2013 Newsletter

31 December 2013

Holiday Greetings to All & a Happy New Year!

We have had a very exciting year 2013.  I will try to recap for you in this newsletter.  Please look at us on Facebook as Sobbhana Daycare Center with lots of pictures.

Barbara and I were able to visit early in the year.  It was quite successful because we were able to start several new projects.   We initiated an adult literacy program in partnership with Heifer International.  At present there are 8 people in the class taught by Sreynith one of our teachers. They study from 1-4 every weekend. We started this program due to the request we had from some of the mothers of our children.  The one thing they wanted to improve their lives was to learn to read and write.  We feel strongly that if we help to educate the parents we strengthen our ties with our community and improve the lives of our children and their siblings.

We investigated the bee project further.  We traveled to a local bee farm and spoke with the beekeeper.  He was willing to provide hives and bees as well as education for our families and continued support through monthly visits.  We are looking into the best way to sell our honey, possibly build our own hives, and raise the funds to start with our Center and 10 families.  The local honey is dark and has a strong flavor.  Hopefully this year we will be able to raise the funds to begin.

We were able to take the staff their children and Somphlou to the circus in Battambang. Phare Ponleu Selpak is an NGO which gives youths from deprived backgrounds the opportunity to channel their energies into learning circus skills such as juggling, clowning and acrobatics while raising awareness of issues such as HIV/AIDS, landmines and child rights. It started in 1986 in the refugee camps on the Thai border. Their website:  http://www.phareps.org/  I highly recommend a visit if you happen to be in Cambodia.  We all had fun!  We took 2 tuk tuk’s to get there- racing each other down the street!

We were able to spend time organizing the storage space at the school.  Usually we also give a workshop for the teachers and this time we emphasized creativity using games and other forms of play.  We were able to send our Director, Chamroeun to Siem Reap to observe another preschool run by Caring for Cambodia.  The Cambodia department of education sent instructors to spend a week with our teachers at the Center specifically focusing on preschool curricula.

We hosted a local musician Master Mik and his students for a performance for the children.  This is the website for the local NGO http://www.marioninstitute.org/cambodian-living-arts/about-cambodian-living-arts  Master Mik survived the Khmer Rouge genocide because of his talent. The Masters- these men and women hold thousands of years of traditional knowledge in their hands, bodies, and voices.  They are the living cultural treasures of Cambodia. We wanted to expose the children and their parents to local culture.  Some of the children participated with the students on the drums (with help of course).

My wonderful friend Monika Suorn a pediatric dentist was able to come and see our children. She and her volunteers spent 2 days with us.  It is so important to receive dental attention early.  Some of our children already have rotting teeth.  She was able to talk with the parents and children about dental hygiene and prevention of caries including what foods to avoid. She also was kind enough to see one of our staff, Meak Hum who was complaining of sore teeth which required a trip to Phnom Penh to Monika’s clinic.

We have been blessed by having some great volunteers this year.  Karl, Marcus, and Alejandra are professional photographers who came in July and took pictures of the Center and our children and staff.  Pictures do truly tell our story as you can see by the ones we have included here.  Our website will have more of the pictures and the movies they took.  A great big thank you to all of them for their generosity!

Deborah Eaton-Kent was our next visitor.  She is a true dynamo from Canada.  She spent a month with the Center and concentrated on teaching the teachers English and also giving classes on educating preschoolers with lots of teaching tips and materials.  The staff fell in love with her and she has maintained a relationship with them.  She sponsors one of our teachers, Khoeun Chhai for English lessons, and continues to sponsor Somphlou for food and clothing.  Somphlou’s parents died of AIDS and she is HIV +.  She is now 14 and lives near the Center with her aunties. She gets medicine regularly, goes to school and afterwards is often found at the Center helping out. Her living conditions are very poor so Deborah’s assistance is very important for her.

Nicoleta Salajan came in August for a few weeks.  She started a “kitchen garden” planting some vegetables and fruit trees.  She also helped with English classes and worked with the children adding to their daily lessons.  We hope to continue with volunteers as they have added greatly to our program. Even if you can’t travel to Cambodia we are always looking for volunteers willing to work with us on our website and assist with fundraising in all capacities including grant writing.

We have some special thank you’s to add. Friends of Alejandra’s, Ellen and Jamie design jewelry in Bangkok and have designed a beautiful gold Cambodian pendant. They are going to donate $100 from the profits of the sale of this pendant to us!  They have a store on Etsy- Asia Gem Connection and a website: http://asiagemconnection.com/2013/04/10/cambodia-pendant/  Please take a look!

We have maintained a relationship with Emily Teng who runs Blessings in a Bag in Singapore.  She was able to send us a donation of clothes, bags, towels, and some school supplies.  Some of the clothes and items we were not able to use were distributed in the villages to our families and their neighbors. http://blessingsinabag.org/

We received our first package of school supplies from http://packforapurpose.org/.  This is a new partnership for us this year.  They encourage travelers to bring donated items to specific drop off sites for NGO’s in the area they are visiting. We also partnered with Phka Villa a B & B in Battambang as a drop off site.  They are a wonderful small hotel with a very friendly staff.  We always stay there.  Here is their website with the pack for a purpose logo for us- http://phkavilla.com/

We also must thank our long time sponsors the National Honor Society at Singapore American School, and the US Navy Chapel in Sembawang, Singapore.  They have been great consistent donors.  We appreciate their continuing support!  We also want to thank Rose Charities Canada & New York for their help with our financial transactions.

We are most grateful for our primary donor this year Tay Yiang Ping from Singapore.  She stepped in and offered to support us through February 2014.  It would have been difficult to continue without her consistent support this year.  This allowed us to do repairs, special projects, the graduation and holiday parties, and buy the needed electronic equipment.  THANK YOU!

We have added two new board members.  Sotia Hok who works with the Handa Foundation in Battambang, and Nikki Singer a former volunteer for us who is presently completing her master’s degree with a study abroad in Cambodia.

As usual we have a wish list for next year.  This includes new playground equipment, building repairs including painting the exterior and fixing the kitchen roof, a new toilet, more teaching materials, and as always a monetary increase for our dedicated staff.  Please look to our website for our donation page.

Best Regards,  Christine

Christine Wagner, Director Hearts & Hands for Cambodia