Collective experiences with our educators, schoolies, communities...
1. Vocational Training Team Cambodia
As I sit here a wonderful group of Australian educators are on their way to Cambodia to work with teachers from remote village schools in Kampong Speu and Siem Reap. This trip is the second such adventure that is fully funded through a Rotary Foundation Global Grant although previous trips have been funded privately and supported by a District Grant. The idea of this initiative really occurred as a result of people being involved in a World of Difference Humanitarian Tour. That experience enabled us all to see the immediate need for children to have the opportunity to increase literacy skills in both their language and the English language. It was obvious that, with the limited training that teachers have, help and support is needed to increase the development of the skills needed for children particularly in remote village schools to be able to have opportunities for future meaningful work that stop the poverty cycle.
So what exactly will this experience look like?
Well having experienced this myself last year, it will be delivered in schools that have very basic facilities namely four walls and a roof, windows that allow for some ventilation in very hot and dusty conditions.
No running water, very basic toilet facilities, literally a hole in the ground! Forget about the air conditioning! Our teachers will bring all their own resources as the teachers in the remote schools do not much at all and place great value on any donated pencils, paper and chalk The Team will deliver four half day workshops to approximately one hundred teachers and then go back, debrief and plan for the next day. This regime happens at a remote village school about two hours from Phnom Peng and then a few days later in a similar venue forty five minutes out of Siem Reap.
So far the feedback from the participating teachers notes statistics such as 100% believed the workshops were useful and relevant, 98% believed the content of the program was well presented and engaging and 99% believed that the materials used, demonstrated and received was useful their work.
We do have big plans for the future and hope to further develop a partnership with a teacher training institute in Kampong Speu. The aim is to support the local people training the future teachers and humbly offer some ideas and teaching strategies that are seen as successful in our local schools in Victoria.
The Vocational Training Team of teachers are truly making a difference in the name of Rotary and with funds from The Rotary Foundation.
2. Upper Yarra Secondary College | 3rd Visit to Cambodia
This year sees UYSC visiting Cambodia for the 3rd time, with 20 very excited students busily making preparations. Whilst parents are working their way through payment plans, booking forms, and passport applications, students are hard at work fundraising for humanitarian donations.
Schoolies Tour | Solving puzzles together
So what are students doing to raise funds?
Well they will give anything a go! They are selling boxes of Cadbury Chocolates (60 so far), this month they have a Garden Bulb fundraiser and a school car wash planned for the last week of term.
Students have been using the WOD donation forms to collect funds for specific items, with pigs and school supplies being popular choices, in fact, I believe a pig buying competition is a foot amongst the staff at UYSC presently.
Other planed events for this year include a Bunnings BBQ, barefoot bowls evening at the Warburton Bowls Club, and a Gala Dinner at a local venue which, includes music performances by students. I am not sure if I should also mention that my Year 12 VCAL class has a swear jar with $27 in it, all proceeds to WOD!
Students put in their time and effort for these activities so that when in Cambodia they can make a difference to those less fortunate. The fact that a WOD tour offers students an opportunity to engage with the Cambodian people at such a personal level is, I believe, key to our success.
Our students compare their lives to the Cambodian students they interact with and in an instant they realise, not only are they very fortunate, but that the world is not at all how they imagined.
They return home changed by their experiences in Cambodia and this then has a ripple effect through our school and greater community.
Are we making a difference to families and children in Cambodia? Yes, most certainly, however, as an educator, I would say that my students come away from a WOD tour with far more than they give. Thank you WOD, for changing lives, including mine.
Bronwen Foley | Upper Yarra Secondary College
3. 800-Year-Old Dam Cleared in Preh Nor
It is hard to believe that the families of Bossalla and Kroa Boa who 5 years ago were in a terrible state, relying on 18 months of emergency food assistance from World of Difference, are now living a sustainable life by extensively farming their land, farming cows, chickens and pigs with many earning enough money not only to feed themselves nutritious food, they have been able to purchase walking tractors, scooters and build themselves new houses.
Most pleasing is that many of the men who use to live away from home working illegally in Thailand are now living with their families. This large-scale pilot project is now complete, and the Rotary Club of Brighton who - along with other clubs in District 9800 - partnered with World of Difference on the Bossalla and Kroa Boa project, have moved onto the next project, securing a Global Grant to deliver a similar project in Preh Nor, a community of just over 4,000 people, that is situated in the Siem Reap Province, in North-West Cambodia.
The project that has been aptly named Sustainable Communities Cambodia will build on the achievements and learnings from our work in Bossalla and Kroa Boa, a significant aspect being the provision of aid on a micro finance basis at both a community and a farmer group level.
The first part of this 4-year project was providing a community loan to clear a large 800-year-old dam that had become heavily silted and overgrown. Being a religious dam, Rithy firstly needed to gain approval from the spirits that reside over the dam, assuring the spirits that the clearing of the dam was for the benefit of the community at large and not for commercial gain of an individual. For the first time in many decades, the spirits agreed and the dam has been successfully cleared.
The restored dam will provide clean drinking water to the community, water for agriculture and a commercial fish farm, with the proceeds generated through the sale of the fish being invested back into the community as well as paying down the community finance loan. Microfinance loans will also be provided to family groups– 4 to 5 families – who want to start farming cattle, pigs, bamboo or crops. The income generated from their farming activities will be used to pay down their micro finance loans as well as provide vital income to the families within the family groups.
Dam site in progress
As illustrated in the photos above and across you will see photos of the dam before, during and after clearing. Chairman Rob Hines recently visited the dam and was delighted with how much water the dam is holding so soon after it had been cleared. There is also a photo of a new statue of Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god who is worshiped as a symbol of physical strength, perseverance and devotion. Hanuman looks out over the cleared dam.
4. Making a “World of Difference” in Cambodia
On the 5th of January 3 families set out on World of Difference’s “Family Humanitarian Tour” of Cambodia.
“Helping the people of Cambodia was a real eye opening and humbling experience for me. It made me really appreciate my life.
Teaching English and interacting with the children was a real highlight for me. I cannot wait to go back in the future and help some more!”
This year the World of Difference tour provided us with the opportunity to visit and work in many remote villages throughout Cambodia where you don’t get to visit on your standard tourist holiday. During these visits we saw how Rotary is making a World of Difference in health, clean water, hygiene, education and sustainable development.
Initiative Donating Push Bikes -
Donated 32 push bikes to 32 school children
More importantly we got to work and play with the Cambodian villagers as well as:
donate 32 pushbikes to 32 school children who usually had to walk more than 10 kilometres to and from school every day
donate 200 school books and pens to the monks who taught in one of the remote schools
donate 22 laptops to a NGO school in Battambang
teach the school children some English
challenge the local school children to a game of soccer and volleyball
supply medicine to 3 medical centres
drill for water and install a water bore pump
donate $500 to the Wildlife Alliance Cambodia who rescue and reintegrate back into their natural habitat wildlife in the Southeast Asian tropical belt
donate $1,000 to one of the ethically run orphanages
In addition to the humanitarian work we had the opportunity to immerse ourselves in the Cambodian culture, visiting many of Cambodia’s beautiful sites,including seeing Angkor Wat at its best at sunrise, the Phom Kulen holy mountain where we visited the huge reclining Buddah, were blessed by monks and swam under the waterfall, we travelled too Battambang and witnessed a million bats fly from their cave at sunset, wevisited Cambodia’s dark past - S21 and the Killing Fields - which was emotionally draining and confronting, but important to see and consider, we visited the inspirational Wildlife Alliance where we met and fed Lucky the elephant as well as many of the rescued resident animals – the chatter of the gibbons was a classic - and we finished the tour with a bit of R&R on the beautiful beaches of Rabbit Island.