So much has happened already in 2013 – a great start to the year. I have recently returned from Cambodia where all the children are in good form – healthy, energetic and doing well at school.
During my visit in January we took them to the sacred Kulen Mountain where the water flows over stone carvings in the riverbed to a beautiful waterfall. What a fantastic day they had, experiencing a special part of their heritage and enjoying a swim in the waterfall.
In February, fourteen of our older children took part in the famous Giant Puppet Parade in Siem Reap. The aim of this project is to foster the children’s confidence and creativity through art. We managed to have our ‘country’ children accommodated in Siem Reap so they could join in the puppet making workshops with children in the town and then be part of the parade on the big night.
It was a fantastic creative experience for the children which they absolutely loved. Our thanks to the organisers of the Puppet Project for helping our children to take part for the first time.
In order to increase the number of children we can assist we have commenced a new initiative to enable poor and disadvantaged children living close enough to our Centre to attend on a daily basis. They receive the same benefits as our boarders – we support them to attend the local school and provide food, health care, clothing and extra teaching and activities. This is a very exciting project that will enable a larger number of disadvantaged children to improve their health, receive an education and access a range of extra curricula activities and experiences.
The house of one of the new day students.
About one third of our children come from a desperately poor community which has no clean drinking water, no sanitation, no electricity, inadequate shelter and chronic disease. As part of a new Safe and Clean Drinking Water Project, our staff are currently working with Brian Hammond (a volunteer at our Centre) to enable this community to have clean water. With our assistance, this community has set up a Project Committee and undertaken appropriate training before the installation of the first water filters. Our Centre children who come from this community are helping to monitor the use of the filters.
The community meeting (above) and installing the water filters (below)
Brian got to know this community well during the time he was volunteering with us. In writing an email about his desire to support an initiative to provide clean drinking water to this community, he described the desperate circumstances of the village. I have included an extract from his email at the end of this newsletter – well worth a read.
While our priority remains the care and education of the children at our Centre, we expect this initial Clean Water Project to become part of a wider development project in this community to help them improve their living conditions over time.
We are also very pleased to report that our sewing and tailoring training project has been a great success with all 10 girls graduating with excellent skills this month. They are thrilled with their efforts and we are very proud of them. We held a graduation ceremony for them on 5 April which was a really marvellous day. The graduates were so excited. Their families and all the children at the Centre and their families also had fun by joining in the games and dancing after the ceremony.
A small micro finance project will now see five of the girls set up their own home-based small businesses and the others will continue on to further training in fashion and design. This project is a real first for the community. It has been very well received and we hope will lead on to other similar initiatives in our community.
Girls wearing clothes made by the sewing school graduates.
And finally, we had a wonderful and successful fundraising concert in Sydney in February. I am sure all of you who attended enjoyed the amazing performance by pianist Alexander Gavrylyuk in a perfect venue, Government House.
Our heartfelt thanks to Alexander for his very generous support of Opportunity Cambodia. A capacity audience and further generous donations ensured we have a very good start to the year financially. Thank you to all our donors for the wonderful support you provide.
In writing about the Safe Drinking Water Project Brian said:
“The project is aimed at delivering safe drinking water to the families of some of the kids at the Opportunity Cambodia Centre. I could not help but notice the striking difference in health between the children at the Centre and their families and peers in the village where most of them come from. It was obvious that the safe water and healthy food provided at the Centre were having a dramatic effect on the overall health and wellbeing of the children there.”
Brian went on to describe this community as
“an untidy collection of about 35 broken down shacks between a stinking river and a dusty track, later on in the wet season it becomes a flooded mosquito ridden open sewer where every stilt house is an island of neglect. The health of the families is pretty grim – malnutrition, vitamin deficiency, diarrhoea, poor eyesight, worms and respiratory infections are all very common, especially in the young. They have never not had a stomach ache, never been free from parasites in their gut or never not had one of the family members free from sickness of one kind or another.
One of the biggest logistical challenges for the village is clean water supply. Because of its situation, wells are very difficult to sink and restrictively expensive. Its position on the edge of the Tonle Sap Lake means it is frequently flooded and almost impossible to access by road during the wet season. It is the place where the forgotten people live.”