Sunday, February 26, 2017

February 26, 2017

We just returned from spending the weekend in Svay Rieng Province.  I will write more about that later but wanted to share some more pictures of books with you now.

Thursday, February 23, 2017

February 24, 2017

I've been very excited to start buying books for our new library project, yesterday I purchased the first books.  I am so thankful to all the people at TAMS who donated money for this project.

In the morning, I took a trip to Sipar Publishing.  Learn more about Sipar here

Then in the afternoon, we went to Open Book which is the organization under which CASF works in Cambodia.  Learn more about Open Book here

I'd like to introduce you to Panha Kol who is our Program Director here in Cambodia.  Panha was a CASF student so it is exciting for us to have her now running our program.  Panha will continue to purchase books with the money that was donated from TAMS students and staff as she oversees the library project come to life in the year ahead.  When we visited Kandall where Panha is from we had the pleasure of meeting her mom who, like us, is very proud of her daughter.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

February 23, 2017

Good morning.  We have been busy since I last wrote.

Looking back to Tuesday (2.21.17), our meeting with Room to Read went very well.  We met with Kall Kann who is the Room to Read Country Director for Cambodia. Our program and their program have a lot of overlap so it was interesting to hear about their work.  They have been running libraries for a long time so he gave us a lot of insight into what makes a successful library program.  The biggest take away for me is that you can't simply put books near Cambodian kids and think they will pick them up because this has not been part of their culture.  Because books have not been part of their culture, he cautioned us that books are not enough as we start our library.  He told us we need to do something to nurture reading, to build a habit of reading.  Kids need to have interactive experiences to learn how to make use of the books.  I had not thought about this before.

February 22, 2017

Yesterday we went to Kandall which is one of the provinces we work in.  There we met with the girls in our program to discuss how they are doing in school, what their goals are and what they would like to do with their future.  Several of the CASF university students joined us and led group discussions with the younger girls.  These conversations are the best part of the trip. This is the heart of the work we do and it is always inspiring to hear the girls talk about their school experiences and hopes for the future.

Photos taken on the way to and from Kandall.

We ate dinner at my favorite restaurant in Phnom Penh, Malis, last night. They specialize in traditional Khmer food and it is absolutely delicious.

Monday, February 20, 2017

February 21, 2017

Gosh, I have so much to say.  My mind and heart are already full.  

As you are winding down your Monday I am just starting my Tuesday (with mango of course).

Here's a recap of the last couple of days:

February 19, 2017
Sunday morning we got up early, left Villa Langka at 5:30 am and took a tuk-tuk to the CASF Univesity Women's Residence which is across town.  Riding in the dark we observed the city awakening as street food markets opened and people began moving about.  

When we arrived at the house two buses, a van and many smiling faces greeted us.  Once we said our hellos and Panha who is our Program Director here in Phnom Penh made sure we had everyone we boarded the buses for the three-hour ride to Kep, that is along the coast, where we took boats to Rabbit Island for our annual CASF outing.  We had never been to Rabbit Island previously and as a first we had all of our current students attend along with more than 20 of our alumni.  In total, we had 80 people on the trip.

Our outing to Rabbit Island was nothing short of amazing.  The scenery was beautiful, we had a lovely meal of local seafood, we started a discussion about what it means to be part of the CASF community, we swam in the Gulf of Thailand and we laughed and laughed.  It was a beautiful day. 

At the end of the day, we said farewell to everyone as they headed back to Phnom Penh on the buses.

This was a perfect welcome. Chum Reap Suor means hello in Khmer, the language which is spoken in Cambodia.

February 20, 2017
We stayed the night in Kep Sunday. On the ride back to Phnom Penh yesterday we stopped for a delicious lunch in Kampot, a well-known city for growing the pepper for which Cambodia is famous.  
As we journeyed on, I thought a lot about the traffic patterns and how materials and people are transported here as I always seem to.  I'm amazed by how everyone simply makes room for everyone else.  Beeping is a not an aggressive action, but one that lets others know you are there.  Here are a few things I noticed as we drove:

  • Motos (motorcycles) are filled with many people, often whole families including babies being held by one of the passengers.  Yesterday, I saw as many as five people on one moto.
  • One moto particularly stood out to me upon which a grandfatherly man was driving.  Behind him, a small girl who was probably four or five, sat holding on to him.  He had one hand steering the moto and the other was gently resting on the arm of the girl to help hold her in place.  This simple action seemed so sweet to me.
  • At one point, there was a moto on our left traveling in the opposite direction, our white, eleven passenger van straddled the yellow line of the bumpy road while a tuk-tuk traveling the same direction moved along on our right.  There was room for all of us. Here, in Cambodia, everyone fills the spaces that exist, no one feeling they have more right to the road than anyone else no matter if they are a student coming home from school on a bicycle or a large truck loaded with cargo.  There is even room for pedestrians and water buffalo.
  • At one point a large cargo truck pulled its side mirror in to make room for us to pass.
  • Trucks were loaded with cargo.
  • Motos were loaded with cargo also.  And the way it was done was clever.  2x4 type boards were run along the back rack of the moto so large market baskets filled with goods could be balanced on either side.  Then on top of those baskets set more baskets and in the middle was often another passenger.
  • All of these images gave me delight except for one which instead made me sad.  These were the cargo trucks packed full of mostly girls, jammed in after a days work in a factory like the Vattanic Industrial Park.  They were heading home or to a rented room on the outskirts of Phnom Penh.  These girls in their bright pink smocks are the reason why I think the work we do here is so important. Scholarships allow girls to go to school instead of working in factories in extremely harsh conditions.  

This morning I am working here at Villa Langka on curriculum that explores how our clothes are made and who makes them.  Seeing the trucks full of girls makes this work even more important to me.  It truly is why we are here and doing what we are.  

This afternoon we have a meeting at Room to Read which does similar work to CASF by focusing Literacy and Girls' Education.

I am thankful to be here.  Akun*

*means thank you in Khmer

Thank you to Jean-Claude Redonnet for many of these beautiful photos.