Friday, 7 August 2015

When nourished and nurtured the tree bear's fruit......

'We receive good from expected and unexpected sources. We are unlimited beings, accepting from unlimited sources, in an unlimited way...we are blessed beyond our fondest dreams.' E. Honey

After a busy week, I have found a quiet place to just sit still and reflect on the past couple of months. So much has changed, so much has happened and so many experiences to be grateful for and so many people to have been fortunate to meet.

Most of all, I smile at how both YOU and the Universe have provided on so many levels in assisting to make another person's day a happier one.

Since leaving Siem Reap, Cambodia 6 weeks ago, I am still humbled and proud of the work that continues to be accomplished there by Barb, Chris, Margo, Steve and so so many others.

Here is an update of how some of our projects are going.

You will be pleased to know that the progress on David's house, although slow has been productive and is nearing finish.

The roof on David's house is finally being constructed. Unfortunately, there was a delay due to shortage of funds but thanks to Margo Mannix and your contributions to the KICK fund, we have cobbled the money together and so the roof of sheeting was constructed this week which means the family can come in out of the rain. Thanks to everyone who contributed and to the team and volunteers who organised several working bee weekends to assist the family with the building. Although it was tough labor, alot of fun was had by all. David e mailed me the photos last night and he was very excited to report how happy he and his family are but mostly how grateful he is to you all and is thankful for your support and generosity to him and his family.  

More construction projects have also been completed at Prosh's school. Not only do they have the pig 'farm' up and running but now they also have a Chicken coup thanks to a working bee a few weeks ago at Prosh's school. One of Barb and Chris's Khmer friends (Chut Hout) went out to assist them and it proved to be invaluable. Several of the teachers from the school were there and that it was great to be able to work with everyone in such great spirits. Hopefully the eggs will start to flow soon and will then be used to feed the children and/or sold for funds to assist with costs at the school. This will be the final part of the "farm" project. It means that the pigs, vegetable garden, compost and the chickens will all be producing income/protein for the school. 

Another amazing donation and contribution to the school was the installation of solar panels, donated and constructed by the 3 Monkeez Australain Solar company. After a few challenges the solar panels are up and running thanks to the generous time and effort of the people from 3 Monkeez organisation who came to the school and assisted in the implementation of the panels.  This initiative will make a huge difference to the school and village providing free electricity into the future. We were fortunate to have a group arrive to volunteer at the school from was an electrician with skills in solar 
smile emoticon the universe provided

Of course the art classes are a huge success and continue to improve each day. We are thankful to the volunteers who come and help out and we are proud of several local boys who have also volunteered to help out. The children at Daro's school love the classes and being creative. The classes are now getting up to 30 children a class and it is always a great pleasure to see their smiling faces...the affection and welcome they give is unconditional. The team are now starting to look at a breakfast club to feed the children at least one meal a day at Daro and Prosh's schools. 

Barb and Margo Mannix's art classes not only encourage children to be creative but through art their objective is to teach english and in the past weeks the children can identify all their colours and shapes in English! They get so excited on arriving at class. 
Using resources given by Zac Lurz and Robert Viselli the KICK team have also introduced phonics classes....they have more than 20 sounds mastered in just a few sessions. What an exciting and successful achievement by all!!!

It seems that there is only standing room at art class on Fridays at Daro's school. There is always a great team on hand to support the kids. Margo and Barb were joined by Da and Zac. Zac, Margo and Da stayed on to help with the older class as well...some great work was done by the kids.

Another initiative of the team was to purchase Sewing machines and try and develop some textile products that can be sold for profit for the schools.  The first of 2 sewing machines were purchased from the KICK funds to kick start the social enterprise that will support the school and village women.
Thanks to the wonderful Da the team were taken to a shop behind Selours market.
The machines are very old but we were assured that they work really well.....we had faith.
After negotiating a price for the pedal driven machine of 130 USD. This may seem expensive in Aussie terms but we had done our research and knew that we could pay over 180 USD.
We were then told that for another $10 we could have an electric motor for when we have power...after Barb testing the pedals we decided that might be a good idea smile emoticon
We were offered 12 months warranty with the machine and free delivery. The free delivery came with installing the machine at Barb and Chris's home.
smile emoticon Watch this space for the first item off the production line..we hope !!!

So now it was time to buy thread and material. The team ventured back to Psaar Lor market (which apparently means high market, market :)) The challenge was to not only find thread and material to make cool ties but also some scrap material to make prayer flags and for the children's art and sewing classes. The team were able to get material from 3 different women who all refused payment for the material even though we know they are poor and work at the market every day!! Got to love the Cambodian spirit that support the education of their children.

Currently the KICK team are Looking for partner schools in Australia smile emoticon..... We are looking to partner our Cambodian schools with ones in Australia. The idea would be to connect through Skype and other mediums so that the children here could communicate with classes there. The hope is that this will raise awareness and may lead to fund raising activities that can support the schools here. Your thoughts and suggestions would be welcome.

We are grateful for your support and we are happy to share with you how your contributions continue to make a positive difference to the lives of many in several communities in Siem Reap. With heart felt gratitude and thanks to you all and we hope you are enjoying these updates of the progress and achievements of our program.

smile emoticon

Jordan helped out with art classes at Daro's school this week. The children loved the class being creative with outlines of their hands. We are still getting up to 30 children a class and it is always a great pleasure to see their smiling faces...the affection and welcome they give is unconditional. We are starting to look at a breakfast club to feed the children at least one meal a day at Daro and Prosh's schools. Thanks Jordan...hurry back the children will miss you

Jordan helped out with art classes at Daro's school this week. The children loved the class being creative with outlines of their hands. We are still getting up to 30 children a class and it is always a great pleasure to see their smiling faces...the affection and welcome they give is unconditional. We are starting to look at a breakfast club to feed the children at least one meal a day at Daro and Prosh's schools. Thanks Jordan...hurry back the children will miss you

Wednesday, 17 June 2015

Hopes and Dreams......

'Without aspirations, we will lack a sense of hope; without a sense of hope we can not achieve'

When I was in Siem Reap last year, I visited Prosh's School and was impressed to hear his story of how his school had begun. 

While I was in Siem Reap, I met an extraordinary man, Prosh, who started teaching english to children in his community in his living room. They came in flocks. Soon his house was no longer big enough for all the enthusiastic children, so he invested his money and raised funds to build several buildings that have now become a small community school. The children come from far and wide and their smiles reveal how excited they are to be there in the classrooms, learning and believing that they have hope for the future.

This time on my visit to Prosh's school I was impressed and overwhelmed by how much the school has developed and achieved over 6 months since I was here.

Firstly, Prosh is a forward thinker and a man with a mind for business. His goal is to make his school sustainable and self sufficient, no longer needing funds to help keep it running and to pay the teacher's wages which seems to always be a stressful financial problem for him at the moment. So with his business sense and financial assistance from the KICK funds, he invested in some pigs as a way to generate income. The community built the pig pens on the school grounds and there are now several healthy and fat pigs being well looked after and ready for sale in a months time.

I was also happy to see that another classroom had been built and the plans was to turn this building into a music/arts room and textiles room. I was so delighted to see how much building had been added to the growing school.

I was even more excited to hear about how an Australian company, 'Three Monkeys,' donated $7,000 worth of solar panels and equipment to the school. What a generous contribution given by an extremely charitable company. Once these panels are installed, they will provide the school with all the power it needs plus more. Therefore, Prosh will no longer have to pay electrical bills and then the money can go towards paying teacher wages instead. A brilliant solution to alleviate the financial strain made possible by noble and generous people.

Currently, Prosh is also working with the local women in the village on a textiles project. They are designing and making boxes from bamboo and Palm leaves that will be sold to a supplier who has expressed an interest in buying a certain number of these boxes from Prosh each month. Again another brilliant business initiative to provide funds for the school and I admire Prosh's vision to get the whole community involved so they too can benefit from production and profit. He hopes to invest in a couple of sewing machines so garments can also be made and sold. Of course these projects are in their initial stages and require funding to start them off, but in time if managed well, these business initiatives will help provide crucial funds for the school.

This weekend, there will be a working bee at the school to create a vegetable garden where vegies can be grown which can be eaten by the children. There will also be a chicken coup to build and chickens to buy. Having chickens in the school will provide eggs and hence food so that the children will have something to eat. Often these children come to school hungry and hence their fatigue and lack of concentration can affect their learning.
At the moment the generous and caring Barb and Chris provide watermelon or an egg for each child donated by them from their own money.

Most of all, I was happy to hear that previous students that Prosh had taught at his original school in his home are now being sponsoring to go to Uni to become teachers themselves. Several of them are now teaching in the school. A wonderful example of how a school can eventually reap the fruits of its labor. It's lovely to see that these now educated young men have chosen to come back and teach and share their skills with the students.

When I revisit Siem Reap in the future, I can only imagine what these schools we have sponsored will be like. With continued support they will grow and become sustainable and self sufficient. A wonderful reward for all.

This will be my last blog regarding my visit to Siem Reap and the schools we are sponsoring with the KICK fund and projects. Of course Barb and Chris will continue to follow up on the progress of the projects and continue to oversee the schools and mentor them through their journey. We look forward to their updates and progress.

Thank you all for your contributions to the KICK fundraiser fund and for your support. I have seen first hand the difference your kindness and generosity has made to the lives of these people and we all are grateful to you and your kindness.

Sunday, 14 June 2015

If pigs could fly........

'If we can regard others' happiness as our own, then ours will be the richest and most satisfying life.......' 

How many people can say that they have been part of the negotiations of the purchase of pigs? Well I can tell you that it was a humorous and respectful affair, here in a village 20km out of Siem Reap.

Today I had the honor of spending the morning with Da, who so kindly invited us to share in his milestone of purchasing pigs for a business plan he has constructed and of which will fund his vision to own his own business in the future.

We all piled into Chris' army jeep, which I have come to adore...yes adore and headed out to Da's village.

Upon arrival in the village we were swept away by the array of colour and bustle of activity. Women sprawled out on the ground scaling and gutting fish, an assortment of both familiar and foreign foods, fruits and vegies of all colours, shapes and sizes and there in a stall tucked away was Da's mum, sitting so elegantly behind her sewing machine. Her livelihood is dependent on sewing garments and making alterations.

At first glance, I was taken a back. Da's mum was not what I expected her to be. At 50 years of age, she looked more like a 30 year old, with soft flawless skin and no evidence of wrinkles. Her hair was elegantly pulled back and she sat behind her machine with poise worthy of a princess. She stood up with an air of confidence and wisdom, there was no sign of the hardships she faces, a woman who is a widow, bringing up 3 boys. It was a pleasure to have made her acquaintance, a humble and modest woman.

Today's outing involved us all going on an 'adventure' to purchase pigs for Da. Part of the money raised from the KICK fundraiser, will be used to give Da a micro loan for the pigs. As soon as he sells a few, he will begin to invest the money to pay the remainder of the loan off their home and then eventually to start his own business. He will also be committed to paying back the loan so that it can then be given to another  enthusiastic entrepreneur. He is also committed to going back to his home village and starting up a business there, whereby the community would benefit from and one that would provide educational opportunities for the people who live there. Hearing Da speak about his 'dream' with such passion and conviction brings tears to my eyes. This young man is by no means selfish and all he can think about is becoming successful so that he could then give back to his village and family. Such motivation, so selfless and so humble.

The pig negotiations were a privilege to be part of. All negotiation was carried out by the women, with a couple of phone calls to the seller's husband to confer. Chris and I took a back seat approached, remaining serious but chuckling at the scene before us, all at the same time.
Negotians proceeded. another phone call, pause......some idle chatter....calm respectful voices....more chatter...more waiting....another phone call...finally....SOLD!!

Finally the deal was done, sealed and pigs to be delivered at a later date after they have been vaccinated. Of course Da was jubilant and his smile would have lightened up any dark room. His was over joyed and couldn't stop hugging us. Of course all of the way home Da was as proud as punch and we couldn't wipe the grin or the joy from his face. Again a tear jerking moment.
Here is a perfect example of a young man, from a poor village, determined to be successful and more determined to make positive changes to  the lives of others in his village. Who would have thought 5 piglets could have brought so much joy to the hearts of all of us that ordinary Saturday in June, well not so ordinary now.

Well it doesn't stop there folks. I hadn't had time to dry my eyes and I was soon in tears once again.

On our way back from buying the pigs we stopped to visit another inspiring local. Sohing is a young woman of 28 years old. She lives down the road from Da in the same village and they are very very close friends. This woman is petite and shy yet she is solid and determined. She is too proud to ask for support or financial support and prefers to try and get things done by herself, at a cost to herself.

Sohing is a remarkable role model for any woman, well any person for that matter. Again Sohing comes from a poor family, she hasn't had any formal tertiary education and she knows first hand what it's like to do it tough. However, despite her own family's struggles she has decided to shoulder those of the community.

6 months ago Sohing started a small school for the children in her village to learn english so that they would have a chance of a brighter future. Her house is built on stilts so she used the space under the house as a make shift classroom. Barb and Chris heard of her plight and invested funds from the KICK fundraiser to purchase a whiteboard and 4 desks. Today we visited her and 6 months later her classroom is now home to 15 or so children. Not only is Sohing educating these children she has also built a community of enthusiastic children who have the confidence and spirit to aspire to whatever their dreams maybe.

It was Saturday when we visited, and to our delight most of the children were present at the home. Not for class or to learn but to just 'hang out' with eachother. It was evident Sohing had built a community where children feel loved, safe and accepted. A place where they are free to play, be social or just to lay back and enjoy eachother's company.

This spirited woman, with a zest to achieve, was also an entrepreneur and she too was building a pig pen in the hope of investing in the business of pig breeding which would become one way to fund her school. Sohing has a dream to build 2 classrooms on her land so that she can have 2 functioning classrooms for the children in the village. She also hopes to go to Uni and graduate to become a teacher. For now she works tirelessly at her full time job, taking care of her family and running her school.

We always look towards sports heroes, celebrities, politicians etc as role models to inspire and evoke change but these unsung heroes are the role models worth getting to know .......I dare you too because if you make the effort, I can guarantee that your heart will be brimming with emotion, gratitude, humbleness and awe..................I am honored to have met them and to be part of their lives, to journey alongside them as they conquer the challenges faced to making their dreams a reality.
My life is so much fuller for doing so.