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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

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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…

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 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

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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.

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

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Money for powdered milk

$100

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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.

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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

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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.

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 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.

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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!

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Christmas Activities

This is to show you a couple of views from our balcony-quite exotic eh?                                                                     

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This is another view from our balcony! so don’t look down. We recently moved house and everything went smoothly(there wasn’t a lot to move so that helped) and we now feel really at home and settled.We are in the same area which is good as we have made a lot of friends and it is quite close to the school for Edward and Lenna. Christmas here has been hot,as you would expect,but rather strange for an ex-pat as Cambodians do not celebrate Christmas and to them it is just another day and business as usual. A few shops have decorations up and you do see the occasional Christmas tree. On Christmas Day we went to church in the morning and to some friends afterwards for dinner with about ten others . It was a lovely time and we were able to enjoy turkey and get into the real Christmas spirit.

DSCN1688DSCN1690DSCN1668Just before the Christmas period we distributed 2000 shoe boxes filled with gifts to various churches and organisations. It was a privilege to see a lot of them being received by children who had nothing and I was surprised by how disciplined and grateful they all were. We could well have given out nearly another 1000 and our thanks go out to the church in Singapore who financed and packaged all the boxes.

At our headquarters we had a Christmas celebration and gave out over 200 boxes . As part of our celebration we did a short play and I was chosen to play King Herod. It was a non speaking part but I still managed to get all the children under the age of two in Bethlehem and its vicinity killed- I didn’t sleep easy that night.

DSCN1377While it is The Festive Season for some of us it is just another day for most here in CambodiaDSCN1378These kids would have been out collecting rubbish just like any other day. Their days work would have got them no more than $2 in total(@£1.20) but to them it is money for the next meal and money to help pay the rent.Although they have nothing it is a pleasure to be in their company and they are just the same as kids all over the world-just a little bit more streetwise maybe.

Finally, I have just been invited to a wedding tomorrow-my first in Cambodia. A couple  were having difficulties with each other and after having a period of counselling with our NGO,have decided to re-commit their marriage vows…I am looking forward to it.