Sunday, August 10, 2014

Thanks to the Youthlinc Teams: They made everyone smile!

This past month, Youthlinc again sent students and mentors to visit our Cambodia projects. Youthlinc is nonprofit organization dedicated to creating lifetime humanitarians by offering students and mentors local and international service experiences. Rotary clubs and Rotarians are engaged in helping Youthlinc with this program. This year we had two groups of students - 80 students per group, plus mentors - who came to help with some major projects.

We are grateful for all our supporters around the world, including you, and Youthlinc, and the many Rotarians who are working through Sustainable Cambodia and Sustainable Cambodia Australia to help village families and children. With everyone's help, nearly 400 wells are providing safe water, more than 4,500 students are currently enrolled in our schools, and nearly 25,000 Cambodians have been able to change their lives for the better. None of this would be happening without supporters like you!

First Youthlinc Team at SC

1st Youthlinc team of 40 students and mentors and SC staff, a group photo next to the newly built school in Krang Popleak village

Each Youthlinc team spent around 10 days in Cambodia. The projects they focused on at Sustainable Cambodia ranged from clean water and agriculture, to health, education, and empowerment in the rural villages.

2nd Youthlinc team and SC staff Sin Soy

2nd Youthlinc team in the village

Each Youthlinc student and each mentor chose activities to participate in during their stay with us. These included building a rooftop rainwater harvesting tank (RRH), constructing and painting 2 preschools and the fence, teaching (English, sewing, business concepts, health care and more), fixing and making new school desks, and planting vegetables and fruit trees and more...

Providing sewing machines and the skills training Teaching and training

Teaching and training

Building the school concrete and the fence

School construction, planting seeds and painting the water tank

Painting windows at the schools

Providing animals and farming tools

Providing school bikes and uniforms

Books for the school libraries and more

Students standing in front of their new school built by the Youthlinc team in Chherteal Roung community

Youthlinc Teams Make Everyone Smile!

Youthlinc made a lasting difference in the lives of the families with the projects they completed. The children enjoyed learning. Village families found ways to improve their lives. The following are some comments from the Youthlinc team and the community people who have benefited from the Youthlinc projects.

Uncle Em Moul, 73 years old, the community leader of  Chheuteal Rung

Em Moul, the community leader, said in Khmer: "We want to express our deepest thanks for all your great support, friendship and love, encouragement and trust, and above all the great hope and prosperity you have brought to our community.   

"We are so impressed and grateful that you have traveled so far from your homes, spent so much valuable time and money, tireless commitment and strength to help our community.  

We want to tell you that your caring heart and support will stay with us forever. Since you came, we are more hopeful and more united than ever. We've learned to share what we have and to pass on what we know to one another. We know how to work as a team and as a community member. It's a REAL CHANGE to our community."

Aunt Morm Samoeurn with her first sewing class  and our SC staff Ork Siep
Morm Samoeurn said: "When we first got here, we had nothing and we were so hopeless, but we didn't have a choice. We didn't have clean water to drink and use, we didn't have a water well, we didn't have latrines, we didn't have schools for our children, we didn't have anything except the forest around us.   

But since Sustainable Cambodia came to our village, we have clean water wells, water bio-sand filters to make water safe for drinking, latrines, community ponds, pass-on animals, vegetable gardens, micro-loans for business and farming, and more. And now we have more support from the Youthlinc team, we have a school with some school bikes and uniforms for our young children, sewing machines and skills to make money, more animals to raise and pass on, education and knowledge and more.   

I have learned to make clothes with this machine with the Youthlinc students, and I have already made some and sold them. I am sure that I can make money with this skill, and I will pass on this skill to other families in my community. Thank you to the Youthlinc team and to everyone for helping my family and my community."

Our preschool teacher Nhem Sophea, 35 years old, one of the first families in Chheuteal Rung community

Nhem Sophea said: "We are so lucky that our children now have a school to learn. It's the first time for them to attend the preschool here. The Youthlinc team has changed the way we live, the way we grow our children and the way we think and work for our dreams of our own choice. We know we have to give our children a chance for education, and other good things will follow.   

Thank you to Youthlinc team and to everyone for helping our community, and we wish everyone great happiness and success in lives and business."

The following are some comments from the Youthlinc team:

Comments from Team Leader Stephanie:" On behalf of Youthlinc, I want to thank Sustainable Cambodia from the bottom of my heart. Sustainable Cambodia has been a fantastic partner for us, and has always worked diligently to ensure our teams have a positive and life changing service experience.   

Working together with SC, and our friends in the Chheuteal Rung Community was incredible. Together we were able to complete the school house, build a fence surrounding the school, install a garden, build desks for the school, teach sewing, English, and business skills and much more. We are forever grateful for the many friendships made, and treasure our new friends in Cambodia. We will always cherish our memories made in Cambodia, and hope to visit again soon.   

Many of us at Youthlinc are also involved in Rotary. Myself, Judy Zone, Miriam Barth and Dayna Revetti are all members of Millcreek Rotary Club, which has sponsored projects for SC. Recently, we sponsored a water well in Chumony, Cambodia and are happy to hear that the school now has access to clean drinking water year round! Dayna and myself were absolutely delighted to attend a Rotary meeting in Pursat, with Polin, while we were in Cambodia last week. We are happy to have new friends in Rotary, and look forward to working together again!   

Stephanie Chard,  
Youthlinc Team Leader "

Monday, June 30, 2014

SC Students visiting Angkor Wat

Thanks to supporters like you and Rotarians from around the world, Sustainable Cambodia and Sustainable Cambodia Australia are able to help thousands of village children get a quality education through our community preschools, primary schools, enrichment schools, and university scholarships.

All over the world, children are a powerful force in their communities. When they have opportunities to improve their lives, everyone benefits. Families eat better. They stay healthy. And in the end, entire nations are in a better position to prosper economically.

Our students reading books in the library
Education at SC means engaging our students in a stimulating, creative, and quality learning environment.  One of our most exciting programs provides students from primary schools to high schools a rare opportunity to visit the Temples of Angkor in Siem Reap once a year.

For most of our students, this is the first trip they have taken away from their homes, and this is their first opportunity to visit the cultural and historical heart of their own country of Cambodia.

92 students and 25 teachers went on the study tour this year
This educational field trip is one of annual curricular activities aiming to allow students to learn more about Cambodian culture and civilization during the Angkor era, to give more opportunities to students to be independent in practising their English with foreign tourists, and to strengthen relationships between teachers and students. And the trips also inspire teamwork, improve self-confidence, and encourage potential.

Read below to discover more...

An Educational Field Trip to the Temples of Angkor Wat

This year, 40 students from SLMS, 20 students from KBFC, 32 students from KSS, and 25 teachers joined the field trip to visit the temples of Angkor Wat.

Students and teachers in front of Angkor Wat
This three-day study tour was a great success. The students had a lot of fun and gained knowledge and experience. They toured several cultural and historical landmarks including the West Baray, Angkor Thom, Baphuon, Ta Prohm, Angkor Wat, Banteay Srey, Kulen Mountain, Preah Khan, Bakheng Mountain, the Cultural Village, and the Night Market.

Students and teachers at the West Baray
Students and teachers at Banteay Srey
The journey by bus started at 6:00 in the morning in order to reach Siem Reap by midnight.

Students and teachers at the Cultural Village
The group first visited Baray, a 17 km2 lake built in the early 11th century. Teachers and chaperones taught the students how to care for their environment and explained the two competing theories of the history of Baray. Some historians argue it was created to irrigate lands during the dry season, while others believe it was  built primarily as a depiction of the Sea of Creation in Hinduism.

Students and teachers at the Kunlen Mountain
Group Discussion Activities
The next day was full of temple trekking. Students explored and learned about the history, achievements, culture, and wonder of the Ancient Khmer Empire. Many students were surprised at the number of "baraang," or foreigners, visiting from all over the world.  The teachers had their work cut out for them, as students showered them with questions relating to each temple and site.

Our students and teachers at the Ta Prohm
Everyone had a fantastic time. When the students returned to  Pursat, they shared their experiences with their fellow classmates, getting others excited for their turn on future trips.

Our students Meak Danick (left) and Huy Ravychivorn (right)
They said in Khmer "Hello, everyone! How are you? We both are very happy because we can come to visit Angkor Wat and other Khmer temples for our first time in our lives. It's a great experience. It's unforgettable! We are not tired to walk all day exploring our temples for the first time. We have learned a lot from our trip. We have a lot of fun. We take a lot of pictures to show our classmates and our families when we go back. We have a lot of stories to share with our class and our families and they will love them, too. Thank you, SC and all supporters for giving us this opportunity to come here." 
Our student Tob Darin and a foreigner at Angkor Wat
Our student Tob Darin expressed her feeling in Khmer: "It's the best trip ever in my life. I have never imagined that I can leave my home this far. It opens my eyes, mind, and soul. I can know how my English is vital. It can help me get a new friend from a different culture, it's fun! I saw Angkor Wat so many times on TV and I hoped one day I would see real Angkor Wat, now I can see it. It's amazing! Thank you for helping make my dream real."

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Thanks for Helping Families Tackle Sanitation

The topic of this month's newsletter isn't glamorous - and it may be a little awkward - but to the rural Cambodian families who live far from centralized sanitation facilities, it is truly important. So, on their behalf, we thank you for helping them with this challenge....

Can you imagine living in the middle of rice paddies, and having no sanitation facilities? No bathroom? Envisioning this, you can probably see why having an alternative makes such a huge difference in their lives! So please read on to learn more.....

Rural homes do not have a latrine
A major challenge in rural Cambodia is that families often have no latrines at their homes. Lacking any alternative, they have no options other than using the open fields, or woods or a river in the rare instances where those are nearby. The fields, of course, are the source of their rice and food, and we all know that contamination can be a major cause of diarrhea and other diseases. Combined with poor hygiene, the result is lost labor productivity for adults, missed school days for children, and additional financial burdens for families requiring medical treatment.

Our Staff Polin, checking the quality of a latrine

With your great support, and Rotary, and SC Australia and our international supporters, we have been able to help these village families build more than 977 latrines in total.

Read below for some personal stories of the families who have recently received the latrines from our project in Prey O'mal community....

Families Appreciate their First Latrines

The villages in central Cambodia where our teams work have almost no sanitary facilities. Without running water or electricity, latrines are a highly functional option.

Without latrines, there are no alternatives to polluting the rice fields, and ultimately - due to runoff during the rainy season - polluting the nearby ponds and rivers. Without latrines, families experience dysentery and other sanitation-related illnesses.

The families are always excited at the idea of a latrine. Through healthcare and hygiene education, they have learned how they help prevent illness. And everyone everywhere - including rural Cambodia - appreciates a little modesty and privacy! 

During just the past two months, we have helped the villagers
to build 41 latrines in our new target village of Prey O'mal.
The latrine project works in conjunction with the water wells and BioSand Filter projects. The installation of the latrines reduces or eliminates the contamination of village water supplies.

Sustainable Cambodia sometimes helps individual households build latrines, but most often the community works together to build latrines in a cooperative effort. Sustainable Cambodia supplies families with latrine materials (concrete for the base, porcelain toilet, PVC pipe and concrete septic tank), while the recipients themselves provide the materials to build the latrine's outer structure (usually wood or thatch) and the labor for digging the pit and constructing the latrine. Sustainable Cambodia also provides recipients with training on building the latrine, and education on sanitation and the dangers of contaminating water sources.

Grandparents and their grandchildren with their first latrine
Aunt Chhun Ev, her children, niece and nephew smile when we interviewed them about their first latrine.
Village resident Aunt Chhun Ev said, "We all are very happy to use our latrine for the first time in our lives. We built it with our hearts, we use it with our smiles, and we take care of it as we take care of lives. Before, we didn't know what a latrine was. During those days, we often got sick, especially the young children, with diarrhea and other diseases. Now everything is different. We have a good place (a latrine), a clean water well to use for our daily lives, and a water bio-sand filter to make our water safe for drinking. All this help us stay to healthy. Thank you, all SC supporters, for helping us with everything we need to stay healthy." 

Children love to be in the photo with their first latrine
All village families who are willing to work to build a latrines are given the opportunity to have one. Families agree to build a fence, grow fruit and/or vegetable gardens, practice good sanitation, and demonstrate their honesty and cooperation in other community projects.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Remember discovering computers for the very first time?

Thank you for helping to make a huge difference in the lives of Cambodian children and their families!

This month we installed a new computer lab for our rural students to learn computer skills. For most of them, this is the first time they have ever seen or used a computer!

Students learning to type with SC staff member Sin Soy

Learning with Technology

One of our wonderful supporters is Roland from Neuss, Germany. Roland, with his team at Kleine Hilfsaktion e.V. (a non-profit organization), helped raise enough money to provide ten computers to the students in our rural education program. The direct result: Hundreds of students are now able to learn invaluable (and exciting) computer skills!

Students learn with an international volunteer

Our new computer classroom

The computer program lets our students develop valuable research skills at a young age. For the first time, they have access to an abundance of quality information. The skills they learn give them renewed confidence, and help them to realize they are an active part of the broader world.

Our students can now do online research & e-learning

Both students and teachers have access to an expanse of material. They are guided to rich, information-filled, credible websites with a variety of topics. And students learn that there are many opinions in the world, opening them to consider opinions and perspectives.

Pair coaching

Online e-learning is now an equally credible option: Face-to-face interaction is huge, especially in the younger years, but some students work better when they can go at their own pace. Online education is now accredited and has changed the way we view education.

The young man in the middle here is Kinh Sam Rithy. He says, "Hello, everyone! I am student studying in grade 12 in the state school and I am also studying English and computer skills at SC's Kandieng School. I live in Stoeng village. I feel very happy that I can study computer skills here because it is very important for my education and my future. It's my first time! I love it so much! Thank you."

The young woman here is Chariya Orn. She says, "Hello! I am studying in the 12th grade this year, and I am 18 years old. I live in Kandieng village, and I am studying in SC school, too. I feel very happy to study computer skills because it's necessary for me now and in the future. In addition, I can get new knowledge and experience from this first computer class. Thank you, all our supporters."

Monday, April 7, 2014

Creating a Fun Place to Read!

Reading opens up doors to other worlds for students and improves their knowledge and vocabulary. Reading is a great hobby for students in between their classes. Sometimes students can get additional materials to support their study, and sometimes they get easy methods to help solve their homework.

 Students enjoy reading books on the swing under the tree

Last month we told you about the improvements made in the library. The result has been more and more students who love coming to read their favorite books there.

The Challenge is that sometimes we don't have enough space for them to read...
...But now our international volunteer Frank Mullen has found a Solution for this.

Frank is an architect and builder who has been volunteering the past 5 months to help build and maintain buildings on SC's campus, including a place for the dancing class and a great new Reading Room for the students.

Students reading books in the library

Frank is an architect and builder who has been volunteering the past 5 months to help build and maintain buildings on SC's campus, including a place for the dancing class and a great new Reading Room for the students.

Working with our Volunteer Architect!

 Old and Abandoned Structure before Rebuilding

From Frank Mullen:
"When I arrived at SC in November, there was a crumbling structure on campus that had provided shade so that the school children could have an outdoor place for reading. Since then the demand for space has only increased, but the structure is gone. I tore it down to make way for the new one. It was only three years old... That's the nature of thatched roofs."

 Frank Mullen, our onsite volunteer, dismantling the old structure

"The new structure is bigger, but it has a metal roof, and it's put together with notches and screws so it might enjoy a twenty year life. My Cambodian accomplice and I built it, with the exception of the two times when we needed help lifting big things into place."

Building Activities

"I'm an American architect. I came here to spend one year working through the list of building projects on the main campus in Pursat, to help build as many of them as I could, and to raise enough money to increase the budget so that the solutions will last a generation, not a couple of years. I've spent a lot of time in Southern Indiana and Eastern Pennsylvania, so I'm plenty familiar with Amish construction techniques, but I had never seen an Amish barn-raising before. Now I have."

Building Activities

"Ponlue, SC's manager of Community Development projects, is a civil engineer, and has been a great resource for me. When the structure for the reading roof was nearly complete, I asked him for help with raising it onto the frame. He said he would take care of it, and we agreed on 4:00 that afternoon. He didn't say how it was going to happen - he just said that it would. I learned from the last thing I tried to raise that my American planning isn't worth a tinker's darn in Cambodia, so this time I stuck to finishing the parts. Ponlue had never let me down before. He's good like that."

"The traditional Khmer roof shape has a central steeply-pitched gable with a lower-pitched roof surrounding it. Often these lower roofs are open-air, providing shade to the exterior walls of the building and sometimes an outdoor veranda. When SC described for me the requirements of this new building and their desire for a traditional roof, I immediately thought of a scissors truss. They're relatively light and use material very efficiently; their geometry does some of the heavy lifting."

The status of the construction now

"Scissors trusses were pioneered in medieval Europe, since they were so well suited to the clear spans and vaulted shapes of Gothic cathedrals and other monumental buildings. If you have a vaulted ceiling in your house, there's a good chance the ceiling is supported by the bottom chord of a scissors truss or one of its variations. Cambodians have no tradition of building trusses and then lifting them onto a building. Some of them thought I was a real nut case. Some of them still do."

"A little before 4:00 pm, Ponlue showed up with 10 Cambodian guys in flip-flops and a dump truck. That's when I knew it was time to stand aside and watch."

"The rebirth of the reading shelter will be complete in two weeks, when it will take its place in the collection of buildings that is the campus of Sustainable Cambodia. I'm proud of this project, and I know the school children and their families will benefit from it for many years to come."