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 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