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.
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