Building A Home And Making A Difference

In my last blog I spoke about Srey Mey and the conditions that she and her family have to live in. Her house was too small for them all to live in and they had to sleep on the floor of their neighbors house.

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With a donation of money we were able to provide materials to build them a new and more suitable home. Nothing like we are used to in The Western World but it was enough to make a world of difference to them. Being on stilts it means that when the floods come( as they are beginning to now in Phnom Penh) they will not have to move else where. In fact their house has been built just in time and they can enjoy the comforts of their own home and not worry about getting flooded.

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Choosing the Materials

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The initial amount of money was not quite enough to do the job properly so with a little more money they were able to buy metal sheets for the walls. So it may not look too impressive to  most of us but this small donation( maybe £120 ) has made a huge difference to one family. The mother will get up at 3.00 am to go to the market to buy the best fruit and vegetables she can to sell them on. Later in the day she will collect plastic bottles to sell for re-cycling as will her daughter in the morning before she goes to school. They certainly didn’t choose this life…..

Saying Goodbyes….

So I will be returning home soon( 24th June) to a country far removed from Cambodia. With only a few days left it is time to start saying my goodbyes so I went to visit a few people yesterday that I have had the privilege of meeting in my 2 years here.

My former employer (Waitrose ) were generous enough to give me a sum of money to use for whatever needs I thought necessary out here. I was able to sponsor some children that went to one of the local schools along with an individual donation for one of them. It was only a small sum each week but enough to make a difference as although schooling should be free in Cambodia there are still monies that need to be paid for a child to attend.

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This is where Srey Mey lives with her mother and two sisters ( her older sister has moved away to work in a garment factory so she can earn money for the family. She stopped going to school to do this.) Although this is their house they sleep on the floor of their neighbors house as their own is not well protected against the rain….as well as being too small for four of them to sleep in.

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This is Petra’s mother. She works selling vegetables 7 days a week making maybe $4 a day. Her husband had a moto accident some years ago and has a metal plate in his leg so cannot work. The money given to her daughter each week is invaluable to them.

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Some of the money was put towards painting the local school and supplying it with a few plants. This probably sounds a bit boring to many but I cannot tell you how pleased the whole school was with this gift, that is the Headmistress , teachers, and pupils who painted it themselves.

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Tari, the school Headmistress

Tari, the school Headmistress

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Probably the best looking government school in Cambodia..!

P.S. I have been able to give a sum of money to Srey Meys family so that they can build a new, bigger and more suitable house. Thank you to those who donated, I will show pictures of the new home when it is completed.

Phnom Penh 2014

So here are just a few random pictures of life in Phnom Penh. This city never ceases to intrigue me….how can so many with so little be so happy ?P1070818

I do stand in awe sometimes of those who have been born or sold into the mess in which they live. They never seem to complain but just mention that they do not have enough money to feed their children, or pay the rent…..

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To be with them can be a life changing experience and you can go as deep as you want with their struggles. I don’t think anyone could walk away from them and not be affected by the way they have to live.

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P1070847So take in the pictures and get a feel for those who have little or nothing……they certainly didn’t choose this life.

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Human Trafficking

Last week I was privileged to attend a conference on Human Trafficking here in Phnom Penh. This was something that I new little about but have a keen interest as many of the girls who work for us have been trafficked (that means sold into their work, most often by their families). The purpose of the conference was to initiate dialogue between the South East Asia countries and the EU.There were about 80 in attendance with 18 different speakers. The main forms of trafficking are forced labour and sex work, with a growing trade in human organs being sold in Asia. There was general agreement that there was disagreement (!) with many minor issues such as specific wording and terminology but this paled into insignificance with the overall agreement that more needed to be done and will be done to unite these two continents to combat this atrocity. 29.) A mother shamefully hides her face after listing her children for sale in 1948.  Here are just a few facts…

It is the fastest growing crime since the 1990’s.

21 million people are in forced labor in the world of which 68% are in forced labor work and 22% are in forced sexual labor work.

The sale of organs is the third biggest reason for the trafficking of people.

In 2013 54,000 people were smuggled to Europe from China and Vietnam.

South East Asia is the No 1 area for exporting victims.

136 different nationalities are trafficked to 118 different countries around the world.

This crime is driven by poverty….it is the illiterate and vulnerable who are targeted.

As someone who works with those who have come out of trafficking I was one of the few at the conference who was able to see the results of opportunities of freedom for people. This is all one BIG mess and something that many in the Western world are unaware of but as the figures show it is a crime that is on the increase and a crime against humanity. However much time, effort and money it takes I know first hand that it is all worth it. There is no price you can put on someone’s freedom, although the scars of being trafficked probably last a lifetime…..

 

Sreymey Gets Her New Bike

Sreymey didn’t have to wait long to get her bike. It was purchased on Saturday, and cleaned and delivered on Sunday. To give it a test drive I rode it to her house which is about 4 miles from where I live. The wheels stayed on, and so did I ,the only problem being that the bell did not work,but not to worry.

...yes, hard work and effort !

…yes, hard work and effort !

She was not at home when I arrived but one of the neighbors called her mother and they soon came. While I was waiting I was asked to join them for lunch which consisted of a can or two of beer and meat and vegetables and other “healthy” foods, although I am not too sure what they were. So I played safe and stuck with what I knew…Angkor beer; well I didn’t want to upset my stomach….

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The bike is a little big for her as you can see but she can still ride it and loves it…..P1060963 P1060964   She will also get an amount of money each week for a year which is a tremendous help to her and her mother who probably have to try and live off less than $5 (£3) a day to support mum and four children. As they say a little can go a long way and the bike and donation of money will hopefully help Sreymey fulfill her ambition of one day going to University.P1060980                                                   Happy Faces……Happy Days

A Little Change Can Make A Big Difference

A friend of mine recently held a Coffee morning to raise some funds to help those in need out here in Phnom Penh. The amount raised was just over £50, maybe small change to a lot of us considering the amount of money that passes through our hands each week, month,year….

So, what to do with the money? Well last year Waitrose were generous enough to donate a large sum of money to help those in need here and some of that money was put towards supporting two children who went to a school close to the NGO I worked for at the time. I realised that a little could go a long way out here. So the money available now will go towards supporting another child from the same school.P1060928

Sreymay is 12 years old and has two sisters and one brother. She lives with them and her mother as her father has mental health problems and does not live at home and therefore does not bring any income to the family. Her mother works at the local market selling vegetables and her older sister gave up school to get a job as they needed the money and now works in a garment factory. It costs her mother just over $3 a week to send her to school ( although all schooling should be free ) which is about £1.90. With the money available I will buy her a bike which she wants so she doesn’t have to walk to school and give her a little each week to help pay for her schooling. Sreymey enjoys school and would like to go to University one day so she can get a good job and support her family.

Their home is close to that of a relative as they had to move from where they used to live as they could not afford the rent of $10 a month (£6.30). This is where Sreymey, her two sisters, bother, and mother live. Take a bit of time to look at it as I find it hard to comprehend that this is how people live. After living and working here for 18 months it is still a shock and a challenge to accept such things…..But the money given will REALLY make a difference and is greatly appreciated. P1060915P1060908          P1060906P1060912P1060911

The bike can also be used by her mother who gets up at 3.am each morning to go to the market and buy the best vegetables available. When I asked if she worked every day she gave me a wry smile and said of course, how could she afford not to? So the money that has been donated will go a long way to making a big difference to one family.

Sunny Smiley Sundays

Towards the end of last year the rains came down here in Cambodia. Many areas were flooded including a lot of the slums in Phnom Penh. Still keeping in touch with one of the slums I used to work with I was able to distribute food and shelter, with the help of some friends, to some of those most affected. The money used for this was donated by a benefactor from the Isle of Wight.

Maybe not your traditional church

Maybe not your traditional church

One of those who helped felt called to start an outreach here so every Sunday afternoon he will go into the slum with some Khmer friends to translate for him and tell the villagers about The Gospel. He has rented a house that is also used as a home for a young couple and is used for English classes of which nearly 100 now attend the two classes that are given most days.

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There were about 70 people present last Sunday and maybe nearly thirty children……..not bad for a new church.

Sunday School for the small ones......

It is good to remember that it was the awful flooding that first brought him here and from that terrible situation ( more than 165 people lost their lives to the flooding last year ) he is now able to help tell others that their is real Hope in this world.

Sunday

Sunday…..

.......school

…….school

I

I

am

am

happy !!

happy !!

Good sound advice....

Good advice….

It is quite ironic that it is the walls that surround this house that were being used as a “whiteboard” for the English lessons that are now being given to the pupils inside this building……

.....this is progress

…..this is progress

Christmas Supplies From The Isle of Wight

Well it certainly won’t be a white Christmas for us this year. It was hoped that we would return to England for Christmas, but it wasn’t to be…..Parts of Cambodia are experiencing their coldest snap for more than 30 years, but not quite cold enough for snow !

The other day we were surprised to receive a package that had been delivered to our good friends Dave and Ester. P1050928 It was a box of goodies from back home as a treat for us over Christmas. To many the goods would not seem very exciting- a local newspaper, some cycling magazines, a box of cereal, coffee, some (lots) of chocolate, a calender and a special gift from Ireland…plus other small gifts but it was a real surprise and the gifts are greatly appreciated. The calender is from the Isle of Wight and it is nice to see pictures of England’s green and pleasant land.P1050936P1050945

I still try and keep busy out here and played in The Phnom Penh Five-a-side football tournament the other week. I think we all surprised ourselves by coming 4th overall and just missing out on a medal.It was held over two days, very well organised and finished with a presentation dinner which was well attended. We got to keep the kit which we played in which was the Napoli kit ( light blue ). I felt quite pleased with this until my daughter told me I looked like a Smurf….maybe, but certainly not as fat !

So we have just six more months out here before returning home and the last 18 months have gone quickly since I left my “proper job”. Do I regret it ?….Absolutely not and I look forward to next year and continuing to help those I can at Daughters   http://daughtersofcambodia.org/

Independence Monument

Independence Monument

10% and 90%

“….I am convinced that life is 10%  what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”  Charles R Swindoll

I just love this quote. I first heard it some years ago before I came to Cambodia and after living here for nearly eighteen months I have seen that many Cambodians live this out-they probably have never even heard this quote before-but they are the epitome of it.P1050686 P1050715

Born into poverty and destitution they have no choice but to work for a living and they will take whatever work is on offer. It is not their fault that they have been born into this way of life but it is their reaction to this that is amazing. Every day I see young children begging at the traffic junctions, people collecting rubbish with their own children sitting in the rubbish carts-today I saw a man with crutches pushing his cart with his young son sitting inside it…just another day in Phnom Penh. They never moan, they just survive as that is all they can do.P1050321

Yet they are such an inspiration. They will often smile at you and genuinely appreciate anything that is given to them. Many work at night collecting the rubbish as it is cooler-they have lamps on their heads so they can see what they are looking for…and also to spot the rats. It is no surprise that Cambodia was recently voted the friendliest country in the world by Rough Guides….that is quite an achievement out of nearly 200 different countries on this planet.P1050263

So Cambodia is proof that you can overcome adversity if you have the right attitude…..this does not mean that the people are just tolerant of their lives, it shows that they are among the most beautiful people in the world….because they have shown that what has happened to their country in the past will not hang over them and they will apply themselves as they only know how ……to never bloody give up.

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Building a future………..                                      ……..for a better past.

A Whiteboard Donated From The Isle of Wight

Last week when I visited the slum that had been flooded I found another need there. Nothing as maybe desperate as the rice and shelter that have been given out before but still a need. I was surprised to learn that one of the residents there is giving English lessons twice a day to some of the children and young adults. They are keen to learn and he speaks good English and is keen to teach them but as any teacher will tell you, a classroom needs a whiteboard so they can explain what they are teaching.

Well when you don’t have either you have to adapt. The classroom is the path and road where they live and instead of a whiteboard they use the wall. They have no pens or chalk so the teacher will scratch on the wall with broken stones or bricks so that his pupils can see what he is writing…they are so keen to learn English.How many back home would go to these lengths to learn ?

Teacher and 2 students in front of their old blackboard.

Teacher and 2 students in front of their old whiteboard.

Whiteboard gladly received along with pens and eraser

Whiteboard gladly received along with pens and eraser

This whiteboard was purchased with money from a generous donation from somebody back home on the Isle of Wight………Now, a proper classroom needs tables and chairs..

It looks quite easy to deliver from this angle......

It looks quite easy to deliver from this angle……

...a little different from this angle. Good job she's not driving!

…a little different from this angle. Good job she’s not driving!

..more happy smiley kids

..more happy smiley kids