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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.

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

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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.

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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!

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Can school really be this much fun?

Can school really be this much fun?DSCN3487

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

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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

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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

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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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