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