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 says..life 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