Monday, August 30, 2010

From little things big things grow

"Desire to sow no seed for your own harvesting; desire only to sow that seed the fruit of which shall feed the world."
Light on the path, from Hatha Yoga by Kathleen Hitchcock

If you take a seed and nurture it- feed it nutrients, give it water, sunshine and love, it will grow healthy and strong, into something wonderful.
As it is with children.
We decided we wanted to do something for the kids in Cambodia, so we sent out a brief email to all our friends asking for a little help. Well, flocks of emails flew back to us on angels wings from caring people who trusted in us and wanted to help also.
We were overwhelmed with generous donations, exceeding our expectations. Some people passed on the word and collected donations from friends also. What started as a small ripple, gathered in size and grew and grew without us, into a wave of compassion.

To the Cambodians their country is Kampuchea. It remains one of the poorest countries in Asia and its a tough existence for much of the population, a daily struggle to survive. It has survived horrific civil war, genocide and famine, in my lifetime alone.
I would look at Cambodians about my age (38) and wonder what horrors they had been through already and how many family members they had lost. All my personal worries and fears suddenly seem very insignificant. One thing we noticed is there didn't seem to be many old people. Plenty of kids though, beautiful brown shining, wide eyed children!! Kampucheas future.

Australian Kids Reach Out

August Noosa News:
Extending the Hand of Friendship to Cambodian Orphans
The 2 day group of children at Peregian Beach Community Kindergarten have been busy working with local artist, Virginia Luhrs to create a wall hanging of colourful painted leaves and warm wishes for the Lighthouse orphanage to be visited soon by Kindy parents, Amy and Andrew Houston. Donations of coloured pencils and cash to purchase much needed supplies of rice and other staple foods for the children were also made by the Kindy families at an afternoon tea held on Friday at the Kindergarten. The Kindy children are looking forward to seeing photos of the Cambodian children with the wall hanging in their environment when Amy and Andrew return!

This Blog is so that you can see where all our donations went and see pictures of the gorgeous kids it helped.
We initially chose only one needy orphanage-The Lighthouse. But when we arrived in Cambodia and saw how much need there is and as the funds grew to more than twice the anticipated amount, we decided to "share the love" between 3 different orphanages, trusting this to be the best decision on behalf of all the donors.
(The Lighthouse received approximately 50% and the other two shared the other 50% of the total )
It was heartwarming to see how many fantastic projects for kids are happening here in Cambodia.(We wanted to support them ALL!) So we spent many hours visiting and chatting with co-coordinators, looking for ones with a sustainable approach eg. helping the kids to become independent in the world through education. We learnt so much! Two thirds of children in Cambodia don't even complete primary school.

So, research, intuition and fate lead us to the following three orphanages.
We would love to hear your comments, questions and if you are planning a trip-we have plenty of tips to share.
From the kids of Cambodia -THANK YOU all who contributed. Together we sprinkled some seeds of love and hope. May they grow and blossom.

Amy and Andrew

Amy and Andrew are interviewed on Noosa Community Radio:

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Lighthouse Orphanage
This orphanage is based in Phnom Penh and cares for 108 abandoned children between the ages of 3 and 18. Like most others, it does not receive any form of funding from official bodies, and currently the only support comes from donation by locals and tourists.

Girls Bathroom-they handwash and hang out their own clothes

The donations of money and food is barely enough to keep the orphanage running. Education plays an important role in their lives and all the kids have english and computer lessons in two basic classrooms on the property. They also attend a local school which is free, but they need to buy school uniforms, books, pencils etc.

We knew the orphanage needed rice, the base of every Cambodian meal, so on our first visit we stopped by the rice shop to buy 3 huge 50kg bags.

We arrived at lunchtime and after seeing their lunch menu, (plain rice and watery 'soup' with a few greens swimming around) on the next visit we went to the local markets first and brought big bags of meat, fish and veges, much to their joy.

Meat Market

Mr Lee, the director, gave us a tour of the grounds, classrooms and kids rooms. The first thing that struck me was the fact that many of the kids were sleeping (3 to a bed) on filthy disintegrating foam or no mattress at all-just a thin plastic mat on hard timber. Forget sheets.

After a chat with Mr Lee about the other much needed items, we agreed that the funds were best spent on new mattresses. So the next day, off we went with our trusty Tuk tuk driver, and after wild goose chases, rivers of sweat and price bartering we succeeded. The kids were ecstatic.

On our first visit we presented the children with the colourful wall hanging created by the kids at the Peregian Kindergarten, as well as the coloured pencils from the kindy families. We explained to a sea of brown smiling faces how the Aussie kids across the ocean cared about them and wanted to give them something special.

We had fun hanging out and playing, reading stories we brought with us and talking with the children, gaining insights to their lives, worlds apart from our children at home.
Below, Map reads me a story.

They drew some beautiful colour pictures with sweet little messages for us to take home to the kindy kids at Peregian to say thanks. Needless to say, our hearts were brimming (let alone our eyes)

One of the resident dogs had recently birthed a huge litter of cute puppies, who receive lots of hugs and nurturing from the kids.

Saturday, August 28, 2010


Smiling Soban, staff member at the ACODO front gates
ACODO ( Assisting Cambodian Orphans and the Disabled Organisation) is an NGO ( Non-Governmental Organisation) based in Siem Reap established to assist orphans, the disabled, poor children and those living on the street or garbage tips. ACODO truly believes every life has equal value and each individual deserves the opportunity to have a better way of life. They face great difficulty in running their programmes and continually and urgently need help from generous sponsors, volunteers and visitors. There are 68 adorable children from 4-17 years old.

Veasna, the president assistant, enthusiastically showed us around their small plot in Siem Reap and introduced us to the beautiful children. We were welcomed with squeals of delight, curious questions and cheeky grins.
ACODO is always in need of any volunteers who can help with teaching english to the kids in the two basic classrooms (below)
or even just to come and play games for a day or two.

We asked Veasna what was the greatest need for the orphange right now. He replied without hesitation-"food". So we purchased 150kg of rice and also other much needed food and basic hygiene supplies.

Lining up for lunch, smallest to biggest. The youngest boy on the left, Tah, was picked up from a pagoda just 3 weeks ago with his two brothers and a dog

It only costs US$288 to sponsor a child to go to the local school for a year which includes school uniform/school supplies.

This is Konthea, aged 6, cute as a button. He is one of the cheeky cherubs who need sponsorship to go to school. He plays an
awesome monkey in their evening performances. The children are studying Khmer traditional dancing with a Cambodian dancing teacher and every night, to raise funds for the orphanage, they put on a public performance at the premises.This in one way they spread awareness of Acodo and what they do. In the background is an Australian woman named Neroli who has committed 6 months of her life to stay in Cambodia as a volunteer teacher at the orphange, WOW!! Hats off to you Neroli.

We were drawn back again and again to this orphanage to chat and play funny games, hug and giggle with the divine children, who never forget your name.

looking at photos of Australia

Cambodia Orphan Fund
Cambodia Orphan Fund is situated in Siem Reap, one of the most poverty stricken regions of the country, despite being home to Cambodia's tourist hot spot and eighth wonder of the world-the great Angkor Wat. Parents are struggling to feed their children and fighting a daily battle to put rice on their table.
C.O.F has one of the most forward thinking, sustainable and inspiration programs we came across, with solid goals and visions to help break the poverty cycle.

They have two orphanages. 'Fuchs House' is a large property which houses 25 kids and Osborne house, home to 35 children from impoverished backgrounds. The kids are looked after in a family home atmosphere, attending local Khmer school and English language lessons. Osborne house also opens its doors to 120 children from poor families living nearby who want to learn English. Their goal is to set up 10 English language schools within the region.

I didn't realise but some children in orphanages are there because their family can't afford to feed or school them. COF aim to help families stay together by using donations to pay for the schooling and a limited amount of food supplies for the family. In exchange the parents must guarantee that the children will live at home and not be sent to work or to beg. Now THAT is worth supporting.

Drink coffee and support the kids. C.O.F have also opened a non-profit trendy COFfee house in the heart of Siem Reap, where the walls are lined with outstanding photographs of the children in their environments. Another innovative and empowering project they run is training Mums to sew bags (Spotlight in Australia buy a large amount) and to design and screen print tshirts
(sold to local businesses)

C.O.F are in need of funding and also volunteers in their orphanages and schools. No experience needed, just a desire to help children. The rewards are everlasting, every smile and tender hug imprinted in your heart.

Friday, August 27, 2010

Floating Schools

From Siem Reap we visited the floating village of Chong Kneas where hundreds of poor families live on the Tonle Sap lake in rustic little house boats. The village moves with the seasons. During the wet season, the vast amount of water that travels from the mountains down the Mekong, causes the Tonle Sap to flow upstream and swells the lake to nearly 8 times it's size!!

We visited the local school which also floats, buoyant with chirpy children.
We motored to the nearby (floating of course) shop and purchased some school books and pencils (at exorbitant prices) to give to the headmistress of the school.

Floating Village Life

Kingdom of Cambodia: places and faces

Cambodian People-always smiling and joking

Anyone caught begging to us, was sat down for a meal and a chat

We think this elephant just made a large deposit in the bank

Fried spider anyone?

Taste like chicken?

Clean your feet with Dr. Fish "happy and funny"

Temples of Angkor

Sign in our guesthouse