Monday, December 29, 2014

New School, New Year

Hello Everyone,

Hope you all had a good Christmas. We were up in the north east where KIDS is involved with the Stung Treng Women's Development Center (SWDC). They produce high quality silk scarves and fabric. At SWDC the weavers make a good living wage in pleasant working conditions and can also bring their children to the onsite daycare/preschool that KIDS provides funding for.

We also built and fully fund a pre school for 2 to 5 year olds in the village behind SWDC. We built the school 7 years ago. It is a wooden building and has served its purpose well. In the compound of SWDC the Allen Foundation, from the UK, recently completed an addition to the original small onsite daycare. It is a much larger and brighter building with two classrooms and a large open area in between the classrooms as well as a covered playground out front. As we support the two teachers at the SWDC school and three at Srey Poh, we have decided to close Srey Poh School and move all the children, teachers and resources into the SWDC on site school.  The village school is only a five-minute walk from SWDC so it is not a far distance for the children to attend the new building.

 When we built Srey Poh School we had the piece of land donated by a family and in exchange KIDS built them a new wooden house, as they all lived in a small shack covered with rice sacks and tarps. We also built five wells for the community. Some of their land was given to Srey Poh School on the condition that it would be used for the benefit of the community. So we have donated the land and building back to the community and it will have several possible uses including: a library, community education and training center and a venue for weddings, funerals and community events. The assistant Governor of the area thanked KIDS for our donation and all the parents are happy to see their children attend the new school, which is much more secure. The teachers will be able to share resources and work together as a team. They are all doing a terrific job and when the children go on to primary school they are both well behaved and very well prepared for learning and are often the top of their class. The teachers work hard to teach a holistic curriculum including: social skills, cultural awareness, hygiene, creative play, and of course reading, writing and math. KIDS provides the children with a great meal every day with all the food groups and one healthy snack so they are thriving. As well SWDC now runs a health clinic funded by Kindred Hearts Canada and so all the children receive free healthcare. Children that came to the school with health, nutritional and failure to thrive issues are now singing, dancing and are is wonderful to witness the difference.

As this New Year begins, the children have a new school, the community has a new community centre and each child has a new and improved opportunity for a healthier and happier future.

We wish you all a happy, healthy and meaningful new year!

With appreciation,

Rick and Adrianne

Monday, December 22, 2014

Compassion and Gratitude

Dear Friends,

As we head into the holiday season it is often a time for celebration and reflection. We were thinking about two words that represent how we are feeling at this time of year and the words that come to mind are Compassion and Gratitude.

Working here in Cambodia and being able to provide basic needs and opportunities for children, youth and families has been made possible through your spirit of generosity and compassion. We are always deeply moved by the support K.I.D.S. receives from so many.

We were recently e-mailed a copy of a letter to Santa from Sumalee, the daughter of one of K.I.D.S board members. As you will read she has already developed a compassionate spirit at the young age of five.

At almost the same time we were handed a letter from Pai Sue, a young boy of 12. K.I.D.S has been supporting his education for several years. He lives at home with his family, in a small thatched hut with very few possessions. Pai Sue goes to both Khmer and English school. In the afternoon between classes he toils in the brick factory to help his family. He gave us a small package with four lotus flowers in it. His beautiful analogy of how everyone's support is changing his life is below, he wanted us to pass on his gratitude. We transcribed the letter as we could not get a good photo of it as his writing is very small.
Thank you for your support to me. I don't have nothing for you
       but I have studied hard. This monthly exam is class five. When
       you don't support me I was like a lotus and don't come out of
       the water. When you support me I can now read, write and spell.
       I am like lotus coming out of the water and see the sun, forever
      today. I am like lotus come out of the water and will become a real 
      lotus. I can hope to find a good job in my future.

      Best wishes,
      Pai Seu

Pai Seu's Gift - Four steps of growth of the lotus flower, from bud to mature pod
At this time in the world, when often there is so much sad and unsettling news, it is good to hear how the children are still hopeful. Thanks for supporting them

Wishing you and yours a meaningful and peacefull holiday season.

Adrianne and Rick

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Computer Lab

Dear Friends,

We hope all is well with you and yours and that you are getting ready to spend time with friends and family over the holiday season.

As you may recall from last year we renovated and set up a computer lab at Sasardam High School, which is the main high school serving many rural primary schools. We only had enough funds to renovate the classroom and purchase ten used computers. The class started and the kids and teachers were thrilled to have access to computers and learn the basics. As this high school has about 800 students learning computers will help them to either get into University or get a job once they graduate.

When we came back this year we went out to the school and visited the computer class. Behind each computer sat four enthusiastic students however as we all know using computers is not really a group experience, especially when learning to type! The school had also found the funds to hire a half
​​time trained IT teacher who recently graduated with his degree so this was more good news. We were pleased to tell the teacher, principal and students that thanks to donations received through KIDS we are able to now provide them with the rest of the computers, a screen, projector and increase the teacher's salary so he can work full time.

Today we loaded up a van with the 14 computers, a screen, projector, monitors and other equipment and took them out to the school. When we arrived the principal, computer teacher and several other teachers, along with some students were waiting for us. We thought that we would unload take a few photos and be on our way and they could set up the equipment the next day. The staff and students immediately set to unloading the gear and setting it up. Within an hour the 14 computers, projector and screen were hooked up and functioning and the class was full of students typing away.

Now the school has a fully functioning computer lab where every week hundreds of students will be able to take classes. Thanks to your generosity you have not only made these students extremely happy you have improved their knowledge and increased their chances for a much better future.

The students thank you very much for your support, they put their hands together in the "Sampea" which is a gesture of thanks and a greeting here in Cambodia.  The teachers also thank you for supporting them in the education of their children.

All the best,
Adrianne and Rick

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Hello Everyone,

We hope all is well with you and yours. We are now back in Cambodia. We took a few days to catch up on some rest and have been connecting with our contacts here in Siem Reap and have the ball rolling for most of the projects that we will be working on this year.

Dance performance "Wishing Dance" for good luck
Our first connection was with Samnang House, home for girls. Before we arrived we received an email from the director, You Vath, saying that the number of girls had increased from 14 to 22. We were a little concerned how this would work with space and costs. When we pulled up to the gates all the girls came pouring out to meet and hug us. Of all the places that we work this is the one that really has our hearts engaged the most. We have been involved with many of these girls from before we opened the girl's home eight years ago as we worked with them at the street children's shelter where they lived. We sat and caught up with everyone about how they were doing at school and at home. More and more every year their english skills improve as they move on through their different levels of education. Their commitment to improving their lives is inspiring and they work very hard. From two years to twenty years old these kids have formed a caring and tight knit family and are very inclusive of one another, even the new children. Later in the day the older girls put on a dance performance for us with a "wishing dance" for good luck. Part of the program at Samnang house is to keep the children engaged in their cultural hertage.
The next day we returned to meet with You Vath to discuss the business end of running Samnang House. As always there are bikes to repair or replace as they are driven rain or shine, seven days a week and time takes it toll on them; so we will repair some and condemn others. There are issues with water at the house that will be looked at but in general all is going smoothly.

Then we discussed the eight new girls that had recently arrived. We asked with trepidation how they came to be here, as we know from past experience that their stories are the furthest thing from fairytale lives one could imagine. They had come from a variety of very extreme situations, facing poverty, abandonment, abuse from family members, or no access to education in rural areas.

Beautiful faces of some of the girls
Two of the children had been sold and were destined to be trafficked over the border to Thailand, to face a hellish life that one can only imagine. As luck was on their side word reached You Vath and the wheels were put in motion. The police intervened with the transaction in another province and the children were rescued and brought to Samnang House. The two have now settled in and you would never know from their smiles and demeanor the difficult road they have travelled to be here. They are still quiet and a bit underweight however You Vath and the others are helping heal their emotional wounds and they are coming out of their shells.

A new life at Samnang House
So the safety net that K.I.D.S provides, thanks to your support, is bulging a little bit at Samnang House however as the kids compassionately make concessions in their living space to support the new children we will make adjustments in budgets and allocations to support them and keep them safe.

All the Best        
Til Next Time     
Adrianne and Rick  

Sunday, August 24, 2014

K.I.D.S. Summer Update

Hi All,

We hope you have been having a great summer.

79 children get bikes for school
In Cambodia, it is back to school time and many children cannot go to school as they cannot afford a simple, standard $40.00 bicycle. With funds generously donated, we recently provided bikes for 79 children and youth so they can travel the long distances needed to get to school. Our Cambodian friend Kim made sure the bikes got to the most needy students. Kim is a wonderful man we work with, he is a teacher and volunteers his time to support education for poor rural kids. The students were thrilled to be able to pursue their dream of furthering their education and families were also extremely appreciative.

New bikes for students

We also heard that the young people we support with English lessons, Cambodian school tuituion and other school support have all passed their year.

The computer lab continues to be a great asset to the high school students and the teachers. We are hoping to provide the school with 15 more this year so they can rotate many more students through this class.

Wishing you and yours all the best,
Adrianne and Rick

Tuesday, March 25, 2014

For the Love of Reading

Hello Everyone,

We are now in Bangkok and head home on Friday. We have a few more updates about water projects and the computer lab however we will focus this e-mail on the new library and send more on the other projects once we are home.

This trip we have been working closely with Kauk Chrey School, where last year we put in a clean drinking water system and rice bank. Since first coming to this school a few years ago it has been our goal to help make the school the hub of the community and a safe, clean and progressive place for children to learn. Over the years K.I.D.S has provided: a meal program for the most needy children, fencing to keep the animals out, shoes and uniforms, exercise books, gardens and bicycles. This year we have also left a monthly stipend for two teachers to start introducing english to the children.

One issue that many schools in the countryside face is the lack of reading material. We have seen libraries at other schools and observed the children keenly reading lesson books and storybooks. For schools that do not have libraries the only reading that children do is what the teacher writes on the black board or what the children write on their chalkboard tablets or in their notebooks.

New library for Kauk Chrey school
This year we received the resources to build a library for the school at Kauk Chrey.We started the construction in early January and the building was just completed. We hired a very good team of builders and also some local villagers to work on this project. The result is a beautiful, airy building with large windows to let the light in, high ceilings to let the tropical heat rise and cool tile flooring to sit on.

Children cleaning up around new library
The paint was barely dry and the books were still on order when we visited the school on Friday. When we arrived some of the children were busy cleaning up around their new library.

New Khmer /English picture dictionaries
We brought some Khmer/English picture dictionaries with us. It was not hard to see the enthusiasm the children had to get their hands on the books. We entered the library with a group of children and they quietly watched us put the picture dictionaries on the shelves. When they were told that they could look if they wanted the books were quickly whisked off the shelves and poured over eagerly by groups of children. For these children, who work so hard to get to school and to learn, having a clean, cool, open space where they can go to read and relax is a huge gift.

"Oh, for a nook and a story-book,
With tales both new and old;

For a jolly good book whereon to look,
Is better to me than gold."

We are now taking a few days to rest and get ready for the long trek home. Though we look forward to seeing friends and loved ones back home it is also difficult to say goodbye to our many friends and children who have become like family here. We have immense respect and admiration for those we work with in Cambodia and Myanmar. Their tireless commitment to improving the lives of children is outstanding and their ability to face so many losses and challenges with courage and compassion continues to be an example for us.

All the best to you and yours,

Til next time,

Adrianne and Rick

Monday, March 17, 2014

Funding Families

Dear Friends,

We are nearing the end our trip and working on quite a long list of things to wrap up before we head home. In this email we thought we would share some small but significant stories about individuals and their families that K.I.D.S. has been able to support.

For the past several years we have had a regular tuk tuk driver here in Siem Reap. Vireak has taken us on many trips, near and far, in our work with KIDS. His tuk tuk was a little worse for wear due to these excursions and his motorcycle, that pulled the tuk tuk, was in very sorry condition. Vereak has been a freelance independent driver standing by here and there waiting for customers on the side of the road, barely making enough to feed his wife and two small children. When drivers are taken on by a major hotel or guesthouse they get a steady stream of customers however it is difficult if you are not connected to one of these establishments. Last year KIDS purchased a used motorcycle for Vireak and had his tuk tuk repainted. With his shiny new rig he was taken on as a driver for the Park Hyatt Hotel. Today Vireak is really busy (too busy for us) as he is booked every day from dawn till dark. He has a regular income and life has taken a big turn for the better. Whenever we see him drive by with customers he gives us a smile and a big wave that is good!

So this year we found a new driver another independent, with a rented tuk, tuk. Sam spends 12 to 14 hours a day waiting for customers on the street. He recently moved here to try and make a living. Their family is so poor that he and his wife had to send their 7 year old son to live in an orphanage/boarding house as they could not afford to educate him; they missed him a great deal and so did his little four year old brother. Sam is incredibly hard working, learning english on his own and trying to get ahead. We have now sponsored the education of his son and last week his parents brought him home to be reunited with his little brother. The other evening we met Sam, his wife and the two boys, we asked the boy if he was happy to be home he burst into a big smile and said, “ Sabai, cheran, cheran”…(Yes, Happy.. very, very) a touching moment!

Narin, Sokpea and Srey Mao
Down the street from our apartment there is a family of women; a grandmother named Narin, her daughter Sokpea and 7 year old granddaughter Srey Mao. Over the past 6 years, as we walk to and fro on our street, we pass their home/shop. We see Narin doing laundry by hand, Sokpea sewing wedding dresses and Srey Mao going to and coming from school. Every morning they greet us warmly and are a great start to our day. They used to live further up the street in a tiny, tiny room that was their shop, living room and kitchen. Unfortunately every year for about a month they had to move all their personal belongings and their old sewing machine up on chairs, blocks or anything that they could get their hands on to raise things above the level of the annual flooding of the Siem Reap River. A couple of years ago we purchased the family a new sewing machine and brought Sokpea some good quality scissors from home. Last year KIDS sponsored Srey Mao for english classes to ease some of the financial burden on the family. With the help of the new sewing machine and the sponsorship of Srey Mao they have been able to build up their laundry and sewing business. They have moved a little further up the street into a slightly larger and more expensive room, $40 as opposed to $35 a month. Though their house and shop is still small they are on higher ground and no longer have their lives and incomes interrupted by flooding. They work very hard however they are happy and never complain. They are strong, independent women who have faced incredible challenges and heartbreak and are dedicated to providing a better future for Srey Mao.

We will end this email by revisiting Sopeak. For those of you who may be new to our emails, we have sponsored Sopeak for five years through high school, english classes and now university. A couple of months ago we wrote about how after taking her entrance exam at a very good english school she ranked at a level six, an amazing achievement for a person with a hearing impairment. In January she wrote final exams for her first semester in university. Today we met Sopeak and she showed us her final marks. This hard working young woman never ceases to amaze us; she has the highest overall marks in her program and is the top student of her class of 47, again a remarkable achievement especially when many of her classmates are urban kids who have had a much higher quality of education. We have now supplied her with a used laptop. Sopeak continues to spend her Sunday’s mentoring, inspiring and teaching English to younger students in the countryside. Sopeak studies like her life depends on it and today she spoke again about how her dream of an education is coming true.

These are a few of the success stories that your commitment to KIDS and your generosity has helped to bring about.

Thank You! and all the best to you and yours,
Rick and Adrianne

Thursday, March 6, 2014


Hi All,

Children playing by the river
Hope this finds you well. We are presently writing this e-mail from the Stung Sen River where we are working on the floating medical clinic that Compassionate Eye Foundation and K.I.D.S funded/built two years ago. This year we have spent a lot of this trip either on water or thinking about water. We have travelled the length of the Tonle Sap Lake, the Tonle Sap River and part of the Stung Sen River. We just had an amazing boat trip down the Stung Sen River, which is really breathtaking. The water winds like a serpent through high banks and sand bars where water buffalo bathe and cows
Water buffalo heading home after a bath!
graze. Passing through these villages is always interesting as you see how water is truly the lifeline for Cambodia. Along the river, water is pumped up for irrigating rice fields. The river is also used for bathing, drinking and fishing. Near the closing of the hot 34 degree day the children come down the banks and play and frolic in the muddy looking water, laughing and cooling themselves before an early bed, as it gets dark here around 6:00 and there is no electricity.

One evening as we were getting ready to call it a day, at 7:00 pm, the chief's wife came down to chat with us; as our language skills improve it is nice to be able to talk with the villagers and they are often surprised that a foreigner can speak their language. The chief’s wife is about 62 years old but looks much older and is so very thin. She asked us questions about our country and asked if people are as poor in Canada; did we have enough food, electricity, money, water, medicine and toilets? which these people have so little of. Here the nearest place to buy groceries is 27 kilometers away by boat and fuel is more expensive than at home. Thank goodness for the The Lake Clinic medical team and the clinic, as at least people living on this part of the river have access to medicine and healthcare.

The water in Cambodia rises ten meters in the rainy season and drops that much in the dry season. In rural Cambodia the lake floods (25 kilometers across the land) the rice fields and when the water subsides people hunt for fish and small crabs in those same fields. It is a source of survival. As the water level drops and the country dries up the search for clean drinking water becomes more prevalent and challenging.

Drilling for water
This year we are installing clean drinking water systems for three schools. K.I.D.S will be bringing clean water to 2500 children. While visiting schools, which K.I.D.S has previously helped with water, we see how these children’s lives have improved. On our visits we watch as hundreds of children ride their bikes or walk on rutted, dusty red dirt roads to attend school. They arrive parched and hot and the first thing they do is head over to the drinking station and drink to their hearts desire. The teachers have noticed that the children are not as sick as they used to be and are much livelier. In our world water is a given and abundant but here it is both a gift and a curse depending on how clean it is. Many health professionals see illnesses directly related to poor drinking water. It is hard to believe “that more than a billion people lack adequate access to clean water” (David Susuki)

Two water projects are well under way and a third will be started soon. A special thanks to Compassionate Eye Foundation, Lush Charity Pot and Mike and Bettina Jetter and Friends for their generous support on these three water projects as well as to K.I.D.S donors for your added support to bring this basic need to so many.

As our friend Daniel Noll (writer/co-founder Uncornered Market) recently wrote to us: “Without people who care, even fewer people would have hope to not only turn their lives around, but maybe pay it forward to help turn around the lives of others and kick off a better cycle, no matter how small”.

Thanks for caring and being part of this better cycle!

All the best,
Adrianne and Rick

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Meet Milo!

Hi All,

We just came back from a trip out to the Tonle Sap Lake where we spent a week doing maintenance and upgrades on two of the floating clinics that belong to the The Lake Clinic (TLC). The clinics have now just completed their second year of service and have helped many, many children and families improve and maintain their health with the medical and dental care provided by TLC in these remote regions of Cambodia.

The clinics have fared well in their two years of service but needed some minor maintenance and the replacement of a few taps and switches which were easily done. One unforeseen issue that has been part the learning curve of working with some of the unknowns has been keeping the local wildlife of birds, rats, mice, snakes, lizards, huge centipedes and reams of other crawling and flying insects from colonizing the clinics. Along the tops of the four walls there are open areas that are protected by security bars and grilles to secure the clinics when the medical teams lock up and leave. However security bars and grilles provide the perfect perch for flocks of little birds fleeing bad weather and looking for food. We bird proofed these openings with wire mesh as well as any openings in the floors around pipes and wiring to keep the onslaught of wildlife at bay. Another area that was of concern was the open area along the top of the bathroom wall where the walls meet the roof,. Having a shower after dark was an adventure as within minutes of turning on the light and starting a shower the insect invasion would begin and soon your refreshing shower, at the end of a hot sweaty day, would be shared by the flying and crawling hordes covering walls, shower curtain and washing down the drain under foot in the shower base. We rectified this with small mesh wire so all is well there too.

While out on the lake we also paid a visit to the school. Last March we implemented the solar powered chicken pilot project to take advantage of the above mentioned insect population. The chickens got off to a great start happily pecking away at the insects after dark and when we returned 8 months later the 5 chickens had multiplied to 25. The attraction of insects to the light seemed to account for about 40 to 50% of the diet of the chickens. Then we entered the cold weather in early December and Jan. and 10 chicks died straight away due to cold and then another six. We have to think about an incubator system for the cooler weather but for now we will put a hold on the project in that location due to access and lack of consistent interpretation. So we will try it at another place that is easier to access while we work the bugs out…or in, as is the case, then try again on the lake.

Milo the boat driver
In our trips out to the lake we have formed many relationships; one of our favourites is with Milo. He is a young boy who lives across the “street” from the clinic, this being the channel of water that runs through the village. When we ask Milo how old he is his answer is “ot dung” or I do not know, we think he is about eight. His family is very poor and he, his parents and four siblings live basically on a floating platform with a couple of walls. Milo has many skills and he helps his parents by going out fishing which contributes to the family income, he is always ready to lend a hand with whatever we are working on and is a super quick learner. We try to get Milo to be
Milo paddles in family laundry pot
interested in school but he just laughs; he is his own person and loves to both work and play hard. His older and younger siblings attend school but Milo marches to his own fast and energetic drum. Milo is agile as a cat, walking along railings and on the edge of his boat without fear. He can shinny up the smallest of poles like a monkey, his fish like abilities on or around the water and boats are amazing and his adaptation to his environment is perfect. His laughter is infectious and loud. While we were there on a previous trip he was hired as a guide and boat driver for a research survey. If the family boat is being used and Milo wants to come and visit us no problem he just jumps into the family laundry pot and paddles over with his hands. Milo is an endearing, strong little character to say the least. His favourite English words are “Oh My God”…as a matter of fact they are his only english words???

Till next time, all the best to you and yours,
Rick and Adrianne

Saturday, January 25, 2014

KIDS for Kids

Dear Friends of KIDS,

We are now into the new year and thought we would send along another update on how things are going here in Cambodia. We hope life is going well wherever this e-mail finds you.

Children of women working at SWDC
We recently went to Stung Treng, in the northeast part of Cambodia, to visit another one of the projects that KIDS supports. We have worked with the Stung Treng Women’s Development Centre (SWDC) for the past six years. It has been a privilege to support this innovative and collaborative project and participate in the great work they do for the local community. SWDC provides training and sustainable work for between 30 and 50 women. The silk products they make and sell are of the best quality and they have been invited to attend the Santa Fe International Folk Art  Festival for several years. Their product name is Mekong Blue. Over the years we have partnered with SWDC to help provide education for the weaver’s children and for disadvantaged children living in the surrounding village as well as supporting other building and water projects for the centre. SWDC also has a small clinic that assists the community with treatment and prevention free of charge and a mother and children’s home that supports women who have been abused or are in desperate situations. The women and their children can find refuge while they learn skills to help them find their way to a better life.

After a long drive we arrive in the town of Stung Treng and Chan, the director, picks us up to take us a few kilometers out of town to the weaving centre. Here we enter a community where children, women, teachers and other staff move freely through the large, airy grounds. Chan and his wife Chantha have created a safe, clean and beautiful environment for their employees and their children. We visit the small kindergarten that KIDS supports by funding the two teachers salaries. The 35 children greet us with warm hellos and smiles; while their mother’s work at their looms chatting and listening to Khmer music knowing that their children are well looked after and only a stone’s throw away.

Musical Chairs
Later we visit the small school KIDS built and funds in the village behind the Centre, where another 40 children ages 3 to 7 are playing and waiting to eat their hot breakfast that KIDS provides, for some this may be the only real meal of the day. Thanks to good nutrition, hygiene training and stimulation these children are now bright, alert and full of fun; a big change from the listless, tired and undernourished children that entered the doors not that long ago. After breakfast they sing us some songs and have a couple of rousing games of musical chairs where the children sing and clap until the teacher signals them to stop. The music comes from their sweet and enthusiastic voices. In the past many of these children were hauled off to the rockbreaking quarry where they would sit all day while their parents worked. They are now safe and happy to be in school.

The next day we have our yearly evaluation meeting with the teachers and the reports are all positive. The children are coming to school, the parents continue to meet regularly with the teachers to discuss issues that arise and the teachers continue to seek out new and updated curriculum through KIDS support for professional development. Contracts are signed and we have the funding for another year so everyone is happy and grateful.

One area that is causing Chan some concern is that there are not enough funds to provide the weavers and their children with a lunch program, which they used to have. Although the sales from the silk sustain the salaries of the staff and weavers there are no extras and a lunch program is very much needed by the weavers and their children. In brainstorming ways to make the food program sustainable we discuss ideas and discover that goats are very lucrative in the Stung Treng area. We listen to the research Chan has done on raising goats and as it turns out they are very low maintenance, breed up to four kids a year and can be sold for a high amount. SWDC has a large amount of land, trees and the ability to grow food for the goats and many people to help care of them. To make a long discussion short and thanks to a KIDS donor, who is very interested in sustainable projects, we are going to go to partner together and start a goat farm at the centre. Which will eventually fund the lunch program for the weavers and their children so it will be “kids for kids supported by KIDS”!

As always thanks for your support and helping the children and women of Stung Treng,

Adrianne and Rick

Tuesday, January 14, 2014

Hills and Valleys

Hi Everyone,

Hope all is well with you and yours.

New Flip Flops
On our way to the three schools that we are doing the two water projects and the library at this year we stopped to research another school that we hope to assist in the future. Prolit Elementary School is off the main road about eleven kilometers. Upon our arrival we were met by a large portion of the 280 plus children who attend the school; most of them underweight and small for their age as a result of an insufficient diet for the duration of their short lives. The children were dressed in dirty and tattered clothing and the school yard was silent. We have learned what to expect and experience has taught us to steel our hearts and guard our emotions for these first time visits. The children’s sad eyes and tired expressions always breach our defenses and pierce our hearts. As this was an exploratory trip we only brought each child a pair of flip flops. The kids lined up in the dirt in front of the school and patiently waited their turn for their new shoes, the majority barefoot.

Back into the car we move onto another school we work with called Kauk Chrey. As we drive along the dusty, red, dirt roads we remember how things were here not so long ago.The children used to be like the children at the above mentioned school but that was before the water project, rice bank and food program was implemented by K.I.D.S. The difference in a couple of years is remarkable and impossible not to notice. The children have the energy to smile, learn and play on their breaks but best of all is the sweet song of their laughter.

Fast forward a couple of days and we are in the countryside in another direction with Hak and Sopeak visiting the program we implemented called Smart Kids. The children wait for us to arrive and greet us with smiles and hellos. Here, like at KaukChrey, we see the difference after three years. Hak has worked wonders with these children and we are lucky to have him work with us. The results of his lessons in hygiene and the health club he initiated are very evident. The children are clean and crisp and their smiles are bright. Many now speak english quite well and others, a little shy to yet express themselves, will soon be on their way. Here the choices in life are few; fishing, laboring in a brick factory or working in the rice fields. Most children unfortunately have had minimal or sporadic access to school due to poverty. When we started this program we asked the families to allow the kids to focus only on their studies however the economic realities still force some of these children to have to work part time to help support their families. Our tactic with Smart Kids will be on vocational or hospitality training. In addition to their khmer studies we will focus on english and computer skills, in hope that they will be able to enter the job market in a few years and assist themselves, their siblings and families. Sopeak stands with us as a model of what is possible.

Basket of supplies
We left them each with a basket of cooking oil, fish sauce, toothbrushes, toothpaste, clothes washing powder, hand soap, shampoo and dish soap (which in the opinion of some was just more shampoo.)

We got back in the van and headed for home our defenses once again fortified and our spirits lifted. 

Back in Siem Reap our tuk tuk driver tells us about a 13 year old boy he knows who begs on the streets to help his family. He lost his arm in a brick factory, can we help him? and so it goes.

Today is Jan 14th our daughter’s birthday; she would have been 35 if she had lived. The road from her passing to here is like this work, and the lives of those that we work with. At times it is down the valleys and up the hills, down the snakes and up the ladders… for a dead flat country it can at times feel very mountainous.

Through it all your support to us and to K.I.D.S is unwavering and we are so very thankful for your kindness and generosity which makes this work possible.

Till next time,
Rick and Adrianne