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Wheels of Opportunity

WHEELS OF OPPORTUNITY

 

This month 10 bikes are needed for our newest students. 

We aim to break the cycle of poverty in Cambodia by educating children.

At $60 per bicycle, it doesn’t take much to make a big difference.

Help us reach our goal.

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DECEMBER 2015 – Happy Christmas from Opportunity Cambodia

Buy wine and help educate our children

I want to start this newsletter by thanking all our wonderful, generous donors – those who support our education program, and those who support our community development program.

You really are helping to transform the lives of seriously disadvantaged children and their communities.

We are now coming to the end of another eventful year at Opportunity Cambodia’s Education Centre.  It is wonderful to be able to report again that our students are healthy and doing well at school.

We are very proud of all our primary school students and special congratulations to those who received prizes for academic achievement at the end of the school year.

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Last month our oldest group of students became the first young people from our Commune to go to High School (years 10-12) in Siem Reap.  Teaching in rural areas like ours is really substandard and we felt that these able and ambitious students would not be able to compete with city students for places at college/university if we were not able to support them at High School in Siem Reap.

This is an expensive initiative but we believe we are educating future leaders in their chosen fields, leaders Cambodia sorely needs.

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The photo above shows our rented premises.  We have now hired staff  and the students are settling in happily to life and school in Siem Reap.

Before we moved into our Siem Reap home we held the traditional blessing ceremony which takes place when a new house is built or new occupants move into an existing dwelling.

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Some of our older children have recently taken part in a leadership training program in Siem Reap.  This program is run by Michelle Morin of Possibilities World and our students always enjoy and benefit greatly from the program.

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Our volley ballers go from strength to strength under Chheng’s tuition, as do our soccer players.  It is great to see the children’s skills and confidence developing and their excitement when they challenge some of the city teams!

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The rainy season has flooded Preah Kok village again.  However it has also delivered much needed water to fill the reservoir we have recently built in this impoverished village from which many of our children come.  This initiative, together with supply of filters, will provide clean drinking water all year round for this community for the first time.

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I would like to wish you all a very happy Christmas and a joyful New Year

Many many thanks  again for your interest and support

Carolyn Fletcher
Founder and Executive Director

Please help us to continue our successful programs by going to our website donate page GIVE NOW

Please keep an eye on our Facebook page for the latest news.

Please go to Travel Giver to book your travel and ensure a percentage of your costs will go to Opportunity Cambodia.

May 2015

GIVE NOW
I have recently returned from our Children’s Education Centre in Cambodia and am delighted to report that the year has got off to a very good start.

Our vegetable garden is brimming with good things as a result of the children’s hard work.

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In rural locations such as ours there is a chronic lack of resources and facilities, and the standard of teaching in the local schools is very poor.  Our constant challenge is to be able to provide reasonable quality teaching and resources to supplement what is available locally.  This means bringing personnel from Siem Reap, or taking our children to Siem Reap,  both of which are difficult and expensive.

However we now have part-time Computer, English and Sports teachers who are really enjoying working in such a different environment and with such keen and responsive students.

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There was great excitement when a large box of English reading books arrived – a big thank you to the boys at Knox Grammar School who donated the books

Our sports coach is providing general PE and coaching in volley ball and soccer, and we hope it won’t be long before our kids can compete with other teams in Siem Reap.

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Morning exercises with coach (in red)

Morning exercises with coach (in red)

 

Four of our year 9 students are attending a youth leadership course over 6 weekends in Siem Reap. This is a great experience for them, and while they are learning a lot they are also having fun.

The Giant Puppet Parade has become a major feature on the Siem Reap calendar.  20 of our grades 4-6 students went to Siem Reap for two puppet making workshops and then joined in the big Parade a week later. It is just the greatest fun experience for the kids.

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In the making

In the making

The finished product

The finished product

 

Our volunteer, Brian, is back and we are continuing our community development program supplying more water filters and tanks for families who do not have access to clean drinking water. We are not able to dig wells in our area and so we have acquired some land close to our poorest families where we will dig a pond to harvest rain water.  This will provide year round water for drinking (using filters) and irrigating home vegetable growing.

Two of our students outside their homes

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Thank you to all our wonderful, generous donors – those who support our education program, and those who support our community development program.
You really are helping to transform the lives of these seriously disadvantaged children and their communities.

Please help us to continue our successful programs by going to our website donate page GIVE NOW

Carolyn Fletcher
Founder and Director

Please keep an eye on our Facebook page for the latest news.

Please go to Travel Giver to book your travel and ensure a percentage of your costs will go to Opportunity Cambodia.

NOVEMBER 2014

GIVE NOW

I have just arrived back from a visit to Cambodia and would like to bring you up to date on some of the developments at our children’s education centre.

BACK TO SCHOOL

The children returned at the beginning of October after their 2 months school holidays.
They are all in great form and looking forward to the year ahead.

Crossing the river after school

Crossing the river after school.

One of our new girls is Vet.  She is 8 years old and comes from a large and destitute family.
She is able to attend our Centre thanks to a generous donor who will support her through her education.  She is so proud of being a ‘school girl’.  And is unrecognisable from the ragged little urchin who arrived on day one!

One of our new girls is Vet

The children were no sooner back at school when another national holiday occurred – there are so many in the Cambodian calendar!

Bon Om Touk or the Cambodian Water Festival, is celebrated in November on the full moon. The festival lasts for three days and commemorates the end of the country’s rainy season, as well as the reversal of the flow of the Tonle Sap River. Festivities include boat races and concerts.   We brought all the children up to Siem Reap to watch the boat races on the River –  very noisy and exciting.   Below some of the children in their new blue Opportunity Cambodia tee shirts.

Watching the boat races on the River

Watching the boat races on the River

Boat races on the River

Boat races on the River

At the end of the wet season some of our families decamp to Tonle Sap Lake to fish.  They then dry the fish to provide protein for their diet during the dry season.  Fish is a very important part of the menu at our Centre.

Families often take their children out of school when they move to the Lake but we are able to ensure that our students continue at school and are cared for while their relatives are away.

Fish by the lake

THANK YOU NRMA

The NRMA has presented us with 6 computers – a wonderful donation which included a technical expert to install the computers.  Chris spent two days at our Centre making sure everything worked in our technically challenging environment!

Computers from NRMA
We are thrilled with the outcome and the children were  so grateful they performed several dances in Chris’s honour!

Children dancing

EXTRA CURRICULA ACTIVITIES

We have commenced our Inspiration and Motivation program, with our first speaker being Sokha Sam.  Sokha is a Cambodian woman from a very simple rural village who has worked her way up from little education and a job as cleaner at a Siem Reap hotel, to an MBA and a job as Manager of the hotel.  Her story is an inspiration to all the children but particularly to the girls who still face family pressures to leave school at primary level, if they go to school at all, to work in the home and to marry early.

Inspiration and Motivation program

Sporting facilities are non- existent in our local school and in the local commune.  So we have started a program to teach the children soccer and volley ball, and we hope that in time they will be able to go to Siem Reap to compete with the city school teams.

Chris playing soccer with the children

Chris braves the Cambodian heat to do a little soccer training!

COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT

We are currently conducting a comprehensive survey of one of the critically impoverished communities where a number of our students live.  The data we collect will form a sound basis for the community development work that we are in the process of undertaking in the community.  The priority of course is clean drinking water and sanitation.  We are also planning to enable some income earning opportunities particularly for the women.

We couldn’t support and educate so many poor children without your interest and support.  They are terrific kids and deserve the opportunity they are getting.
A very big and heartfelt thank you to all our wonderful donors.

This Christmas please think about making a donation to our education program.  We would love to enable more children to gain the very clear benefits of good health and education that our students receive.

Carolyn Fletcher

Founder and Director

Please keep an eye on our Facebook page for the latest news.

GIVE NOW

Travel Giver

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September 2014

There has been lots happening at Opportunity Cambodia’s Education Centre over the last few months.

It is the wet season so our vegetable garden is thriving and our local farmers are ploughing and planting rice.

Harvesting our morning glory - a staple of the Cambodian diet

Harvesting our morning glory – a staple of the Cambodian diet

 

Our now not so new General Manager has settled in and is doing a great job.
We have begun our scholarship program to support girls so that they can continue their education into secondary school. This is a fantastic initiative and we plan to expand it. So many girls drop out of school at the end of primary school because families have neither the money for, or the commitment to girls’ education. While in SR recently an article on the front page of the English language newspaper mentioned the UN Human Development Report’s finding that the education index for females in Cambodia lags far behind other ASEAN countries, and Cambodia has a very low ranking in the development index over all.

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We are well underway with our English language teaching program. It has been such a battle to find a really good teacher who is prepared to stay out in the countryside for part of each week. The children are loving the classes and I am sure they will move ahead quickly. We are keeping our Centre open during the two month school holiday period so we can continue the English classes and virtually all the children have signed up for the extra classes which is remarkable.

Very exciting – we now have computers and the children have started classes. Once again we are trying to supplement in critical areas the extremely poor teaching that is found in so many rural schools. Unfortunately we cant get the internet in our rural village but the children are at least learning basic computing skills.

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We are moving ahead with our vocational exposure program for the older children. Nine of our girls attended a vocational workshop at one of the universities in Siem Reap which really helped open their eyes to the career opportunities that are available in the city.

Relaxing with an ice cream after the vocational workshop

Relaxing with an ice cream after the vocational workshop

 

On International Children’s Day we organised a special celebration at our Centre, inviting children and their families, school teachers, local community leaders, representatives of relevant government departments, and guest speakers. Our children provided entertainment – beautiful traditional dancing and singing – and everyone had a really wonderful time. It is the first time that such a celebration has taken place in our Commune and the Commune Chief was very proud that it was taking place in his Commune!

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Our thanks to all our wonderful donors and supporters whose generosity is enabling us to continue to expand existing programs and to commence new initiatives.

Carolyn

Please keep an eye on our Facebook page for the latest news.

GIVE NOW

Travel Giver

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WELCOME TO OUR NEW WEBSITE

We are delighted that you are visiting our new website and hope you are enjoying the experience.

We are celebrating this event by launching an appeal to obtain sponsorship for each of the children at our Education Centre.

Your sponsorship could change a child’s life and enable dreams to come true.
Please go to our Donations Page to see how you can help.

2014 has got off to a great start with lots of activities for the children and new programs being introduced.
We welcome a new member of staff – General Manager Youchheng Uch.  He has a University degree and considerable experience working with international NGOs.  He lives in Siem Reap with his wife and daughter.  Chheng will be busy with a number of new initiatives such as the mentoring and career development program for the older children,  a pre-school program for the community,  and a school support program for girls.  This program is designed to enable girls from poor families, who have reached grade 6 in primary school, to continue their education in secondary school.  Many girls drop out of school at the end of primary school for family and other reasons.  Yet development experience has shown that educating girls at least to year 9 is critical to the success of measures to fight poverty.

Sports Day

Again this year some of our children have taken part in the Giant Puppet Project in Siem Reap.  For some of them this is their first visit to the ‘big city’.

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It is an opportunity to meet children from other NGO projects and to learn and have fun being part of a really creative activity.  Once again the children absolutely loved the experience.

Puppet Parade

The children showed off the benefits of their dancing and music classes when they were invited to perform at the local pagoda festival.

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The younger children had a great time when we went to Kbal Spean for a picnic lunch and paddle in the river.

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Our wonderful volunteer Brian Hammond has been back again for another 3 months working with one of our poorest communities to help them improve their living conditions.

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Community meeting at our centre to plan home repairs

 

This time we have been working with families to repair their dangerously inadequate shelters, and install guttering and water tanks to provide clean water.

Before

Before

 

After

After

 

 

May 2013

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.

Kulen Mountain excursion

 

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.

Making puppets

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.

 Giant puppet

 

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.

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)

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.

Installing water filters

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.

Sewing Graduation

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.

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.

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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.

 

Carolyn Fletcher

 

 

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.”

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