Tuesday, 24 July 2012

more updates

Stueng Hav

Toni went out to Stueng Hav with Thet, from M'lop Tapang (a very large Sihanoukville based charity that do extraordinarily good work with Children) to check how things were going. We have committed to helping fund a covered area for children to use at the main school.  The school and teachers at Stueng Hav are financed by the kind donations of a charitable group from Germany, "Future for Steng Hau" (Zukunft fuer Steng Hau e.V.) as with everyone they struggle with funds and do the best they can.

Construction has started on the extensions funded by "Future for Steng Hau" (Zukunft fuer Steng Hau e.V.) which include a new library/computer room.

"Future for Steng Hau" (Zukunft fuer Steng Hau e.V.)  run a spoke and hub type model, with many smaller classes often under houses and behind small shops in other parts of the village.  The facilites where the classes are run outside the centre are of course very basic.
School-ette under a local house

Painful Truth

Toni was also able to meet with a woman, who has a life threatening stomach problem of some sort (twisted intestine perhaps). She is unable to afford the $4000 surgery needed to save her life, an Operation, that can't be done in Cambodia and needs her to fly to Vietnam. 

Living her last days on a bamboo matt on a concrete floor

She has two children, she is left to live out her life on a bamboo matt, on the concrete floor of the local Wat.  We donated $50 for materials to fix the roof of a building closer to the toilets as she has to be carried there daily by an older woman, who helps the monks care for the lady. Toni gave $20, a small amount of money to buy food, water to live on until she dies in the very near future, what to do, such is life in Cambodia.  We also gave $30 to the Monks to help with expenses in looking after the two children. 

Donation to Monk for child support

Longer term we hope the kids will be moved to Sihanoukville, under the auspices of M'Lop Tapang.  Thank you to the donors back in Aus. for allowing us to help.

English Teacher at Goodwill Center

Our recent 12 month commitment ($32pm x 12mths = $384) to help partially fund a new English teacher in conjunction with HtCC has borne fruit   The classes have started and are well attended.  The Khmer teacher is paid $50 per month for teaching part time, 5 days a week.  He had worked at the Center (yes they use the American spelling of Centre!) before and left to complete his Bachelor of Education.  

The kids love him and the classes are going well. 

Friday, 20 July 2012

Koh Rong

Koh Rong Island, off Sihanoukville

Just in case you guys think it's a  hard life for us over here, we managed to get away and camp at nearby Koh Rong Island for a couple days.
Toni swimming on a beach at Koh Rong.

View Larger Map

Hammocks, tins of baked beans, apples and cup-a-soups... we're packed.  We seemed to strike it very lucky with the weather, it rained the morning we left but then stopped until we were back in Sihanoukville, were it started to rain again !

Hennesy Hammocks set up on the beach

Fighting the smoke to check if the waters boiling

Sunset !

The Island currently has a couple local Khmer villages, 

Village Shacks

Local Island girl.

that until now have been subsistence and a few "eco" bungalows 
Treehouse Bungalows

that are typically from $5 to $20 a night.  I use "eco" in inverted commas because they unfortunately all seem to run off generators.  The locals have been able to earn money building the bungalows for the tourists and set up small shops selling drinks and snacks to the backpapers that invade.

We had been there before and wanted to go back before it's developed into a mega resort, with de riguer Casino and Golf Course, the sort of place that suits someone looking for a different experience to us.  If we ever get back it will be changed, the bulldozers have just started.

Thursday, 19 July 2012

Stueng Hav and English Classes

Stueng Hav

Some time ago we were invited out to a fishing village at Stueng Hav (pronounced "Stung How"). You may remember the blog post about it, if not you can look back here.  One of the reasons to go, at the time was to look at what they were doing in terms of schooling for children.  They run a small two room centre, with disparate teaching under houses in the wider community, where it is too difficult for the kids to get to the centre itself.  One of the things you realise, if you stay for any period of time is, the wet season is just that, wet.  There is a complete lack of facilities for the kids to do anything outside when it rains.  It's either inside, or play in the mud outside which, while fun occasionally (what kid does not like playing in the mud?)  is not particularly practical when they must come back inside to continue schooling.

We were approached at the time by Sabine, from the German Charity "Future for Steng Hau" (Zukunft fuer Steng Hau e.V.) She asked if we would be interested in helping use some of the funds raised to construct a shelter on a raised slab to give the kids somewhere outdoors to play during the wet.  Initially we were a little reluctant (we only have limited finds of course)  but after experiencing the constant rain here we realised it made sense. We should have just listened to her long experience in the first place !  So we have committed USD$500 to an estimated cost of USD$1200 for the covers construction.  

Thet, one of the administrators from the M'lop Tapang charitable organisation is helping with the admin work and liaising with the local Khmer workers. I will make sure I visit to see the construction taking place.  The work also provides jobs for local Khmer construction workers in the village so that helps a little as well. Unfortunately steel is expensive (the steel probably come as Iron Ore from West Aus. to Cambodia via a steel mill in China. Everyone saying the price of Iron Ore is good may want to come here and see where it to equates compared to expensive steel) and the place has lots of termites, so wood would (always wanted to use that in a sentence !) not last.  We'll keep you updated as this project progresses.

English Classes at Goodwill Centre

One of the projects that has been driven by the local community was a desire for more English Classes.

Night time English Classes - Goodwill Center

Currently we run night time classes that are well attended by the teenagers and adults from the village but there is a genuine need for extra evening classes for the younger children who receive only minimal English in public school.  A quick word of  mouth check saw 25 eager pupils wanting to attend, which is about all we can handle.  The level of enthusiasm to attend decent schooling is astounding, and often in complete contrast to experiences in Aus.

We approached the HtCC Board, who majority fund the centre. They are struggling a little financially, with the devaluation of the British Pound against the USD (the defacto currency over here), coupled with the recent doubling in rent for the Center and could only commit $18 a month to the $50 needed for the teachers salary.  We decided that it was such a worthwhile project we would make up the difference, committing to a years worth of funding.  We had already found a teacher, someone who had taught at the centre previously but left to complete his Bachelor of  Ed. so the students and teachers are familiar with him and all spoke highly of him.  His wage from us will be $50 per month (part time $18 from HtCC and $32 from our donors).  If we can we will extend the project further, if funds are available. 

Thursday, 12 July 2012

Finances and updates

Financial Update

A new bank statement is out, we get one every six months,  you can check them all out here if you are so inclined.

I have also streamlined all the financial information and put it in one location.  You may have noticed a new link in the title bar called "Finances" some of the more switched on among you will have twigged that's where the Financial Information is. ... a little Khmer humor there, I don't get it either !

More updates

We decided to help out a little with this family that lost their mother and father a couple months ago, the one where the Grandmother is looking after the four kids as well as working to support them.  We spent a little of the Funds money; bought them 1/2 a bag of rice, some tinned fish (no electricity and no refrigeration of course), cooking oil, some toothpaste for the kids (Grandma's teeth have completely fallen out and they can't afford dental services of course).

Donated funds spent helping a destitute family.

They were incredibly grateful and thanked me profusely, so I am thanking you guys at home for your donations, without them we couldn't help out over here.  Of course this is but a tiny sample of the many people in similar circumstances.

You may have noticed the little "raised" veranda out front, nearly all homes have them as in the wet season, the ground is muddy as hell, so this gives them a dry place to sit out of the rain and mud. It's often also the equivalent of a lounge/dining/sitting room in western households.

Sok Mong's Family

Mong's Dad arrived back from Phnom Penh, he can move his arms and legs and urinate, none of which he could do before he left, so we're hopeful of a recovery.  Having to pay a full years wages for medical care has put a dampener on things of course.  We chipped in using the Donations to pay for the initial visit to the local clinic (US$165) but feel we don't have enough funds to spend much more helping out.  We are trying to talk them out of selling their old scooter, Mong raises money for the family when he is not at school by being a "moto taxi", as well as using it to get his Dad to work and to buy supplies from the market etc  they currently have a short term loan from a "loan shark", few options are available.

We also decided that seeing Mongs family have had to spend an entire years salary on his Dad in hospital we would help out in the very short term and bought them some food to help them get by, 
(L) Sok Mong and his mother. 
they still have to pay rent, buy food etc and the main source of income (Dad is laid up)... such is life in Cambodia.

Blessing the kitchen

Monk getting prepared
Monks were asked to come and bless the new kitchen. For some reason that I didn't understand they didn't actually do it in the kitchen, but upstairs on the veranda.  The Cambodian version of Buddhism seems very anamist,  so I suspect this was simply a ceremony to ensure there were no "bad spirits" about.  I suppose this is not too far removed from the Christian traditions of having various items blessed by a clergymen and as in the West, some take it more seriously than others.

Monday was, apparently, a fortuitous day, so over they came.  Via an interpreter it was discussed that I was allowed to video the blessing, so I did. Here's the video

For  those of you that receive this update via email, the video will not be embedded, so you should go to the blog and view it there

Thursday, 5 July 2012


Goodwill Centre

Toni has been working at the Centre for a couple months now and the other day she went for a walk through the village that surrounds the Centre to talk to a grandmother who is looking after four children whose parents have died.  This is a photo of them in front of their "house", I say house but it's actually one room of a shack, (the room on the other side houses another family) the room is about the size of the bathroom at our cottage in Nymboida Five people live there.

 That's their "room" behind the Grandmother

They share one room of this house with another family on the left, each room has it's own veranda.  All five of them sleep in the same small room

This gives you a small glimpse into one families life in urban Sihanoukville, we will have more on them at a later date.


A huge thank you to the staff of the Nymboida Coaching Station for generously donating their tips to helping the Cambodian Children, I have asked them to take a photo of all the staff so we can post it here.

Mong's Family Reno update !

If  you remember we chipped in $US135 to help this family after the kitchen started to collapse.  The concrete floor has been laid, the neighbours all helped out.
New Kitchen - Inside
You can see the huge difference between it and the original.

Old Kitchen - Inside (before it started to collapse)

According to tradition, not one but two Buddhist Monks have to come and bless the new kitchen before it can be used.  We'll be there to record it and show you what happens.

On a related note, Mong's Dad is still in hospital in Phom Penh, after falling off the roof,  racking up a hospital bill that is more than their yearly wage.  We hope he can return home soon.

Sunday, 1 July 2012

In the Newspaper

Newspaper Article

Terry from the Daily Examiner Newspaper back in Grafton was kind enough to send us an article that was published back on 16 May... Here's a copy of the article

Toni, striking a pose on the Otres Beach road "bridge"

Thanks for that Terry.  Unfortunately the web address for the blog is wrong, a "-" too many when the article was formatted, never mind.  We'd only just heard about it, though we do keep in touch with the happenings back home by going to their website regularly.


Thanks to those who have set-up automatic regular donations through their bank accounts, Richard, Greg and Bernadette, it is VERY gratefully accepted.  Thanks also to Chantal Wilson who donated $50 this week. We don't have much to report back as the projects we have committed to are an ongoing process. They are: desks for the Rumdual School (awaiting the okay from the General who owns the land the school is on if he wants to allow the expansion), and the building extension to the school at Stueng Hav.

Also a huge thanks to Trevor's sister Andrea who once again mailed over a huge box of toys and art supplies (Trevor has taken a short term loan over one of the Frisbees she sent !) .  Just one note of caution, the postage to get something over here from Australia is  very, very expensive and it might make sense to give the money directly to the donations fund and we'll spend it over here. That saves having it go into the postal services coffers and we have to pay a bribe to actually collect our mail but that's another story !


For anyone interested, the two faces looking in from either side of the blog, are photos we took at the iconic Temple of Bayon.  While Bayon is not in the same league as the awesome Angkor Wat, they are none the less stunning in their own right. There are a multitude of these massive faces surveying the forest and plains of the Angkor archaeological park.  This, from Wikipedia is an understatement, 

The Bayon's most distinctive feature is the multitude of serene and massive stone faces on the many towers which jut out from the upper terrace and cluster around its central peak

they are breathtakingly impressive