Thursday, 27 September 2012

Romdual School update and Uni

Romdual School Update

The desks have been installed and we have a couple of photos showing them at the school, they look great.

School Desks in place

with kids !

We have also purchased a white board and suitable pens to use in the school room and they will be delivered to the school in the next few days.   You can read more about the happenings at the school here

University for Sok Mong

After Mong did so well at his final Year 12 school exams, we  have decided to commit to sponsoring his first year at a local Sihanoukville University, LIFE University.  It's a $150 commitment for the first year and we've let him know further commitments will require hard work and good grades.  Toni went up to Uni to complete the forms and pay the fees.

Completing University Entrance Forms

Enrolled and ready to go, the rest is up to him

He will be studying for a Languages and Tourism degree.  We have committed to the fees from the donations account, he has to find the money for books etc

Waiting for the rain to stop before going back to soccer
He's also taken on the Coach position for the new Goodwill Center Soccer team, so I purchased him some new soccer boots from our own money. We wish him all the best in both endeavours !

Street Vendors

One of the things we love about Cambodia are the street vendors.  These people travel around on scooters, pushbike and on foot and you can just grab a snack.  One of the tasty treats we have become addicted to are these eggs.

Bporng Moa-un Ang (BBQ Egg)
 The eggs have a small hole in one end, the egg is sucked out with a syringe and mixed with pepper, garlic and various spices, depending on the vendor and then injected back into the egg with the syringe and boiled. They then heat them over coals as they drive around on their motos.

Bporng Moa-un Ang with supplied  lime and S&P mix

Very tasty and we're a sucker for them ! 

Wednesday, 19 September 2012

School Supplies and Finances

School Supplies

One of the projects we have been working towards for a few weeks is getting more of the poorest children to go to school.  Toni has been working with Kolab, one of the Staff at the Goodwill Centre to help identify some of the poorest children.  These are often the ones who have everything against them, losing one or both parents is typically the major contributor.

While the Goodwill Centre does a great job of providing care for children in the community and access to materials and facilities they would never see elsewhere and access to free English language and Computer classes for anyone in the village who wants to improve themselves, the children still have to go to Khmer public school.  One of the requirements to go to school is they must wear a school uniform.  Some have no chance of affording that, so we identified six at risk children who have stopped going because of that and went on a small shopping trip to provide them with two uniforms, a backpack and minor supplies like pencils, books etc.

Kolab with the kids at the local Phsar (market)

In the "change room". measuring up
Everyone into the Tuk Tuk to go back to the Goodwill Center
Back at the Goodwill Center for the obligatory group shot
All up we spent $126 and look at their smiles.

This is one of the things about being here on the ground and forming relationships in the community, you are actually able to help and by maintaining those relationships, continue helping and monitoring into the future. We  don't have to go through a variety of middleman, all taking their legal cut, you don't have to deal with bureaucracy, you just get things done, immensely satisfying but impossible if we had not had the help of all you guys back in Australia, giving donations, thank you so very much.

Changing the Finances

Knowing we were eventually coming back to Australia, we have been struggling for some time to come up with a solution on how best to enable the continual use of the funds.  Transferring money from Aus to Cambodia is expensive, often the fees involved are more than the money itself. The donation money going to Bankers seems a poor use of funds, as does us paying for it personally.

Canadia Bank Account: Cambodian Donations Account

The solution we have come up with is to open a bank account here in Cambodia and transfer the majority of the remaining funds. We then attached an ATM card ($6 fee over here as most don't use them) and leave that with a trusted local,  Jen Hoggett.   Jen is a long term English expat. We met Jen when we first came here and taught English with her at the school in Wat Otres. Jen has been volunteering at the Goodwill Center for over a month and is well respected in the community. We have complete faith in Jen.  We have contacted all the local groups we have dealt with and advised them that if they have projects etc they want funded they are to contact us via email. If we think their project is worthy, we will advise Jen of the amount via email and Skype, she will then withdraw the money from the ATM and they will give her receipts/invoices etc that will be copied electronically and sent to us.

We decided to do this, as from the outset, the money is supposed to be there to help the peoples of Cambodian.  The Cambodian banking system is still quite "old school", yes they have Passbooks and electronic banking is a far away dream, it's probably akin to the Australian banking system in the 1980's. The bank we used is Canadia. We hope everyone agrees this is the best solution ?

In that respect we added the details of the new bank account to the Financials Page, go there if you want more info.

Sunday, 9 September 2012


Financial Updates

Well that time of the month sees the financials having been balanced for the end of the month.  Go to the link on the financials page at the top of the blog if you want to review any of it

Update on Mong's Dad (Keo Sok)

Some of you may remember that Mong's Dad fell from the roof and did himself some real damage, his legs did not move etc  Anyway, he is up and about and thanks to the kind donation of Trevor's family, half of the medical bills were paid for and they didn't have to sell their scooter to pay their neighbor back. The scooter is how Mong makes money as a moto driver to help his family and save for university so it would be a real setback if that had happened.

Mong's Dad  (Keo Sok) on his crutch

It was mentioned that this was an indication about how the plethora of OH&S rules help people in the West but this is not quite true.

OHS catastrophe waiting to happen  

I know two people from Townsville, Australia (my old home town) that fell off the roof of their house while doing work up there. It's more a reflection of a terrible health system here.  Here, Mongs father was put onto the back of a scooter and sandwiched between passenger and driver, driven over a bumpy road and taken to the nearby clinic while unconscious, (no hospital here in Sihanoukville) they stabilised him and then a private taxi was hired by the family and he was transported to Phnomn Penh for five hours in the back of that taxi... in Australia an Ambulance would have been called and transported to the nearest hospital... but enough of that, the great thing is he is getting better every day !

Another wedding

Mongs elder Sister invited Toni to her wedding, the new kitchen was put to good use to prepare the celebratory feast .
Wedding feast preparations

Ducks being killed and prepared !

Theft update

As per the last blog post all our camera gear and computers have been stolen, so we will only be able to post very sporadically when we can get access to loaner equipment. None of the equipment has been recovered and it is very doubtful it ever will and yes we were drugged, apparently the modus operandi is they send in a small child to hold a cloth with a knockout chemical under you nose, you breath it in, knock you out and they then go about robbing you, stuff was scattered everywhere, which was why we had no idea how we could not have been woken up.  The tell tale sign being the horrendous headache the next day we both suffered, to all those out there that though my snoring must have been the reason ! 

I had just got the okay from an art Gallery back in NSW to do a portrait exhibition when I returned back to Australia and I had everything organised to start the shoot here, so not being able to do that is very disappointing as well.

Interestingly, I was trying to justify the theft as "they are really poor so I can kind if understand it" to a Khmer friend.  He said "I am very poor and I never steal, they are bastards !"  I guess he was right... and yes he is very poor, we have been to his house, it is not much better than our chicken house at home.  

Sunday, 2 September 2012


Unfortunately there may be a delay to transmissions, we have had all our camera gear (high end Nikon DSLR and lenses and Pentax compact camera) as well as our Dell XPS15z laptop, Nook Color ebook and all our cash money stolen.  Luckily none of the donation money from Australia was taken as it was all in the bank but we did have a fair amount of money stolen that was from the Goodwill Center, which is the worst. All up, close to $A12,000 in cash and equipment to replace we estimate.

We will only have very sporadic access to a computer so it could be weeks between updates and the only photos will be from the phone.

Sorry about that but it was beyond our control.

Beside the complete invasion of privacy that we feel, they did it while we were asleep and we now feel incredibly vulnerable.  The worst thing, we had some $USD8,500 personal cash put aside in the bank to be used to help micro-finance a small business initiative over here, to help local Khmer get out of the poorest conditions and help them help themselves  but we can't afford to do that now as we will have to replace the stolen equipment. The camera and laptop are crucial to Trevor's work.

This incident in no way affects our dedication to helping the Cambodian people. We will return to Australia to save money to purchase replacement equipment and increase our efforts to raise funds to bring back over in the future.