Set off again at 8am today. We hired a minibus as there was myself, the new aid worker Laura, the project co-ordinators Phillip & Conchetta, and their daughter Sophie. Phillip, Conchetta, Sophie and I spent the day painting while Laura did a couple of English classes.
Shortly before we left for the day, we had a conversation with some of the children (with the help of our Khmer driver translating) about the food they eat. The responses were heartbreaking to hear - the majority of them only have one bowl of steamed rice a day, meat is very rarely eaten because it is too expensive, and we discovered that the village water source is the same source used for toilets and washing. They take the water from the well, pour it through water filters (which don't work) and then drink it. No wonder the children are so malnourished and disease is rife - and with conditions like these it's not surprising that the children are unable to concentrate and flourish at school.
Thank you to everyone who donated items for the project - everything will be used solely for the benefit of the children. They really do have very little and certainly don't experience what we would call a normal childhood.
I have also given the money donations received to The Sage Foundation to go towards funding the installation of a water pump at the school, which will provide clean water for the students to drink, and, once a kitchen is established, they will be able to use it for cooking as well. A water pump costs $1800 and with the money I have been able to give, it means they now have enough to start the work. It is also the Foundation's aim to provide every child with lunch each day, so at least they have one nourishing meal.
FYI - all money donated to the Foundation is used for the school and the benefit of the children and local community. None of it is used for administrative purposes. The running of the project is done by Phillip & Conchetta who, having worked for NGOs worldwide, do this out of love for the people and the country they are helping. They both have other means of income. Phillip is a freelance travel/magazine writer & photographer and Conchetta is a fitness instructor & designer.
Having had the conversation about food, we were all a little subdued in the minibus on the way back, but perked up when Phillip announced that he wanted to buy two more laying ducks for his garden. We stopped at various places to enquire about buying some and eventually found a farmer who sold two for $6. It was great fun watching Phillip running around the pond trying to catch the ducks! There's a picture in the photo album of a bag on the floor of the van in which sat two ducks! On close inspection you could see the bag breathing! However shortly after picking up the ducks we got a puncture, so spent the next half an hour at the side of the road while the driver changed the tyre. The above photo was taken while we were waiting. Obviously, I'm on the left, with Laura in the middle, and Sophie on the right. As we waited we watched the bicycle rush hour and took a few photos (see photo album). My favourite is the one of the woman cycling and the little girl in green hanging on the back. I'd taken the photo of the same woman as she approached us, with the little boy in the yellow whellies, and then as she passed we saw the little girl hanging on the back!
It was a relief to get back to the guesthouse today. This is the coolest time of the year in Cambodia but temperatures still reach about 36 degrees. Some days aren't as hot & humid as others, but today was a hot one, so not only do you feel sticky but you also get coated with a film of red dust from the roads. I looked in the mirror and thought I had a really good tan . . . until I had a shower and it washed off!
Met up with Laura for dinner at 7pm. We ate at The Blue Pumpkin Cafe and then I stayed on a bit longer to update my journal (there are a handful of places around town with WIFI access). It's an early night again tonight, ready for a 7am start tomorrow. We are working at the school on Saturday this week as next Monday is a National Holiday.