Working Week

P1010207

This is my friend Sokunthea. She is 29 years old and her son Rah is just four years old. She collects rubbish for a living, not because she wants to but because she has to along with thousands of others in Phnom Penh. Sokunthea will get up at 7.00 in the morning and work until about 9.00 at night collecting what she can and then selling it on to be re-cycled i.e. plastic bottles, drink cans, cardboard etc. I met her once when I was on my way home from work and it was just beginning to rain, well pour actually, and of course the obvious was in front of me as she had nowhere to go but just sheltered until the rain had stopped-maybe an hour or two later. I bought her a raincoat- it was the least I could do. When she gets home she will then cook a meal for herself and her son. She will stop once during the day for lunch.P1010221P1010219

She has been doing this for the last four years; the first two with her husband before he left her and the last two by herself. Rah has not been well lately and had to spend time in hospital, another added cost they could have done without. As well as looking for rubbish Sokunthea will also search for food to see if there is anything she can find to eat to save having to pay for it.

Home sweet home. No electric,no running water and no toilet..

Home sweet home. No electric,no running water and no toilet..

P1010228      P1010230 She will earn about one and a quarter dollars a day ( .65p ), that is less than £5.00 a week and that will have to pay for food for the two of them, her rent and any other costs that may come up ( hospital fees etc ). Oh, and a working week is seven days long. There is no day of rest for many in this poverty stricken country.P1010233

Back To Reality

I have been home to England for the last five weeks and it was lovely to see family and friends again as well as England’s green and pleasant lands.

I am here in Phnom Penh for another year and will be looking for work with another NGO for the next twelve months. Reality soon kicked in when I was picked up by my friends from the airport and driven home. It didn’t take me long to realise that I was in Cambodia as I was soon to see the people collecting rubbish in the roadside and looking for food even though it was 10.30 at night.

I was informed of the death of one of their close friends in a road accident. The girl was killed when she and her sister were knocked off their moto by a drunk driver. Her sister has two broken legs and is still in hospital. Another person was killed when he was hit by the speeding car. Unfortunately the culprit will not go to jail, or be prosecuted, or face trial as he is a high ranking police officer…and then I realised that it just another day in Cambodia…. Take every day as a blessing.

RSCN3456

Changing Lives

This Sunday we had our Church service at one of the International schools here in Phnom Penh instead of at our usual church. The reason for this was that 16 people were getting baptised and we used their swimming pool to baptise them in.

IMGP1602

There were about 70 present for the service and it started a little later than planned as it took longer to travel from one side of the city to the other through the as ever manic traffic. Most of those baptised were teenagers although the oldest candidate was 63 and it was a pleasure to be involved with the service.

What probably made this so special was that seven of the girls who were baptised had been involved in sex trafficking and had been “rescued ” by an NGO that works with those who are trying escape from their forced trade. Two were as young as 15 and one was just 13…..

IMGP1637  IMGP1634                                                                  IMGP1626    IMGP1627 

International Children’s Day

Saturday 1st June was International Children’s Day. To celebrate this most of the schools in Phnom Penh had a special ceremony at which they invited various dignitaries, donors and people who had supported the school over the last year. I was asked to attend as I had passed on some money that was donated by Waitrose  to pay for some plants for the school  and for the four school buildings to be painted.

The first of many speeches

The first of many speeches

DSCN3505

Gifts to be given to the poorest-note the Buddist shrine in the top left hand corner

Gifts to be given to the poorest-note the Buddhist shrine in the top left hand corner

It was nice to be invited and when I arrived at 7.30(a.m.) I was shown where to sit with other “dignitaries”-next to the Head Table. The children were all lined up in their various classes-the school has nearly 1,000 children in total-and waited patiently while all the speeches were being made. I was given the honor being moved from where I was sitting to be given a seat at the Head Table next to the Headmistress. I wasn’t as much moved as forcibly manhandled and made to sit in the main seat of honor by the Headmistress herself. This is how much she respects and is grateful for the money that was donated by Waitrose-it really does mean that much to her and the school. Last year Waitrose turnover was about 2.8 billion pounds. The money given for projects here in Cambodia I think is probably the most valued of all that has been through Waitrose tills !

Kids with gifts

Kids with gifts

DSCN3504After the speeches the poorest children were asked to line up and receive special gifts of snacks,books and pencils, and bags (which were donated by our organisation). All the children were given a Soya drink enriched with nutrients.

DSCN3510

To round off the proceedings there were games-good old fashioned egg and spoon race,a sack race, and a game that involved two children squeezing together to burst the balloon between them. No health and safety here but the children had so much fun…

Ready steady go!

Ready steady go!

RSCN3525

Can school really be this much fun?

Can school really be this much fun?DSCN3487

Newsletter No 5

5th Newsletter for blog

Is There A Doctor In The Village ?

As part of our job we go and visit and support a small village in the province (countryside) about one and a half hours drive out of Phnom Penh. Our main focus is to help and support a small kindergarten and ladies sewing group there. The other week both of these projects were put on hold for a day as a medical team from Australia called GAIN (Global Aid Network) came to the village to give as many people as possible medical checkups. There were also two dentists and an optician available.

The school building was converted to a big clinic-with a big waiting room

The school building was converted to a big clinic-with a big waiting room

Leaflets were handed out a week before and between 150 and 200 people turned up to take advantage of the free services on offer. Medical treatment for those in the province is pretty scarce and if they have any serious illness they will need to go to Phnom Penh which is about 65 km away and will cost them extra money- for the treatment and the travel- which they usually don’t have.

Waiting for the Doc..

Waiting for the Doc..

The medical team used the school building as their “hospital” and many of the children who should have been at school came along with their families to see what the doctor could do for them. The whole day was very well organised and there was face painting,balloon making and hairdressing all available to the children. All treatment was free and the patients had the option to be prayed for before they left.

Patiently waiting....

Patiently waiting….

DSCN3380

This was a wonderful opportunity for people to get medical, dental or optical treatment that they would otherwise not get. It was a good day with a lovely community atmosphere.

See the nurse first

See the nurse first..

..and then the Doctor

..and then the Doctor

 ... honest, there is nothing to be afraid of.

… honest, there is nothing to be afraid of.

The dentist is waiting for you...

The dentist is waiting for you…

Gotcha!

Gotcha!

Sorry eye can see you've been waiting a long time.
Sorry eye can see you’ve been waiting a long time.

Haircut time

Haircut time  DSCN3410DSCN3414

There is prayer for all if they wish..
There is prayer for all if they wish..

RSCN3391

DSCN3413

 

Every Little Helps…..The Waitrose Way

With the money that was donated by Waitrose $100 was put towards sponsoring two children at a local school. Both children are already attending but their families are having difficulty supporting them due to their own finances being tight. Again it is an absolute pleasure to be able to help them and thank you again to Waitrose for making this possible.

The two children will be given some money each Monday and will collect it from our offices. The amount that they will both get will mean that they do not have to get this money from their parents and this will be sufficient to get them through school for another year. They will be given 5,000 reil a week, that is $1.25, which is about .70p a week…Now this may seem quite pitiful to those of us outside Cambodia but it makes a BIG difference to many who live and work here. It is not only the money that benefits them it is also knowing that others do care and want to help them.

Keo Sokvan Petra

RSCN3423

Keo Sokvan is 13 years old and is the youngest of four children. Her oldest sister is 29. Her father was a moto taxi driver until three years ago when he had an accident on his bike through no fault of his own.He had to have a metal pin implanted in his leg to help make it better. This should have been removed but they have been unable to pay for the operation so the rod is still in his leg and gives him much discomfort. Since then he has not been able to work and the only form of income they get is from his wife selling vegetables. She was able to get a loan of $50 from another NGO to help her with her business of which she pays back $2.5 a week. When Keo Sokvan grows up she wants to be a teacher.

Keo Sokvan's parents

Keo Sokvan’s parents

Her fathers scar from his moto accident

Her fathers scar from his moto accident

Elec Sundea

DSCN3425

Elec is 12 years old and attends the same school. He is the oldest of five children and his father works as a construction worker. One month ago there was a small gas explosion at their house in which his mother and two sisters were hurt. His mother needed hospital treatment as she suffered slight burns and the family had to sell their moto to raise the $250 needed to pay for her treatment. She now also works as a construction worker (many woman do out here) where the work is hard and physical but the payment poor. When Elec grows up he also wants to be a teacher.

Elecs mother

Elecs mother

Thank You Waitrose !

Before I came out to Cambodia to work I was working for Waitrose on the Isle of Wight. I have kept in touch with many of my former colleagues and Waitrose have been good enough to donate  £500 ($800) to put towards causes that I work with. Here is what I have put the money towards:

Plants for School

DSCN2722 (2)$100DSCN2721

This donation was greatly appreciated by the school staff and pupils alike. It may not seem such a big deal to buy a few plants but in a country where most things are expensive to most people they really make a difference to the school. The schools themselves do not have money for such luxuries and have to arrange their own “Gift Days” to raise funds.Such money raised would be spent on other necessary items so it was good to give the money and watch it blossom and bloom…

                      DSCN2730  DSCN2733 DSCN2739                                                      

 The school itself is just one of a number that our organisation work with-each one having different needs. The children here are between the ages of five and thirteen and are all from typical average Cambodian families.

Money for school paint

$400

DSCN2736

This was another luxury that the school could not afford. It may not seem too exiting again but it was desperately needed as most of the buildings had not been painted since 1996 when they were built. It had been planned to use some of the money from the “Gift Day” but as we were able to give the donation it meant that the “Gift Day” money could be used for other things such as hopefully getting the toilets fixed.

DSCN2848

The painting itself was done mostly by the children who were pleased to get out of the classroom and help.

DSCN2746

DSCN2737    DSCN2738

DSCN2924

DSCN2923DSCN2926

DSCN2850

DSCN2557DSCN2716

Money for powdered milk

$100

DSCN1314

It is an absolute pleasure to be able to help this lady and her family. The mother is HIV positive and gave birth to her youngest daughter five months ago. She does not want to breast fed her for fear of passing on the illness so she feeds her powdered milk instead. The only problem with that is that it costs just over $10 for one tin which will last just over one week. The problem is where to get the $10 from. The father left a long time ago and the only form of income she gets is when she goes out collecting rubbish and selling the cans, plastic bottles,cardboard etc that she can find. When she chooses to do this her other daughter is left at home to look after the baby-she is just seven years old and has to miss school to be the babysitter.

DSCN2795

By helping her out this way(we buy the powdered milk and give it to her ourselves as a lot of people here gamble,so she does not have the temptation to try and double her money) she now knows that she does not have to work and can stay at home with her family where she should be. It also means that her baby is getting the full amount of nutrients every day as before she would try and make the powdered milk last longer by using less each day. Our organisation also donate on a ad hoc basis so it can be provided for at least 15 weeks by which time the baby should be on solids and no longer need the powdered milk.DSCN2603

 Money for the sewing ladies

$100

DSCN2880

Part of our work involves us going to a small village project about an hour and a half drive into the countryside from Phnom Penh. This project includes a ladies sewing group where they make bags. The bags they had been making were very traditional and there wasn’t much variety and the whole project needed a bit of a boost. We have been able to give them new encouragement and have given them some new designs to make and have been trying to find new outlets in which to sell the bags. At present we sell them in a number of cafes in Phnom Penh and I will be bringing some home with me to sell when I come back in June for a five week break.

DSCN2712

 The $100 donation was a much needed boost to the funds. It enabled us to buy one new design and the necessary material and to help employ one new lady. There are now six ladies making the bags although it is still a bit hit and miss as to when they turn up to work as they are not too good at disciplining themselves sometimes. The more bags they sell the more money they make-the more money they make the more ladies we can employ.

DSCN3350

DSCN3351                                                                                                                    DSCN3337

DSCN3349

DSCN3347

DSCN3348

DSCN3345

Money to sponsor some children at school

$100

This money will go towards helping one or two children go to school. Although all children should attend many don’t, either because their parents can’t afford to send them(they need to pay a fee for the tuition,books and uniform),or because they are out working to support their families.

I have asked the local school to find some children that need support and we will pay for them to be able to attend school. When this happens I will let you know!

DSCN2854

Just A Few Facts….

..and figures from this dusty but pleasant land.

*In 2012 there were 553,000 orphans-about 9% of all children

*71% of households live below the poverty line

*41% of the population are under the age of 18

*40% of children have stunted growth due to poor nutrition

*75,000 people are HIV positive

*63,500 people have been injured or killed by landmines since 1979 and there have been more than 25,000 amputees

*It is estimated that there are between 15,000 and 20,000 prostitutes in Phnom Penh alone; of which one third are under the age of 18 and many are the victims of trafficking

DSCN1414

Silly Games With Lovely Friends

On Friday we went to a Khmer country park with our language school. There was about 50 of us in all,staff and pupils. We left Phnom Penh at 8.00 and arrived two hours later. The plan was to teach us about the Khmer New Year which is between 14th and 16th of April and to have a bit of fun. Khmer New Year is a bit like New Years Eve, Christmas Day and your 18th birthday all rolled into one. People will go into the province (countryside) to visit their families for this celebration which means that Phnom Penh is unusually quiet for once.

As well as learning about the Khmer culture we visited a Pagoda (Buddhist Temple) and played traditional Khmer games,the sort of games they have played for decades out in the province and the sort of games that maybe children play when they are young back home.

DSCN3028 DSCN3021DSCN3019Lunch was provided-Khmer cuisine.It's in there somewhere        DSCN3047It was such tremendous fun and I think that we all appreciated getting away from the city and getting to know one another a bit better. We also tried to master the art of Khmer dancing…….well at least I had a go. There was a sack race competition and some sort of game which involved throwing flour at one another-not too sure about the rules for that one..

DSCN3062  DSCN3061DSCN3065  DSCN3066DSCN3056  DSCN3059

In the park itself was a memorial to some of those who had died during the Khmer Rouge rule of Cambodia http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khmer_Rouge_rule_of_Cambodia.This area was another “Killing Fields” although on a much smaller scale. Basically it was where people were taken to be executed and then buried in mass graves. This memorial was tucked away in the woods and is a reminder of what should never happen again.

DSCN3037  DSCN3034DSCN3035  DSCN3041

All in all it was a lovely day and good to get to know others a bit better and find out what work they are doing here in Cambodia. So many people have given up the security of their former lives and taken a step of faith to help this country and it’s people. There were people from France, Australia, New Zealand, America, Holland, South Korea and England. Their jobs included a former prison officer,a surgeon,a doctor,a teacher and a businessman.

DSCN2992 This dog is called Spot as you have to spot what is missing…