Thoughts from our volunteer from Canada

Hi-  Sobbhana has been so fortunate to have Deborah volunteer with us for a month.  She has done an amazing job and we are very grateful.  I thought it would be good to post her comments and to also encourage those who would like to volunteer with us to do so.  It is very important for our staff and children to be exposed to responsible volunteers from outside Cambodia.  They bring a new perspective and encourage new ways of teaching our young children.  It is important to make the lessons fun and interactive for both the teachers and the children.  The tendency has been for rote learning which can be boring for both teacher and student.  We want to foster a love for learning in our children!

Good morning Chris…today the daycare is closed and I am catching up on some email. I hope this is not too forward of me but I thought I would send my comments on the daycare and the work that is being done there. In short, excellent. A much needed service to these kids and their families is being provided. You and the staff are doing such a great job. You are amazing!

1. Chamroeum is doing a very good job, given the budget and resources. She is kind, respectful, responsive and totally committed to the kids, the centre and the staff.
2. The staff is hard working, committed and genuinely care for each other and especially the kids.
3. The kids…well they are kids…cute, well behaved, funny and trying hard. 
4. I am amazed that even a small amount of money can do something…Chamroeum is going to plant some mango trees: proper soil, seedlings and instructions can be provided for $20. After a lovely walk through the village and fields where I saw the various types of vegetables etc. I thought this would be a great $20 investment so I gave her the money.  
5. As the facebook photos show, only $50 bought a number of teaching aids, toys for the kids…all learning opportunities can be created from these items.
6. The daycare facilities are well cared for… Hm and Ta do a really good job.
7. There is no question that the kids need the services and sense of community. This is such an important part of their lives. 

Teaching aids and English lessons:

1. I have been exposed to poverty before. However, having spent 6 weeks travelling around this part of the world, I have been somewhat taken aback at the extent and the depth. What is especially cruel is the difference in those who have and those who do not…it seems like 95% do not..
2. We have incorporated the teaching aids in the daily activities…usually working with two to four kids at a time. Even over the course of 3 days I can see the awareness increase of what shapes were, how to fit them into puzzle pieces etc. 
3. There are a number of teaching aids to work with, including using those soft foam shapes you brought Chris. We separated them into 6 baskets and had two tables and four kids count out different colours and numbers of pieces. 
4. A new vegetable chart and accompanying basket of fruits and vegetables were used the other day to identify the various pictures and pieces. colours and types. Doing this blindfolded was especially fun.
5. Over the course of the day, we have been able to use the teaching aids,( with groups of 2-4)  about 3 times each. I hope this routine can continue.
6. I brought with me sheets with the individual alphabet letters and a number of opposite/sames worksheets. I also found an “opposites” book in a store and am currently using it with the teachers.  Additionally I bought a ubs stick, ( atChamroeum’s suggestion), and have saved some other worksheets from the internet. Tomorrow we are going to print some of these worksheets out and have them plasticised. At this point with the many new additions, there are a number of exercises and learning opportunities that can be incorporated into the daily routine. 
7. It was interesting to see how the kids reacted to the new balls and bats. There were many who had no idea how to throw or catch or kick the balls. They are now used during the outside playtime and are a big hit. The staff have had a few laughs with the badminton set. 
8. The  more complicated puzzles that you brought will also be incorporated into the routine. There is a very clear difference between the kids who will advance from the two wooden puzzles and the soft alphabet and number puzzles to your puzzles.
9. English lessons for the teachers. We have been having fun with the English. I have never done this before..taught English,( or for that matter the early childhood education ha). I am so happy at the teachers eagerness to learn. I could not believe it when all four of them just started writing out all the English I was putting on the board. I could not do so with Khmer…not by a long shot. They have learnt quite a bit. I spoke with Chamroeum about the cost of Chhai continuing this teaching by taking English lessons herself and then teaching the others. 

10. To my utter astonishment, for Chhai to take daily lessons from a fellow Khmer who knows written, and spoken English is a mind boggling $6 a month. I have offered to pay for a year on the suggestion that the lessons are taken and then taught to the other staff. Chamroeum and I will speak to Chhai on Monday. Chhaiis quick and I am sure after 6 months will be fluent. She will be able to use this skill herself…and teach others…She is very very poor as you know and lives with her mother. 

11. I have agreed to fund $20 a month for food for Simplou and her aunt. The poor girl is being harassed at school, where boys, who are  relatives? of the owner of the school are kicking her, tearing her note book etc because she is HIV positive. Chamroeum says that the principal says there is nothing that can be done.

I have to say when I arrived Friday last I felt very lost wondering what the heck I could do to help. That it was stupid of me to spend all the money I have to be here, when in fact, I could have written a cheque instead and a lot could have been bought. But as of yesterday, when I learnt of the $6 English lessons andChhai possibly carrying on and I saw how the kids are “getting it” with some of the teaching aids, I figured some good would come of my time here. I hope so.

 I thank you again for your work and the opportunity to be part of this extraordinary daycare.


Regards Deborah

Home in the US of A


Hey ! (after all I am in the South)-  I made it home Tues at 2am 30 hours after I left Singapore!  I slept, read, and watched movies.  Unfortunately we had to wait for 3 hours on the plane in New York for the airport in Atlanta to reopen after some freak weather- hail, rain, wind, tornado watches- just the usual! By then I had already figured out the entertainment system so after a nap I watched a good independent film- Liberal Arts which I can recommend.  It is Friday and I am still getting up in the wee hours of the morning. I think it is a combination of time change and exhaustion from the pace of the trip.

The teachers are in training this week.  The word from Chamroeun is that it is going well but they now want some developmental education -perhaps we have a volunteer that can speak to them about developmental milestones for 3-6 year olds.  I have located another preschool in Siem Reap province that is willing to have our teachers observe.  So stay tuned for new developments coming in the future.  It is so amazing that once given a taste of possibility they just run with it and hunger for more!  We are ready for change.  I just have to find the connections. I can just see the difference in the country too-  it is ripe for change.  The youth are no longer isolated and will start demanding to have their needs met.  Education is critical to this whole process and what better way to start than with a 3 yr old whose whole world is open to possibility.  How exciting!!

We will have a few new board members.  Sotia Hok who will help monitor our program in Battambang and Sybil who is an entrepeneur-  and a fundraising genius, as well as the Singapore crew- very creative and innovative.  So we are on our way in 2013.

I am going to post here our new projects which we need funding for.  The first is our adult literacy classes for our parents.  We need to cover the cost of the teacher for 1 year (t0 be determined).  The beekeeping project- $150 for each hive and $700 for a weeks training which equals $2500 for 12 hives. The gardening project- the scope of which is yet to be determined.  Right now we have only banana trees.  The soil needs amending.  We are also looking at planting a live fence perhaps of something that bears fruit or vegetable that can be eaten.  The roof needs to be repaired.  We would like to replace our playground equipment which is now 10 years old.  Another project we would like to start would be afterschool English and computer classes.  We are sourcing for computer donations now.  These will be posted elsewhere on our website and broken down in amounts for easier donation.

I want to say thank you to our partners Singapore American School National Honor Society, St Andrews Catholic Chapel Singapore, Blessings in a Bag for their donation of goods, my dentist Dr. Sylvan who donated toothbrushes and toothpaste and to Dr Monika and her dental students for donating their time to our kids!  Without all your help this trip would not have been possible.  Of course I need to thank my family for their support especially my husband Jeff who is forever asked to finance the many things the Center needs.  And a big thank you to Barbara Rinehart who traveled with me -spent her time and money on our kids and has been my mainstay in Singapore -gave me the use of a phone and a place to stay.

This is my last blog for this trip but look for more updates as things progress.  We will be doing some online fundraising hopefully through  I welcome your participation and emails- we are all part of the world noone is isolated anymore.

Thanks for reading!!






Singapore again….



Before leaving I would like to say something about our hotel Phka Villa in Battambang ( It was a lovely stay.  We each had our own bungalow surrounding the pool.  Breakfast was included and it was great.  The staff was very friendly and helpful- got us a tuk tuk everyday and procured the circus tickets for us.  To my amazement the internet was fast and consistent which enabled me to blog everyday in my room -which was air conditioned (my Western body loved it after sweating all day)  Our stay was set up by Pisey- thank you!

Barb & I were fortunate enough to secure a ride to Phnom Penh with Pisey and her group of ladies and children bound for Women’s Day Celebration. Pisey is Sotia’s wife.  We have been friends for almost 10 years.  It was a very peaceful ride with Pisey leading and the children and women singing songs of praise.  The most touching was amazing grace sung in Khmer!  We made it to the airport early despite horrendous traffic around the city and a major traffic jam due to construction.  I was truly surprised to see again all modes of transport locked in battle to pass each other on one lane instead of 2.  There was a wait of about 20min. although there were some that chose to go against traffic?  We had some close calls passing vehicles- same rules apply as for the bamboo train in Battambang.  If the vehicle is bigger it is your turn to back down- whew.  Next trip I will try the road to Siem Reap. The flight was unevenful and we passed the kg test so no extra fees!

We got to Singapore at 6pm.  We taxied to Sembawang and then freshened up and went to dinner with some friends from the Navy days.  Interesting went to a “biker bar” in Sembawang.  Mostly American food- crowded with great atmosphere.  My last day Sunday I went to the Catholic mass at the Navy Chapel and spoke to the congregation about Hearts & Hands- thanked them for their prior donation.  Then took the MRT to City Hall by Raffles.  I wanted to see the hotel but got turned around and found a bunch of new things by the Marina- the pictures you see here.  I met with 4 Singaporeans outside of McDonalds.  I have been communicating with Kwong Hong for awhile.  He is a student at the local University.  They are working together and hopefully are interested in helping H & H!!!  It was a 3 hour meeting and as the saying goes the discussion goes on…  I will have more to say in the future.



Last few things before leaving

Remember that post about cleaning?  Well here are my pictures to prove that we got it right!!  Chhai, Eing, Net, and Maroda got going after the children left and tackled the floors in the classroom.  They used bleach, detergent and scrub brushes with brooms and the new mops and went to work.  They swept, hosed down the floors, scrubbed and washed.  I could finally see that one of the squares was white.  We have yet to devise a way of keeping them clean during the day but at least they will be scrubbed once a week and we all now know what the floors look like clean.  Hurrah!

I was kicked out so went to play with the children still left at the center.  One of the younger boys “forgot” to use the toilet so it was bath time. He was not having it so I had to chase him around put him under my arm and get him to the bath area.  Of course he could not put on his clothes again so I found some new clean ones that were from our donated pile.  He was very picky about his shirt-  we had a laugh as he picked the brightest color but tightest one.  I guess I started something because all the other children also came for a bath and of course got new clothes.  The teachers came in and started playing with one of our donated baby toys-  turned it into a gambling game of chance!!  I knew they had imagination.  They are young and playful- perfect as preschool teachers if they used their imagination and creativity.  I really wish I could stay for a much longer time.  We all bonded well and I think they are ready to adapt their teaching using some of our methods.


A few more pictures from the party.  Participation from the kids with the musicians-  most liked the drum best?!

Goodbyes & Village walk

I find it always difficult to say goodbye.  Especially to such special people.  Most of the children left early today with parents after our party ended around 1pm.  We gave and got lots of hugs! There are some children that stay longer due to their parent’s work schedule.  Interestingly they are picked up with all modes of transport- motos, bikes, walking, no cars or tuk tuks usually.  They do pile on the bikes just like the motos.  Amazing to me how they all stay on. It is not so easy riding a bike on these dirty bumpy roads or non roads.


We had occasion to go into the village closest to the Center where Chhai and Net live.  I will include some pictures here.  On the outskirts of town are a series of plots (land parcels) all linked together.  They grow mushrooms, cucumbers, squash, peanuts, long beans, and there are many dormant rice fields.  The water is taken up by 2 watering cans on a pole balanced across the farmers shoulders from a pond and then distributed to the field.  A laborious process especially in the late morning heat.  I brushed against a bush and got into ants-  ouch they bite.  I did quite a bit of jumping about before I was free of them. We met Chhai’s mother and some of the other families.  We brought biscuits to distribute.  I like to go to see our families whenever I come.  I can see where and how they live and the difficulties they face.  I believe I already told you that Chhai gets up at 1am to check and harvest the mushrooms to take to market before she gets to school to teach.  Farming is usually not enough to support a family and is dependent on the weather.  This is one of the reasons I think beekeeping would be good here-  add another source of income.  The people are lovely -very polite and appreciative.DSC_0387DSC_0388DSC_0414DSC_0427DSC_0424DSC_0455DSC_0442DSC_0459DSC_0398DSC_0444