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