Before I will report from Cambodia after a bit of a break, I first want to say I hope you all had a happy Easter! Obviously there is not much of an Easter feeling here, but I am not really missing it. To compensate I will generously celebrate Cambodian New Year in April!
It is extremely hot here in Cambodia. The hot season started early and the drought is already causing water scarcity in many areas. El Nino will bring difficult times here for many people. In Bech Khlok we are already feeling the pain. The whole area has totally dried out. During the day temperatures exceed 40 degrees Celsius and small sand-twister whirl through the village regularly. It is very tiresome for us to work under these circumstances. Most families have been forced to find alternative work on short notice, because they cannot grow anything anymore and the plantations have no work available either. This means that the number of pupils at Bech Khlok school has reduced from 85 to about 50, but that number will increase again when the rainy season starts. Sadly, mainly the 15 year old 4th grade pupils had to stop going to school to find work.
But there is also some good news. The 3rd grade girl Hon Kannika won third prize in her age group and her commune (9 primary schools in total) at the National Reading Contest!
That result is very pleasing to all of us, especially since only a year ago Hon was not a particularly good reader. We would like to think that the new school material and the reading classes have contributed a lot to this result.
But now to breaking ground! Already a few days after I had arrived in Battambang we had found a small builder for the new classrooms in Bech Khlok. Sopheap and Sambath look after the building site and I visit the site with Sambath every now and then too. Also, we have regular project meetings in Battambang. So far everything is going well. The foundations were laid last week and next week we will see the start of the supporting wooden structure. Over the next days Sambath and I will have to go and find bamboo. We have not found any of good quality so far and so we will have to extend our search.
The first two toilets for Bech Khlok are almost ready to use. Unfortunately just not in time for our last visit, and so we had to settle for the Bush toilets one last time.
Meeting with Sambath
Hard construction work at 40C!
The first toilets in Bech Khlok are soon ready to use
Last week we - FP (video and photos), Heang (translator and coordinator) and I - spent a couple of days in Bech Khlok.
Here are some first impressions of the first day. Those of you who remember the very first images of one-and-a-half years ago will surely notice how much better this school looks now!
Ready for school!
On the way to school
Never without the little sister
Our two brightest girls
Please! Give me a break!
The volleyball net was donated by a lady from Battambang
Popular break activities, drawing, reading at the little library or playing games
Having a little nap during breaktime
I prepared some classes and Heang helped me teaching those. We asked five of the 4th graders to write a short letter and to make a drawing for the students at Terra Nova school in Herrliberg/Feldmeilen, Switzerland. We would love for the children of these countries which are literally worlds apart to learn more about each other. The pupils of Terra Nova had kindly donated the funds for Seed to buy two or three Bio Sand water-filters for Bech Khlok when I visited Switzerland last December. I will add photos of the Bech Khlok children to the letters and drawing and send everything off to Switzerland soon!
We also had an exciting afternoon where the 3rd - and 4th graders learned a lot about the world. At first through images on my laptop, and then through a game of Big World Memory, which I had spent many hours and days creating myself back in New Zealand. The kids totally enjoyed playing the game, which together with some other board games Seed gifted to them, will make for a brilliant addition to the small school library.
On day three we presented an introduction to the concepts of the cycle of clean water and water pollution. We rounded off the afternoon with a photo-shoot for a book about this theme. The book will be another photo-story, in the same way we had done this before with the Countryside Class in Battambang.
I want to close this report from Bech Khlok with some images of where we lived, the grandmother who so lovingly cooked for us, and a photo of the journey back to Battambang.