My Fourth of July was amazing. Along with a couple of my American colleagues and dear friends (Scott Friedman and Jana Stanfield) here in Siem Reap we concentrated on being the best of Americans and demonstrating what caring, compassionate Americans have to offer to the less advantaged people in the world.
We began the day with a visit with Theany, Director of Future of Khmer Children http://khmerchild.org where she provides supplemental education in English, computers, sewing, traditional Khmer arts, crafts, music and culture to 322 children from the local villages. Together with her and her staff, we spent the morning agreeing on the design, construction budget and schedule, and computers, etc. for a new Technology Center. We’ve already got the money for this … so it *will* happen soon. — just as soon as we sort through a couple of alternatives and work out some details.
In addition to all the educational work Theany does, she also arranges for wells to be dug for local villagers that otherwise have no access to readily available clean water. Here she is with one of the 230 wells provided so far.
While visiting the local villages and seeing the wells that Theany had provided, we also dropped in on a local government school for 600 kids, more than 200 of which receive further education with Theany’s Future for Khmer Children school.
At 1:30pm, that same July 4th, we met with the senior leadership of UNICEF here in Siem Reap, and teleconferenced with the UNICEF headquarters leadership in Phnom Penh about how we can work together to best serve the needs of the rural, poor children in Cambodia.
From these conversations came several productive ideas and action plans. I’ll write more about that later, but in all likelihood we’ll continue to build on this relationship and work together in the years ahead. And, their key staff will be supporting us during our upcoming fundraising events here in Siem Reap. Way cool to have them not only endorse our work, but to be a potential sponsor as we move ahead. Imagine that. UNICEF!! … with “little old us”!
A couple of hours after that we were sitting in a meeting room in the Borea Angkor Hotel (five stars for Siem Reap) talking with the Governor’s wife and daughter, the general manager of the hotel, and the executive in charge of the seven hotels in this group.
Here’s Jana in the midst of those conversations
The governor’s wife is passionate about issues of gender equality and opportunities for girls and women as this country rebuilds from their terrible past. Already, we’re signed on to collaborate with her on her projects which include, a 400 person (all female) fundraiser this coming Sunday. Jana Stanfield will be performing for them, including singing one her songs “Every Awesome Woman” … was once a little girl … now converted to “Every Khmer Woman” with accompaniment from the Governor’s daughter and others … in both English and Khmer. WOW! Here’s the song:
Beyond that, we’ll also be working with her as she fulfills her Red Cross responsibilities for this province as well.
Later that day … and at dinner … we had many more conversations with our connections here in Siem Reap, including representatives from the local university … always about ways to collaborate to improve the lives of women and children here.
So … we spent our 4th of July (a bit before it actually arrived in America) here in Cambodia representing what we think is the very best of American caring, generosity, and willingness to help those less advantaged than we are. It was a good day. It was a good Fourth of July. It was good to be an American … here in Cambodia.
On the 5th, I visited with another orphanage in Siem Reap, namely, the Angkor Orphan Education Organization (AOEO). Unfortunately, this one did not turn out so well. With a tip from the folks at UNICEF, and some further research on Google, it became readily apparent that this was not an organization we would want to support. Earlier this year, the director had been arrested and jailed on charges of sexual misconduct. Finally released from jail just shortly before my visit he and his staff continue to protest his innocence. The UNICEF folks say there are a lot of questions (and some outrage) about his release. He himself, admits having two girls, ages 11 and 12, sleeping with him in his bed, but still protests his innocence. As if that weren’t enough there was a reported rape of one of his staff a couple of months ago, and preceding all that uproar, there were newspaper reports that three significant Australian donors withdrew their support because of unspecified improprieties.
I guess this just goes to show the value of on the scene due diligence. Bottom line for me is that the director, who to this day retains his position, is either guilty or stupid. I don’t want to support either. (I’ll spare you pictures of this dismal place where the kids really do need some help.)
Later that day we visited Angali http://www.anjali-house.com an educational association that is everything that AOEO is not. What an great job the folks are doing here.
Run by a long-time Cambodian resident Samuel Flint (originally from England) Angali provides disadvantaged kids with healthcare, meals, safe drinking water, and education to supplement that which they are receiving in the local government schools. Interestingly, much of that supplemental education is based in the arts. From the training they receive in photography, graphic arts, and creative writing, the kids produce some amazing works. This is a fine organization very much on our radar for future support. Here’s Sam, along with our good friend and colleague living in Cambodia, Robert Lucas.
My last visit in Cambodia was to the Life and Hope Association run by a Cambodian monk called Y-Nol.
Here he houses 35 at-risk women ages 18 to 35 and provides them with sewing training and jobs as a path for them to achieve a stable, self-sustaining life.
In addition to the sewing, I like the values they teach. Another impressive organization clearly worth our consideration for future support.
That’s it for the Cambodian part of this trip. Off to Sankhlaburi in western Thailand, and into Myamar next. More about that soon.
Life is good … at least for some of us it is. Others need a bit of help … and together we can provide that.