Saturday, 31 March 2012

sponsorship and serendipity and COLT

Serendipity is  both a beach in Sihanoukville and a strange alignment of coincidences that saw me meet up with a couple from Canada that have been sponsoring families in Cambodia for a number of years.  They were staying at the same guest-house we were and I started chatting to them one night, Patsy and Johnny are a great couple that have been doing wonderful work in Cambodia for many years.

I had told her of the generous donations from our small community around Nymboida and what we were attempting to do.  She asked if we would consider helping a lady who was a friend of her's, with a small $100 donation. The donation will put her youngest child through school for a year, as well as buy her school uniform, books and a bag to carry them.  The lady worked as a small business person, six days a week, to support her three children and grandmother.   She did beach manicures and pedicures, that is she walked the tourist beaches of Sihanoukville, touting for business from tourists. This is the back-story behind being asked a dozen times a day if you want a manicure. You work, you rely on the generosity of family and friends or you starve... simple as that.
From L to R: mother, daughter, grandmother and two sons.

The grandmother also looked after the children while she was at work.  I loved the fact Tee worked hard to support her family but to support herself, three children and a grandmother on her small wage was a huge ask, so I decided to help out.

From L to R: Myself, Tee, and Patsy (from Canada)
on Serendipity Bach
So thank you to all the people of or local community, THIS is what you guys did.


I have been busy networking (some may call it drinking at the Pub) and a few of the ex-pat business owners commented they would like a flyer to put up in their business to let people know about what we are doing.  We tried it initially on our American friends at the "Maybe Later" Bar and Restaurant.  Will wasn't offended by us purloining an American icon and having fun with it, so we have used it everywhere else as well.

Also a huge thanks to the Coolabah Hotel and how wonderfully helpful Douglas and William ( a different Will) have been there.

We are off to Phom Penh for a couple days to visit an amazingly well run Orphanage called COLT, that does an awesome job and I want to see if we can maybe help out with what they are doing.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

Rum Dual School, REAM River - working bee

The view from the school over the farmland to the river
My good friends Ciaran and Audrey had been telling me about the work they were doing teaching at the Rum Dual School on the banks of the Ream River and the place sounded wonderful, especially after talking with Jim, one of the volunteer support  co-ordinators, earlier in the week.  I had finally organised to visit and have a look for myself.  I fell in love with the place, set in a small rural landscape, on the REAM river. The work being done by the volunteers has made a huge difference.  They wanted the room painted as it was very drab and dark, so I had organised the left over paint from Otres school to be transported out, thank you so much Donna for letting us use your car.  Brushes and cleaning accessories had been organised by Ciaran and Audrey, so we jumped in Donnas car and headed out, making sure we arrived as school finished so we would not be disturbing the children.

Donna (L), myself (R)

We got stuck straight in ! A flurry of activity 
Cleaning dust & cobwebs

Donna dived right in !
While we were working, the teacher headed to the river, caught a few crabs and came back to make us fried crab and noodles for lunch ! All well recieved by the hard working volunteers

Ciaran enjoying lunch in the shade
Then back into it, Kamera, Cy's wife jumped in to help,

Kamera (L) and Audrey (R)

as well the the school teacher himself. 

Teacher helping with the painting

Take note Kelly back in Nymboida ! I expect you to catch us some fish and cook us lunch. ha ha ! 
We didn't get as much done as we had hoped but the second room is all prepared and ready to be painted and the first complete.

Some final touches

Finished at last
Some of the locals came to check on the work

as well as the gorgeous geckos !

Geckos everywhere !

The school exists due to the patronage of Commander Rum Dual. Commander Rum dual,  is an Assistant to H.E. Hing Bunheang and Dechor Hun Sen's bodyguard unit.  We thank him for his generosity and kindness.

The Commander and his girls !

For more photos visit the gallery here:

Thursday, 22 March 2012

moving along

Things have started to move along, having started slowly.  I have visited another school, in the poorer rural area surrounding Sihanoukville.  We have also met with one of the directors of an orphanage, I plan to visit the Orphanage and see if we are able to help them out, more on that later.  We are also starting to network with the volunteers that are running various NGO's as well as local business that are helping us get the word out to the NGO staff that visit their places of business and things are slowly starting to gain momentum.

Other organisations have come forward and I have arranged to meet with some and see if we can help them.... more to come on this.

Otres School

At the same time, I am working out at Otres school, the kids make the place, they are so wonderful to work with.  Of course there are several other volunteers out there doing awesome work; Shaun (the founder), Jen, Audrey and Ciaran, as well as Ingrid who recently left but put an incredible effort into not just the school but the local area as well.  We had a fun day for the kids this week.
Sack Race !

Khmer PiƱata!
The idea is to make sure the kids are having fun at school to encourage them to keep attending and continuing with their education.  Plenty of games as well as lunch,

Yum ! Lunch - Chicken coconut curry, rice and a baguette !

one of the local television stations BAYON TV came out so now we are local TV stars !!! The main part of the school is funded by a German charitable organisation, the English teaching part is organised by the Painting Smiles Charity, which is the group I am working with.


I have started working with the REAM school, which is near the REAM National Park.  I am helping with the administration, organisation and with smaller jobs, like helping paint the school this Friday. As well as seeing if we can help them fund small projects.  They have an interesting concept to be self funded as well as help the poor rural village by perhaps developing an eco tourism venture in the future, which will be exciting.   At all times all foreign volunteers have to be careful they are not taking jobs away from local Khmer workers and I am always mindful of this.

The Islands

It's not all work and sadness at seeing the poverty.  I managed to get away for a day and go snorkelling and swimming at a few Islands just off the coast.

I see you !

The beach at Bamboo Island

Swimming back out to the boat to go home

A stunning day and beautiful weather, it really is a beautiful place still mostly undeveloped but you can see signs everywhere of development. Lots of the Islands have been sold off to foreigners (Russians, Chinese etc) with plans for Casinos and resorts.

The local wealthy Khmer are developing the gorgeous beaches at breakneck speed, aspiring to the concrete and glass that seems to so design the western world.

The mundane

Not having any organisation behind us is both liberating and difficult.  Any decisions on which charities to support can be made quickly and efficiently but all of the mundane administration like accommodation, transport etc must be organised and paid for by ourselves. We move into our apartment next week, I am getting tired of living out of the room at our guesthouse.

Friday, 16 March 2012

Donor and donations update

A huge thank you to Richard in Nymboida, he's giving $A20 a fortnight into the donation account, awesome !  The generosity of some from our tiny local community still leaves me overwhelmed.

Just  to show it's not all heart breaking work, I go to a quiz night at one of the local pubs on a Monday night, for a couple of reasons, to unwind and have fun with a few of the other ex-pats but also to network with them to find groups we can work with to help out.  Surprisingly one of the ex-pats even gave a donation, thank you Tony for your $US20, amazing.

Donations Update

Remember you can go back to this blog post to check up on the reconciliations for the donations account.

Bank Statements

We only get statements every six months, both statements are available to those interested, here they both are so far, more will be added as they come in.

June 2011

December 2011

Petty Cash

Having to mainly work with two different currencies (AUD and USD) and this is proving a bit of a nightmare of accounting, the solution we've come up with is to run a small petty cash account, where we take a small chunk of money out of the donations account, meaning we only have to deal with the one currency conversion and allows smaller one off donations to occur easily.  We will post a reconciliation of that account here

Just to add to the confusion, the locals sometimes use the local currency for small transaction and for amounts below $1, so occasionally you will see something like 3000 (75 c), which is the amount in REIL on the receipts.  The de facto exchange rate currently is 4000R to $1USD.


A copy of all receipts so far can be seen here.

Friday, 9 March 2012

Petty Cash Account

Having to work with two different currencies (AUD and USD) is proving a bit of a nightmare of accounting.    The solution we've come up with is to run a small petty cash account, where we take a chunk of money out of the donations account and transfer it across as cash to use.  This means we only have to deal with the one currency conversion and allows smaller one off donations and materials purchases to occur easily.  Cambodia is strictly a cash only economy.  We will post a reconciliation of that account below:

Petty Cash Spreadsheet

and here's a link to copies of the matching receipts

Thursday, 8 March 2012

CHOICE - Phnom Penh


I had heard only good things about these guys before, so when we first arrived I tried to find them from a brochure I'd been given but they had moved their meeting place and alas we'd run out of time before I had a chance to see them operate.

We were headed back to Phnom Penh from Sihanoukville to look to get a bicycle as the range in Sihanoukville was very limited and I had actually completely forgotten about visiting choice as I was focused on push bikes but once again, fate stepped in... while we were looking for one of the bike shops to visit, we stumbled across the meeting place with a batch of flyers out the front. I grabbed one to ring the contact later.  Alas, the bike hunt proved less successful, the phone call was the opposite and I managed to contact one of the main driving forces behind CHOICE, Ross Wright,and arranged to go with them on Sunday. I was a word ... amazed.

Seriously, these guys do great work. They service remote villages outside the Capitol city, Phnom Penh. Every day they deliver fresh drinking water, once a week they deliver food, toothpaste and soap and once a month, clothing. I managed to help out a little, packing the goods.

Ross (L) and one of the volunteers portioning rice

and helping deliver them

Delivering some of the food parcels
and decided to make a contribution from the donation fund of $US50

Donation Receipt

There's plenty to see and the experience is a real eye opener.

Local school house

Inside the school room, complete with whiteboard

We went to three villages, with interesting anecdotes each time, like this interesting explanation about traps

Eel / Snake Traps

that the villages use to catch snakes and eel, a staple the villages use to survive on, along with frogs, rats, chicken and pork.

Ross had managed to organise a volunteer doctor for the day, who could offer contraceptive advice to the women who asked for it, along with general medical care.

Volunteer doctor at the village

It was a long and full but satisfying day, a huge thanks to the guys that run C.H.O.I.C.E and thanks to the stream of volunteers who help out regularly.

Volunteer with some of the village children

Otres Beach - Painting Smiles School


Amid teaching and learning how to teach the kids at the Painting Smiles School, we finally managed to paint the inside of the building when the rollers arrived, the two small rooms are looking great.

The lack of teaching aids means it is very difficult for the kids to learn.  They barely have enough money to live, let alone buy school books and the Government doesn't help much in this regard, so we used $US21.90 to buy school books and some new whiteboard markers to use when teaching.

School Playground

The playground equipment has been partly painted, the holes dug and rubble placed, now we just need the concrete to arrive to concrete them in place.

Locals digging holes for the swing set
The donation money paid for some of the villagers from the local community to come and dig the holes for us, 3 guys for 3 hours $US10.

One of the reasons the swings needed to be moved was to create an area the kids can use for a small soccer field. The kids of the school suggested that as the best use of the area.  One of the reasons to give them a couple of options is being so poor, the kids have no games.  Currently the boys play kick the thong (flip flop  here in Cambodia). Someone puts their thong in the middle, the others kick theirs, the closest wins.

Kick the "thong"

the girls play "knucklebones" with a few rocks

Playing Knucklbones

Friday, 2 March 2012

Helping other organisations in Cambodia

A seed of an idea was planted after a recent email conversation with a good friend who had done some volunteer work in the Ukraine recently.  We recognise that our experience on the ground here in Cambodia is very limited, so why not help out those organisations with limited access to funds, instead of trying to duplicate what they are already doing or trying to do ?  A small amount used wisely can go a long way in Cambodia.  Catherine, thank you so much for you hard-work and for "borrowing" your idea.

Catherine's idea was to help other NGO's engage with their projects.  In that respect we have drafted a proposal to hand out to the plethora of NGOs and volunteer organisations that are already established here in Cambodia. Those who are on the ground and are much more familiar with the many problems faced by Cambodia, one of the poorest nations in the Asia region.   We will be circulating the proposal locally.

I have linked to the proposal here.   Those that are interested can download and/or read it at their leisure.

I realise there are many of  you that receive blog updates by email but don't forget to go to the Blog web page itself from time to time, as it has plenty of info, including links to photo's, older posts, how to donate and a link to download the funding proposal document.  You can go to the blog directly at the address

Thanks to everyone in the past who has helped out in anyway. My ability to do all of this hinges directly on all the wonderful people, many in my hometown of Nymboida who have helped out or donated and to Steve who is looking after our place for us while we are away.