advanced medical care facilities on land in emergency situations. The dedicated team of doctors, nurses and mid wives bring prevention, treatment and health care education to those living in a truly isolated areas of the Tonle Sap Lake and Stung Sen River. Until the TLC started working there in 2009 no one was able to receive any healthcare whatsoever. The team travels four days a week to serve the underserved and it is challenging to say the least.

We made a video of the maiden voyage, click the link if you are interested in watching.



Last but not least there are two water projects that we will be kicking off very shortly. One is at Muk Pen Elementary School for 330 students. The well they have produces water that is not fit for drinking and has to be boiled, a difficult thing to achieve for 330 students daily. Muk Pen School’s new pumps, towers, solar and purification systems will change that and will allow the children to walk up to the drinking station and drink to their hearts content as well as fill their bottles to take home.

The other water project at Sasarsadam High School and Elementary School will be less costly as it has electricity so we do not have to install a solar system to support the water system. Sasarsadam is a big school with 1,500 students and no water whatsoever, if you can imagine. The principal is a very dedicated educator and works to a high standard resulting in a much higher level of graduating students. The school has almost double the number of students who qualify for government scholarships than the average school.

So once again, thank you for your contributions towards education, healthcare and clean water. Your support and generosity will without a doubt change, enhance and certainly save the lives of many.

Thank You,
Rick and Adrianne

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Best of the Season from KIDS

Dear Friends,

We have now been back in Siem Reap, Cambodia, for a couple of weeks and we have been busy meeting contacts and beginning to implement projects regarding water issues, boats, solar powered chickens, a library and other programs and projects. We also visited the girls and boys from the homes that K.I.D.S supports. These are our favorite places to go. They are our borrowed family while here in Cambodia. It was wonderful to see their smiling faces once again. These children have come together due to very sad circumstances; some abandoned, some abused and some orphaned, together they have built a family of their own and they live happily in both homes under the supervision of their caring, skilled and dedicated director/housemother, kind cooks and 6 dogs. Some of the children live with their biological brothers and sisters and they all take very good care of each other. Thanks to your support they have a good life and appreciate the opportunities they have been given.

We recently celebrated being together again with all 32 children. We spent a day talking, laughing, eating ice cream and watching all the kids play for several hours with three chairs, a chinese skipping rope and one palm frond. The yard was filled with laughter and chatter, it was wonderful to see them create their own fun, making up games and just enjoying each other’s company.

32 children supported by KIDS
Whether your family is built, borrowed or biological or you are together physically or in your hearts, we are hoping that your time with family and friends is filled with happiness, meaningful moments and loving memories over the holiday season. 

We are also sending along a video, so we hope you can grab a tea, coffee or eggnog and take a few minutes to enjoy the visuals and this message as much as we did. 

With gratitude and best wishes,

Adrianne and Rick 

Louie Schwartzberg is an award-winning cinematographer, director, and producer whose notable career spans more than three decades providing breathtaking imagery for feature films, television shows, documentaries and commercials.

This piece includes his short film on Gratitude and Happiness. Brother David Steindl-Rast's spoken words, Gary Malkin's musical compositions and Louie's cinematography make this a stunningly beautiful piece, reminding us of the precious gift of life, and the beauty all around us.

As a visual artist, Louie has created some of the most iconic and memorable film moments of our time. He is an innovator in the world of time-lapse, nature, aerial and "slice-of-life" photography - the only cinematographer in the world who has literally been shooting 24 hours a day, 7 days a week continuously for more than 30 years.

Louie was recognized as one of the top 70 Cinematographers for the On Film Kodak Salute Series. He is a member of the Directors Guild of America and the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences.

Louie is credited by many with pioneering the contemporary stock footage industry by founding Energy Film Library, a global company with a network of 12 foreign offices, which was acquired by Getty Images in 1997. Motion picture clients of his cinematic artistry include Sex in the City, The Bourne Ultimatum, Die Hard 4, Syriana, Crash, Men in Black and classics such as American Beauty, Koyaanisqatsi and E.T. among others.

Louie went on to found BlackLight Films, a creative production company specializing in producing original theatrical feature, large format films, HD and TV programming.

In 2004, BlackLight Films completed production of the theatrical feature film, America's Heart &Soul, distributed theatrically by Walt Disney Pictures. In 2006, BlackLight Films completed a series of HD shorts, Louie Films, for the launch of Buena Vista Home Entertainment's Blu-Ray DVD releases. In 2007, the company produced a 1-hour special, Chasing the Light, which aired nationally on PBS.

Past projects include the 35mm film Seasons of the Vine for Disney's California Adventure Theme Park and a 26-half hour series, America!, for The Hallmark Channel.

Louie has won two Clio Awards for Best Environmental Broadcast Spot, an Emmy nomination for Best Cinematography for the Discovery Channel Special, Oceans of Air, and the Heartland Film Festival's Truly Moving Picture Award for Walt Disney Pictures' feature film release America's Heart & Soul.

Louie completed production on a feature length nature documentary, Wings of Life, to be theatrically released worldwide, under Walt Disney Pictures' new production banner, Disneynature. The film was released in France (March 2011) under the title Pollen and won the Roscar Award for Best Cinematography at the 2011 Wild Talk Africa Film Festival.

Louie spoke at the TED 2011 conference in Long Beach, CA and has been a regular presenter at the annual Bioneers Conference in San Francisco. Currently, Louie is in production with National Geographic to produce Hidden Worlds, a 3D Imax film.

event video by: http://repertoireproductions.com/

Friday, December 13, 2013

Dr. Frank and Medical Action Myanmar (MAM)

Dear Friends,

We are now in Cambodia and connecting with friends, contacts and projects. Before we left Myanmar we went to visit Dr. Frank Smithius at Medical Action Myanmar. We were assisting CW Asia Fund in facilitating the fundraising they had done to support this very worthy and amazing project that K.I.D.S has partnered with in the past. Nina Bains Cassils and John Cassils and the Wettstein family formed CW Asia Fund many years ago to assist local medical programs in both Myanmar and Cambodia. Their commitment and compassion in supporting better lives for children and families is exemplary and we are very pleased to partner with them to support some amazing projects and programs.

Dr. Frank, as many people seem to call him, is a one of a kind humanitarian and a true inspiration to those working in health care and aid work in developing countries. Frank has been in both Cambodia and now Myanmar for well over 20 years, first with Medecins sans Frontieres and then starting his own medical project in Yangon, Myanmar. Coming to this part of the world from Holland fresh out of medical school was truly an adventure, a challenge and a brave thing to do. Working as a doctor and facing the aftermath of the Khmer Rouge and the civil war in Cambodia was difficult to say the least and then going on to start an NGO in Myanmar was somewhat miraculous.

Medical Action Myanmar (MAM) focuses on HIV/AIDS, Malaria, TB, STD's, reproductive health, family planning and other tropical diseases. Their small informal clinic on the outskirts of Yangon is run by Dr. Ni Ni, a skilled and dedicated doctor, who is renowned for her knowledge and commitment to HIV/AIDS and is dedicated to providing excellent health care to those that are undeserved and vulnerable. The clinic now sees an average of 300 patients a day offering education, medicine and treatment. Both Dr. Frank and Doctor Ni Ni have increased their scope of care to more isolated rural areas and now have 4 staffed clinics and train and provide over 400 volunteer health workers that work in these isolated areas. Their medical teams go out and visit these rural areas bringing medicine, health care and education to those that would otherwise have no access to health care what so ever.

Kyaw Oo arrived with TB and severe malnutrition. MAM tested him for HIV but he was negative. He recovered quickly after medical treatment for TB and therapeutic feeding.

Difficult to recognize after treatment, only the ears are still the same.

Kyaw Oo - Before
Kyam Oo - After
Thanks to the generosity of so many donors through CW Asia Fund K.I.D.S has been able to transfer their goodwill to support MAM with staffing, medical test kits and medications for this life changing program. It is very difficult to describe in words the impact that MAM has on the children, families and communities that they serve. Kyaw Oo is one of the many miracles that takes place thanks to the knowledge, skills and compassion of the MAM team.

Warmest wishes to you and yours,
Adrianne and Rick

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Hello from Myanmar

Hello Everyone,

We are here in Myanmar after a rather hectic preparation to get organized to leave home followed by a few days rest in Bangkok, Thailand. Thanks for your great farewell wishes.

Coming to Myanmar never fails to be interesting. Close to ten years ago when we first came to Myanmar to assist a doctor in the far north, near the Chinese border, we remember how the thump of the passport stamp felt and sounded like the closing of a vault door. Once you were inside the country you had the feeling and rightly so, that you were very cut off from the outside world. There was minimal internet which was highly monitored, every dollar you spent was recorded by the serial number (numerous copies) and the MI or military intelligence always seemed to be close by watching when we were doing our work at the clinic up in Mytinka. You would never mention the name of Aung San Suu Kyi in public for fear of endangering someone. The streets of Yangon were almost deserted and cars were few, old and far between, and the only way to enter the country was by air via Yangon.

Scroll ahead ten years, especially the last couple and the doors for the most part have been flung open; visas are easy to get and four overland border crossings have recently opened. The regime that had the country in an iron fisted grip for over 50 years has resulted in a country left in tatters with abysmal healthcare, education and crumbling infrastructure. The fist has turned into an open hand that is welcoming business contracts resulting in rampant inflation in rents, land and accommodation to name a few of the problems in the capital city of Yangon. The once peaceful and walkable streets are now clogged with cars and getting around anywhere during the daytime involves sitting in virtual gridlock traffic for hours or taking your life in your hands crossing the street. Sadly the prosperity is reserved for a few and for the average person life is still a struggle. Although there are many issues facing this kind of growth so quickly there is also a feeling of freedom and optimism for the future. The people for the most part are lovely, warm, helpful and it is not hard to fall in love with their smiles.

Supplies and clothing
Last year we connected and helped a small school located in a monastery on the outskirts of Yangon. There are 96 students from very poor families who attend the school that operates on a shoestring to say the least. The school is very basic with small benches as desks, black boards and the children sit on the floor to do their work. The school is built on top of a landfill so they have no well and must purchase drinking water for which there was no budget. As is often the case the teacher, who makes $50.00 USD per month, has been stepping up and paying the $10 a month cost of drinking water out of her own salary at great sacrifice to her own family. We arranged to pay for the water for the rest of the school year and until we return. KIDS also purchased books, pencils etc to tide them over for a while and provided funding to keep the children equipped with school supplies, uniforms and a snack during their school day.

Benches used for desks
Children sitting on the floor
Our next trip was to another school and boarding house about 2 hours drive outside of Yangon. The school/boarding house takes the oldest child from very poor families in the surrounding countryside and provides room and board and education in hopes that the educated child will be able to assist the family financially in the future. One of the issues at this school was water, in this case the school had a well but the water was very turbid and not good for drinking. We purchased a water filtration system in Yangon and brought it to the boarding house where it will be installed and will take care of the issues surrounding the lack of potable water. They had an interesting room in the boarding house they called the learning corner where kids rotated through the room doing different activities such as art, reading and speaking English to one another. The children are very keen to learn computer skills, as it will help them in the future but the designated computer corner was lacking a computer as they did not have the resources for one. It will not be vacant for long as we have arranged for a computer to be purchased and installed in the computer corner, the children were thrilled. The children study long hours at school and at the boarding house as they know this is a chance of a lifetime. Their life is simple and they sleep on the floor in rows in two separate dormitories, one for girls and one for boys. All their meagre belongings can fit in one small box however they are very happy to learn and are appreciative of the opportunity and support they are receiving.

Below we have copied a hand written motto that is on the wall in the learning corner room. We were impressed with the Boarding House's vision of education.


Learning corner is designed and based on the concept of multiple intelligence, independent learning and catering to the different needs of a child through conversation, reading, writing, listening, thinking, creating and vocabulary building. The aim of the learning corner is to nurture children to become an independent learner

We will fill you in on the rest of the projects in Yangon soon.

All the best and bye for now,

Rick and Adrianne

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Resting and Reflecting

Dear Friends,

We are now here in Bangkok and as a friend put it, we are resting and reflecting. This will be our last update for this year’s trip, as we will soon be winging our way home. We arrived back from Myanmar and did a quick turn around and headed back out to the Tonle Sap Lake as we needed to meet the bamboo seller to pay him. We boarded the boat and again the water level had dropped, each time the trip gets longer (and hotter). We are so impressed with the boat pilots and their knowledge of the waterways. This time we brought some wood, chicken wire and four chickens so we could get the solar powered chicken pilot project up and running. When we arrived the bamboo was in front of the K.I.D.S. School and the teacher and commune chief were there from Steung Trove village, where the bamboo was going. We paid for the bamboo and metal roofing and had a visit before they towed the large rafts of bamboo to their village, a few hours away. They were very happy and grateful to be able to refloat the school. We also brought school supplies for all 75 children, as they did not have anything at the school except a blackboard and chalk.

New chicken coop
We stayed in Moat Kla a couple of nights and built the chicken coop with the Principal and a teacher. We are pleased to report that the chickens happily gorged on the insects that came in droves to the solar powered lights that evening and so it appears that the chicken project will be a success and we can expand it next year.

Laundry tub boat
While on the lake some children from the “neighbourhood” came over to visit, arriving in different forms of floating vessels, including big aluminum laundry basins, which they paddled with their hands; amazing balance these young ones have. On our last day the small kids from across the way were visiting and we asked if they would like our new mosquito net, as we would not need it any more. They said they did not have one, as they could not afford one. We put it in a plastic bag and they rowed it over to their small platform of a house. On the way the little girl kept stopping and calling to her mom and holding the bag up triumphantly, like it was a prized trophy. The mother and father were busy trying to extend their house with whatever scraps of wood they could find. When the mother looked in the bag and saw the net she gave us a huge smile and an even bigger wave…an image that will always stay with us. The mosquito net cost $5.00, so little for us and so much for them.

New computers
Our last days in Siem Reap were spent saying goodbye, picnicking with kids and signing contracts, etc. The night before we left we took pizza over to the girl’s home and the boys from the boy’s home were also there. As we have said before, You Vath, the director of the girl’s home, has managed to keep the boys home running (on a shoestring). Thanks to more donations that came in K.I.D.S. is now able to help support these wonderful boys, they are a great group and really have no one, except You Vath, so how can we not help! We all had a terrific time and we presented both the girl’s and the boys with a computer; one donated by friends and the other we bought…needless to say they were thrilled and the older kids started practicing what they knew right away while the younger children entertained us with their newly acquired English skills by singing us songs, with great gusto.

The work we are involved with here was driven by a great tragedy in our lives. Today is the date of our daughter’s death thirteen years ago. In the beginning we did not know how we would go on without Danielle. So many people have supported us in our loss throughout the years. In our work here we have also met those that have endured great difficulties and tremendous losses themselves. These examples of the resiliency of the human spirit have assisted us greatly to reconstruct our own lives and work together with you in the formation and evolution of K.I.D.S. We cannot thank you enough for your support and compassion in helping K.I.D.S. bring education, healthcare, clean water, relief and hope to children and families in need. We also thank those we work with here, who dedicate their time and energy, year in and year out to improve the lives of others.

With great appreciation,
Adrianne and Rick

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Angkor Hospital for Children and Medical Action Myanmar

Hi Everyone,

We are now at the end of our final week of our time here in Cambodia and it has been busy, so we will try and catch up on what we have been up to. We have partnered with CW Asia Fund (CWAF) from Vancouver on two specific projects; the Angkor Hospital for Children (AHC) here in Cambodian and another NGO called Medical Action Myanmar (MAM) which works in a slum area on the outskirts of Yangon in Myanmar. Nina and John Cassils have been working for years in Myanmar and provide wonderful support for numerous projects there as well as here in Cambodia. They recently did a fundraiser and we partnered with them to deliver funds to these two very worthy projects.

On March 1st we flew from Cambodia to Myanmar, formerly known as Burma, to the capital city of Yangon to meet the director Dr. Frank Smithuis and staff of M.A.M. Dr. Frank came from Holland to S.E.Asia in the early 90's as a newly graduated medical student and has been here ever since; first working in the refugee camps, after the genocide in Cambodia and then moving to work in Myanmar for the past 13 or so years. We had not been inside Myanmar since 2003 and were looking forward to returning to see if the change of government and the release of Aung San Su Kyi, "The Lady" as they call her, had resulted in any changes in the country. Upon arrival it was not difficult to sense the feeling of freedom that had replaced the hushed conversations of democracy from ten years ago and previously banned photos of the Su Kyi were now everywhere. There was also a very visible change in the condition of vehicles and many shops selling the latest electronics to those that have the means, although as usual the new found prosperity is only a veneer for the reality of the majority. After making contact with Dr. Frank we took a taxi out to the clinic in the township where they operate, ouside of Yangon. The clinic serves approximately 300 patients a day and assists a very poor community populated by people displaced by development projects, land grabs and hurricane Nargis.

Dr. Frank and Dr Ni Ni Tunn head up a valiant effort to serve these displaced children and families with a lot of their efforts focused on HIV/Aids, TB and women's health issues for women who are forced into the sex trade by poverty. We were very impressed with Dr. Ni Ni and her team, she is one of the leading experts on HIV/AIDS in the whole country. With the funds donated through CWAF and K.I.D.S. funding we were able to assist the clinic with support for several doctors, nurses, lab technicians and outreach workers. The reception area was packed with people and for them MAM is their only hope for medical assistance, as the state system is poor to non existent. MAM is a project that eases much suffering, misery and without a doubt saves lives.

While visiting the city we were referred by our friend John Beeching, who has worked tirelessly for the people of Burma for decades, helping to support both education and easing suffering. He told us about a small school that he and Nina and John Cassils were supporting in another very poor area of the city. The free school offers education to children ages 5 to 12 and provides them with a hot lunch program and hope for a better future. KIDS was able to support the new school year with uniforms, school supplies and bookshelves.

The Angkor Hospital for Children (AHC) in Siem Reap is another amazing place. This year marks our tenth year of working with them. During the Pol Pot years, educated people were targeted for extermination and after four years of terror only 17 doctors remained in the country with no infrastructure to serve the remaining 4 million people left alive. Since AHC opened 13 years ago it has served thousands and thousands of children as well as providing training for new Doctors and Nurses. As a teaching hospital they are steadily restocking the country with doctors, nurses, radiologists and the many other specialists that are needed. They serve 400 to 500 children on a daily basis free of charge for service and prescriptions. Again with the partnership of CW Asia fund KIDS was able to support many positions and testing procedures to ease the suffering of sick children.

We are always moved but the dedication of those that choose to provide healthcare, with little or no support from the government. they all work very hard raising funds, increasing survival rates and easing the suffering of those that have no means for treatment, it is a privileged to meet these impressive and inspiring people.

We are heading to Bangkok for a six day rest and holiday before flying home and will send our last post from there.

All the best to you and yours,
Rick and Adrianne

Monday, March 4, 2013

Water Towers & Rice Mountain

Dear Friends,

We hope this finds you all well.

Water Tower
The two solar powered water projects and rice bank are now finished and together with the community we celebrated these great assets for their schools and villages on February 24th and 25th. The community men pitched in to build the rice bank on a volunteer basis. The water projects went very well, the builders were committed to doing a good job and both projects were done in a timely manner and on budget. We had one hitch in that we had to drill three holes at Kauk Chrey until the drillers were satisfied that the water supply would be adequate.

Clear, Clean Water
The celebration was amazing. The community came out in full force (hundreds of people). There were many moving speeches and many thanks given to everyone who contributed to the two water towers and rice bank. The commune chiefs, village chiefs and the head of the district education committee thanked Compassionate Eye Foundation for funding the Kauk Chrey School water tower and they thanked K.I.D.S. donors for funding the rice bank at Kauk Chrey and water tower at Kchey School. They asked us to pass along their wishes for a long life, good health and many blessings to you all. We thanked those who contributed to the water projects and rice bank and talked about the wonderful community of supporters K.I.D.S. has in Canada and afar.

boiling pots
After the speeches there was a huge dinner with Khmer noodles and curry for everyone. The tents were up and the pots were boiling. We had a rest at a friend’s house in the early evening and then we all (22 of us) loaded into the back of a dump truck and went to the evening celebration. It was like being a kid, riding in the back of the truck with the full moon shining brightly as we bumped along the country road ducking under trees and hanging on. When we got to the school they had a big screen (sheet) with movies for the kids and in another area there was dancing for the adults. We danced Khmer style in a circle for an hour or so and a great time was had by all.

Blessing by the monks
The next morning we went to the blessing by the monks, with a smaller group of officials, elders and community members. They had a white thread tying together the water tower, rice bank and the platform where the monks were, so everything was connected. We sat with the dignitaries and elders in front of the monks while they blessed the water towers, rice bank and all those that helped to improve the lives of children and families in this area. After the initial blessing we and the community members lined up to put a spoonful of cooked rice into each monk’s bowl as well as one other bowl, made of banana leaf, that represented the ancestors and mother nature; this would be buried and go back to the earth. Once this ritual was finished we went back and gave the monks the rice bowls and all had another simple meal together.

Rice Delivery
Throughout the two day celebration the villagers kept streaming in with their contributions to the rice bank, a few coming on motorcycles, but most pushing a bicycle loaded with sacks of rice and many more walking in with sacks or baskets on their heads. The amounts were weighed and registered; some brought huge sacks and others, who were very poor, brought little more than a few handfuls but all wanted to be a part of this community effort and gave what they could. They put it together in a pile to make a “rice mountain”, that by the end of the event weighed 3,337 kilograms. K.I.D.S provides a food program for 50 of the most 
Rice Mountain
desperate children at this school so the rice will help to feed the children at the school between rice harvests. The community will continue to contribute at harvest times to keep the rice bank stocked in the future. If some of the villagers have a bad harvest they can borrow rice and pay back with rice and if they cannot pay back they can have it...so no one will be starving; it was inspiring to see this kind of community effort and generosity from those who have so little. During the ceremony many villagers made a circle around the rice mountain and passed candles around the rice 7 times to honour and bless the food that sustains them.

Fresh water
We have had a lot of experience in Cambodia and have felt very good about many projects and the benefits to the communities we have worked in. This project, in this particular community, will also have a major impact. We had written earlier in our blogs that as the weeks pass and we get deeper and deeper into the dry season, the ponds, ditches and residential wells have all but dried up and the search for water becomes a consuming task for children and families. The basic need for water for the children and their families at Kauk Chrey and Kchey school communities has now been met in a way that they could only have dreamed about before. The water is filtered three times and runs through a UV light and comes out as clear and clean as water at home. It was great to watch the constant coming and going to the water station as the children and people drank, filled their water bottles, containers and washed faces and hands.

We are now in Myanmar for a week and will return to Cambodia on March 11th.

In Friendship,

Adrianne and Rick

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Solar Powered Chickens

Hello All,

We have just returned from five days on the Tonle Sap Lake where we installed a solar system on the school that K.I.D.S. built 2 years ago. Last year when we visited the school the teachers asked if we could provide a solar system, as the hot and humid conditions on the lake made it difficult for the children during the day and fans would do a lot to raise the comfort level in the classrooms. We also thought that they could hold evening classes for children as well (more on that later). We did not have the resources at that time to provide the solar system but instead purchased a generator, fans , lights and wire. The mothers in the community offered to provide fuel for the generator with the promise that we would try to find funds for a solar system to alleviate the cost of fuel, fumes and noise in the school. After returning home last March we applied to the Compassionate Eye Foundation in Vancouver for funding of the solar system and they very kindly agreed.

Getting out to the village is always a bit of an adventure and a 3 to 4 hour boat ride depending on water levels, which at this time of year are dropping quickly. We needed a boat big enough to carry the six men from the solar team, the two of us, the boat driver and deck hand, two Italian photographers (another story) and the solar panels, batteries, tools, food and a load of school supplies. After loading a truck, van and a car we all met at the stilted village of Kompong Kleang. There we loaded all of the above mentioned across a rather precarious and rickety narrow plank gangway, over some very evil looking water and mud below and onto the boat and got underway. As we said before, the lake at this time of year is dropping quickly and the whole lake averages only about a meter in depth right now. Proceeding down the channel we quickly started ploughing the soft mud bottom for several kilometres till we made it out to the relatively deeper water of the lake.

Installing the Solar Panel
Upon arriving at the village and school, about midday, the solar team quickly set to work installing the system. The installation went very well and the fans and lights were soon doing what they were designed to do. We had a celebratory meal that evening on the clinic and toasted a successful mission, the Compassionate Eye Foundation. In the morning we sent the solar team, photographers and boat back to the land. We stayed behind to do some work on the Moat Kla Clinic. With the help of the teachers and principal we also extended the roof on the front of the school a meter and a half to prevent the rain from flooding the hull supporting the school. The overhang will give the children a place to stay dry outside in the rainy season.

Extending the Roof
The next day when we were at the school we discussed having evening classes to supplement the daytime studies of the children, now that there was lighting. The teachers agreed and told us to return in the evening and see the classes in action. Some of you may recall that when we delivered the Stung Sen Clinic last year there were a lot of insects hovering around the lights at night but it was liveable. As we approached the school by boat the lights both in out of the classrooms were blazing brightly; however the air was thick with a biblical invasion of flying beetles, moths and other insects...and we thought the Stung Sen was bad. Walking along the walkway on the front of the school the bugs were in our hair, eyes and down our shirts in seconds. In the classrooms the children sat, some with their books over their heads, trying to ward off the pests and looking at the teacher bravely instructing them through the swarming cloud. We quickly realized that we had misjudged the situation and that without the current, like on the Stung Sen river, the insects on the lake were much worse. We decided that perhaps extra classes could be held before dark, much to our relief and theirs. We had misjudged the elements of the lake.

In the past we had thoughts about finding ways to improve the diet of the children on the lake which consists mostly of fish, fish and more fish. An idea popped into our heads and we thought that one or two light bulbs in a chicken pen would attract enough insects to feed them in a natural and organic way and provide food for the children that they normally do not have available. As an added bonus to the project a solar powered chicken farm is in the works. The teachers were very enthusiastic about this idea and we will work on implementing it. We felt really disappointed about not being able to hold evening classes but sometimes things do not go exactly as planned, so as the saying goes when given lemons, make lemonade. The other bonus of the solar system is that the three teachers, who live on a wooden platform next to the school, will be able to use softer lights in their mosquito nets to do lesson plans in the evening as well as mark papers, so everyone is happy.

Grounded School
The day before we were leaving the principal asked us if we could go to look at another small school in a neighbouring village. The school had lost its buoyancy because the bamboo floatation was old and waterlogged. We arrived in the village where the small 10 by 6 meter school sat on an angle on the shore grounded by the receding lake level and looking more like a shipwreck than a school. In a couple of months when the flood season arrives and the lake starts to rise the school would not rise with it and another 80 children would not have the chance to be educated and perhaps change their lives or make a difference in our world. The school also was in dire need of a new tin roof. So we have arranged to stop the influx of water from both above and below the school and will oversee the delivery of the new roofing and new bamboo floatation in a few weeks. The commune chief, teachers and families were very grateful that their children could continue to get an education.

Paddling children get cookies and books
We spent five days on the lake and it is truly another world. During the day while we work some children paddle over to visit and play, we gave them a few cookies and story books to take home which is a big hit. We watch the comings and goings from the relative comfort of the clinic while surrounded by a community in an epic struggle to survive. Though there is a little prosperity it is paper thin and most of the population barely scrapes by. It is really life at it's most basic level where all family members must pitch in together to exist; they really are one with the environment and manage to endure it's harshness. It is humbling to watch this fine balance and be surrounded by it and also very difficult to witness such poverty. The children are small and thin and when they are not in school have to work to help their families by sorting or cleaning fish in the heat and humidity. Tiny toddlers sit on boats surrounded by fish for hours at a time while their mother's work. Besides The Lake Clinic no one comes out there to offer a helping hand, as it is such an isolated and difficult area to get to. Together we are all working to assist these families by providing schools, clinics, fans, flotation, and solar powered chickens. The children on the lake will be healthier, more educated and much happier thanks to your support.

All the best to you and yours.

Rick and Adrianne

Saturday, February 9, 2013

On the road with K.I.D.S.

Dear Friends,

K.I.D.S. supports 11 young people with their education

We have just returned from eight days on the road and visited a number of projects and people that K.I.D.S supports. Our first stop was Takhmau, just outside Phnom Penh, where K.I.D.S. supports 11 young people with their education; 4 are in high school and 7 in university. They are a really delightful bunch who have been vetted by Sinat (the wonderful man who oversees the program) by a criteria of ambition, commitment and sadly poverty. This year we purchased two laptops to add to the PC purchased the year before last as all the older students need access to computers for school. We also met with Sen, who was the first K.I.D.S. graduate from university. After graduating Sen was an English teacher, is now happily married and runs her own business in the form of a dance school for both foreigners and Khmers. There are several others who have moved on and are now working and or married and helping their families. So far this program has been very successful thanks to Sinat's supervision and encouragement. For those of you who have been here you know that sometimes the heat, dust, bumpy rutted roads and sad sights can be a bit of a struggle at times. However there are the profound rewards that make it all worthwhile. As we were leaving our meeting with the students, a young woman named Veasna, who is studying accounting, linked arms with us looked into our eyes and said "thank you for my future". These are the moments that lift the spirit, erase the bug bites, food poisoning and long hours tending to K.I.D.S. and make it worthwhile. Our work together with you, without a doubt, has changed futures of many children and young adults this year and in the past.
Our next stop was Stung Treng, where we connected with the Stung Treng Women's Weaving Development Center. This project is one of our favourites, it is so well run, very progressive and heads above other programs in terms of worker benefits. They provide maternity and bereavement leave, employee incentives, stat holidays, on site daycare and lunch program for both the children and the women weavers. This year they just implemented workers' compensation complete with death benefits so they continue to maintain and move forward; being miles ahead of the private sector and light years ahead of any government jobs. It is one of the largest employers of women in the province.

New mother's and children centre
This year the Weaving Centre, in partnership with a UK NGO, finished building a new mother's and children centre. Destitute and victimized mothers and children can come and live in a safe environment where the mothers learn new skills to get their lives back on track while their children attend school, many for the first time. We were able to bring lots of educational supplies, toys, and training equipment for the new centre. We are implementing an agricultural training program where the women will create and maintain a community garden for the centre. K.I.D.S will also fund stipends for the mothers to learn to weave. The concept of keeping mothers and their children together is one we fully support, as many times in this country families are torn about by poverty as often mothers cannot afford to feed their children. We are pleased to be involved in this innovative new program.

K.I.D.S. continues to fully support the Srey Po Village free school by providing: salaries for the Weaving Cooperative kindergarten teachers, support a lunch program for weavers and children as well as school supplies and clothing for a clothing bank. K.I.D.S. is also supporting about 65 poor community children to attend government elementary and high schools.

Weaving Centre - on site kindergarten
We met with the teachers from both the weaving centre on site kindergarten and the Srey Po free school. The five teachers are a really terrific group of women who are committed to teaching and caring for the children. There are older children who attend the school, however, the program is now focusing mostly on the preschool and kindergarten levels to get the children off to a good start. Chan, the Director of the Women's Weaving Training and 

Young boy who recently lost both his parents  
Development program, and the teachers were telling us that once the children leave Srey Po School to go to the mainstream government school they are doing much better than the other children as they have had good nutrition and are well on the way to reading and writing. The children are ahead of their peers and are often the top one to five in their classes due to their head start. The children at Srey Po were very happy and full of life except for one little five year old boy who stood against the wall, very sad looking. When we asked about him the teacher told us that both his parents died in the past three months, his aunt took him in however she breaks rock in a quarry somewhere in the forest and has to haul him along, this makes it very difficult for the boy and heartbreaking to see his traumatized little face, thank goodness he at least has the school to support and feed him. The staff are looking to find a solution to his situation.

On our last day we decided to go on a boat trip down the Mekong with the teachers and Chan; as we often don't get to do much but meet with the teachers, kids, parents and sign contracts. We travelled by boat for hours and saw the rare Irrawaddy dolphins and visited a beautiful waterfall. We had lunch by the side of the river and all took in the beauty of life along this amazing waterway. Although the boat seats were wooden and hard and the hike up to the waterfalls rather gruelling in the heat of the day the teaches were smiling ear to ear. In all their time living next to the Mekong they had never had the opportunity to have such an experience. We watched the sun set and then had a great dinner at the Weaving Centre together. The teachers and the director toasted K.I.D.S. and all our supporters and we celebrated this great partnership.

All the best to you and yours,
Adrianne and Rick

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Big Projects & Family Support

Hello Everyone,

Planting Seeds and Seedlings
We are keeping busy here working on several fronts in the city, the countryside and out on the lake. The water projects at the two schools are coming along nicely and will be completed in about three weeks time. We recently went out to the schools in the countryside to check on the progress of the water projects. Our experience out at the schools is always very pleasant and gratifying and this time was no different. In our first post, we wrote and posted photos of the plowing and preparing of the field for the planting of the seeds. When we arrived, the children and community members were waiting for us with many packets of seeds and seedlings. We were soon all working together and made short work of the task. We planted cucumbers, melons, tomatoes and several other types of local greens. When we finished it was time for the children to sit and eat the warm corn cobs we brought as a treat and a good time was had by all.

Water Tower 
The rice bank, which is almost complete, looks fantastic and the water tower and filtration system are really coming along nicely. On our way out to the schools we noticed that all the standing water and small ponds that were beside the road and in the fields, have mostly dried up and water will become more and more scarce in the weeks to come, so the completion of the water projects will be very timely.

At lunch time we went into the small thatched classroom and met with the teachers, school administrators, village chief and several other community members that volunteer to help their children. Over the lunch we spoke of how together we are transforming these schools, strengthening the community and changing the future for their children. We talked about their lives and how the genocide had taken so much from them; their loved ones, their children and the opportunity to have an education; as they were just trying to survive during and after the Khmere Rouge, the education system was destroyed. We asked them if they would like to have adult literacy courses in the evening, as the water system being powered by solar will have enough power to light the classrooms. They were very excited about this possibility. It was moving to see their faces and eyes light up, especially the women who would've had even less of a chance for an education than the boys. Over the past few years, the school has become the hub of the community and for many children it is a safe haven. Little by little the school now has - a hot lunch program, fencing, gardens, clean water, a rice bank and school supplies, this is all made possible by your generosity and support, so we pass on their heartfelt thanks. We are looking forward to the celebration that the two schools have planned to dedicate the water systems and the rice bank.

In our day to day lives here we meet some very hard working people and families, below are a few of their stories and how K.I.D.S. helps:

There is a small family who lives on our street; Sompea sews and her mother does hand washing, they live together with Sompea's little girl Srey Moa who is five. They work all day long from dawn to late in the evening most every day of the week so they can educate and clothe their daughter and granddaughter. They live in the shop/house which is one very small room. Every day we walk past, they smile, chat, laugh and never complain. We have helped them in the past with a new sewing machine and this year K.I.D.S. has sponsored the little girl for a years worth of tuition at a better school. The family is thrilled and it is great to see the little one go off to school in her uniform...she is teaching her Mom English.

Vanna, a man who lost both of his arms below the elbow to a landmine, refuses to beg for a living; as many disabled people are forced to do. He stands by the side of the road day in and day out and sells books out of a small cart while his wife does washing. They have two young daughters that we will sponsor for another year of education.

Our regular tuk tuk (small passenger trailer that is pulled by a motorcycle) driver for the past 4 years, whom we have gone on many missions with, has been saving to replace his motorcycle that has been held together most tenuously. This year on our arrival, the motorcycle was in very sorry condition. He had saved a fair bit towards a new bike, but it was easy to see that the machine was deteriorating faster than the savings were accumulating. K.I.D.S. topped up his savings and he is now the very proud owner of a much newer bike that will allow him to continue to support his wife and two small kids for years to come. His wife was going to use the old motorcycle to get to the market and take the kids to school, but it breathed it's last gasp a week after it was retired, so its replacement was timely. The family insisted we have lunch with them at their home; as we sat on the floor of their one room flat, which only had two mattresses, also on the floor. We talked, ate and had some laughs and they asked us to pass on their thanks.

Sopeak the girl (now young woman) that K.I.D.S. supports for education, who has the hearing problems, will graduate from Grade 12 in a couple of months. We went to their house in the countryside to visit and have lunch. She is doing very well with her English. Her family works very hard and are very poor. They are also incredibly kind to us and do their best to keep enough food on the table for the seven of them. A few years ago Sopeak had the opportunity to learn to sew with an organization and last year proudly showed us several shirts that she had made for herself and family members, however, her family could not afford a treadle sewing machine. With funds donated we went out and bought her one and some material to make some clothes. Sopeak was very happy and said the first shirt she would make would be for her father as he works so hard.

Crocodile Farm
We have much more to tell, but will wait for a later time. On a closing note, at home we sometimes think that our lives may be a bit regulated and rule bound and these restrictions may infringe on our freedoms, however, here in Camobodia, a few more rules would be useful it seems. We live in a quiet neighbourhood here in Siem Reap, children play in the streets and families go about their business. Due to the lack of rules and bylaws one of our neighbours, a few doors down, has decided to supplement their income with a crocodile farm...no questions asked. Two years ago, there was serious flooding here in Siem Reap, which over ran several of these farms, scattering the inventory. Maybe a few rules are a good thing.

All the best,
Adrianne and Rick

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Water, Classroom and Shoes

Dear Friends,

On the water
We wish you all much happiness and good health for the New Year. Our new year began on the Tonle Sap Lake, where we spent four days assisting The Lake Clinic with another new floating clinic; as well as meeting with the school staff to discuss the solar system we will be providing for the school. The solar system will enable the children to study at night. We are also going to build wider overhangs for the roof of the school so that during the rainy season the children will have a place to stand outside without getting wet and the water will not run into the classrooms and hulls. Spending a few days on the lake is both interesting as well as somewhat devastating. To be poor on land is one thing, but to be poor on the water brings many more challenges. There is not electricity, lots of bugs, no land to grow vegetables and gasoline is more expensive than at home. Most people fish and sell fish, their day begins at 3:30 am and the average wage is about 75 cents a day. Every one moves around from floating platform to floating platform and children can paddle a boat by the age of 5. School is the highlight of the children's life. The school is a place where they meet, learn, play and keep their minds active. The K.I.D.S. school is doing well and a very positive place. We returned to Siem Reap with a list of what we will need to complete the work on the school, another logistical challenge will be how to get it out there.

New Classroom
We also visited our friend Kerry, who has moved on from New Hope and started another school in a very poor area of the city. Kerry, who is Australian and her partner Kenneth, from Nigeria, have dedicated many years to improveing the lives of children here. They opened the free english and computer training school in November for 250 children and now have over 500... build it and they will come (in droves). As Siem Reap is based on tourism, english is very much needed to get work here and so the earlier children learn english the better hope they have in the future, however, most english classes are too costly for poor families to afford. The school offers a chance for the children here in the city. Kerry did not have enough classrooms so K.I.D.S. was able to build an outdoor classroom on the property; both students and teachers welcomed the airy space.

New Shoes
In the coutryside, work has begun on the water towers. Thanks to donations, we are now able to provide water towers at two village schools and everyone is very excited. The children in this area walk and ride bikes many kilometers on dusty red roads; having water available to clean themselves and to drink will make a world of difference. K.I.D.S. also contributed to a rice bank for one school, which is now almost completed. The community of rice farmers will contribute to the rice bank and very poor families will be able to borrow from the bank when times are too tough to feed their families. The rice bank will also contribute to the lunch program, which K.I.D.S. provides for the school. When we vistied some of the men from the community were volunteering to build the structure; wonderful to see. Last year one of the schools from our community raised money for the schools we are working with here. It just so happens that the principal and her husband were here visiting with two other friends/donors of ours. We were all able to go out and deliver some shoes and other school supplies for two of the schools. Most of the children did not have shoes and were very excited to get a brand new pair of flip-flops, it was both sad and heartwarming to see them as they crowded around to get their new shoes, some wearing them right away and some holding them dearly to their chests as they walked home.

In closing we would like to thank you for your warm new years wishes and for your generosity.

All the best,

Adrianne and Rick