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."


Tuesday, February 18, 2014

Thanks for the New Library - It inspires the children to love reading!

Thank you for helping to make a huge difference in the lives of Cambodian children and their families. All of us together - the families, Rotarians from around the world, Sustainable Cambodia Australia, and our dedicated SC staff and international volunteers - are working to help village families and children improve their quality of life with healthy water, nutritious food, health care, education, and sustainable income generation. With your great support, we can help more than 4500 children from preschool through university to enrich their educations and to succeed in their lives.

Library Comes Alive as a Colorful Resource Center Where Students Learn Together!

For our students, libraries can be a place to learn and grow with a whole world of different subjects and stories, right at their fingertips. Over the years, thousands of kindly donated books on fantastically diverse subjects have been squeezed together onto our library shelves. All our library needed was the vision and experience to transform this special space into a lively resource center. With easier access to books and new interactive activities, our students can grow as independent and group learners. Everyone can be an explorer through the magic of books!

The great news is that volunteer Julie Johnson, recently retired from the University of Florida, was just that person to lead the way. A lifelong educator and literacy trainer, Julie was onsite with SC to lead the Reading ~ Writing Workshops for our teachers.  As soon as Julie saw the huge potential of our library, she and a tireless group of Youth Club members, teachers and volunteers got to work!

Students and their librarian enjoying their new discoveries inside the library

At first, we all thought Julie was nuts pulling all the books off the shelves and running around with her arms filled with books. But you know what, now we just can't believe the transformation that took place. Our students are now eagerly running to the library to read their favorite books and to discover new books that they have never seen before. The students' attendance and their study results are already improving.  It's amazing what books can do.

Sorting books, labeling and adding Khmer translations! 

Youth Club Members Kim Chou and Horm Setha helping to sort the books into groups

Vet Bora carefully writing the Khmer words beside the English words to help readers teach themselves

Books that display the covers "facing out" attract young readers!

Children smile with their new library!


Our librarian Sengkea engages students in reading circles and magnetic Word!

A library is an ocean of knowledge. Both students and teachers benefit highly from the library.

Reading opens up doors to other worlds for students and improves their knowledge and vocabulary.  And 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.

Julie (center) and our teachers after the training on how to use the library effectively

Now, our once-challenged library is an energized learning oasis. Julie demonstrated the art of sorting and the effective use of brightly colored book bins, each with a specific label in Khmer and English for guidance in the new library layout. With only a few minutes left before it was time to return to Florida, Julie and her helpers completed the shelves of book bins based on the subjects: Real-Life (Social Science, People, Geography), Science (Earth and Space, Animals, the Human Body), Khmer Books, Stories and Folk Tales, Poetry, Word Walls and Alphabet Books, Teacher Resources, Learning Charts, and Resource Books for advanced studies.

Our students and teachers now use our SABAY LIBRARY as a great resource for learning!
In the Khmer language, Sabay means Happy!

More and more students love reading books in the library.

Our library plays an important role in promoting the progress of learning and improves our students' study results and their social skills.

"Hello! My name is Mono. I am a teacher of English at Sustainable Cambodia. I have been working here for two years. I am delighted to see the improvement of our library. Thank you very much to Julie for reorganizing our library into categories so that it is easier for us and the students to find our interesting books."

"Hello, teachers and all! My name is Chroeng Sopheaktra and I am studying in grade 7. I have come to study at SC since 2009. Thank you Julie for making our library more beautiful. I love non-fiction books and I can now find them very easily. My friends and I love coming to read books in the library so much."

"Hello everyone! My name Sengkea and I am a librarian here at SC. I would like to say thank you very much to Julie for making our library an interesting place for our students and teachers. I have noticed that more teachers and students love coming to read books in the library more often, and they can find their favorite books very easily. Other teachers and I have taught our students on how to find and well use their interesting books. Thank you Julie once again for making this library attractive and useful to everyone. I will try to look after this library very well like what Julie suggested us to do."

Thursday, January 30, 2014

Bikes inspire our students to study hard!

Thank you for helping to make such a huge difference in the lives of the Cambodian children and families whom we help. All of us together help to make this happen - the families, Rotarians from around the world, Sustainable Cambodia Australia, and our dedicated SC staff and international volunteers - all working to help village families and children improve their quality of life, with healthy water, nutritious food, health care, education, and sustainable income generation.

One challenge for many students from poor families in our target areas is that they cannot travel from their distant homes to their local school because of lack of transportation. Their families are unable to afford to buy the children a bicycle so that they can get to school in a timely fashion. The result is often that they miss lessons, subsequently get low marks, and may even drop out of school.

 Students coming to SC school with their new bikes 

With your help, more than 385 wells are providing safe water, more than 4,500 students are currently enrolled in Sustainable Cambodia schools, and hundreds of thousands of Cambodians have been able to change their lives for the better.  None of this would be happening without supporters like you!

Students Can Dream Bigger With Bikes!

Bikes from the Rotary Clubs in 2014

The purpose of the Bike Sponsorship project is to help our children whose homes are in distant villages get to school on time and regularly. With a bicycle, the student is given the opportunity to attend all of their classes, earn good grades, and to graduate high school.

More than 10% of the children from our remote outreach schools - SC and Sustainable Cambodia Australia schools - drop out of school before they graduate. This is often because they are late for their classes or cannot attend their classes due to the lack of transportation. By providing these students with bicycles, we reduce their drop-out rates and help them succeed.

This month 85 students are receiving bikes through the Bike Sponsorship program from the Rotary Club of Sentosa and the Rotary Club of Suntec City through the Rotary Club of Pursat. These children are now able to attend school regularly and get better grades in their classes, both in our education program and in the state schools.

Students are also using their new bicycles to help friends and relatives, by sharing or riding in pairs, so one bike can benefit more than one child.
Last year, 209 Sustainable Cambodia students received bikes through the Bike Sponsorship project. By providing bicycles, we can give the poorest students the same opportunities! Please consider helping us with this important work, by contributing the SC Education Program.

"Hello teachers and everyone! My name is Phum Dine (on right) and I am 12 years old. I am studying in grade 6, and I joined SC in 2013.

I am very happy and thankful to get this new bike. Previously, it was so difficult for me to come to study everyday without my own bike because my parents cannot afford to buy it for me. I had to walk about 40 minutes from home to SC school everyday, and some lucky days I shared a bike with one of my friends. I was often late for class and missed some lesson everyday. Now I am happy to come to study everyday on time. Thank you to all supporters."

(on left) "Hello my name is Sem Rasin and I joined SC when I was in grade 2, now I am studying in grade 6. Thank you very much for giving this bike. I love it so much because it is one of my friends now. It is always with me all the time. With it, I can go to school on time and regularly."

The girl said in Khmer: " Good morning teacher and all! My name is Run Rathana. I joined SC in 2013 and I am now studying in grade 3 of Sthany primary school. Before I got this bike, I walked to school everyday and I was always very tired when I arrived my school so I did not feel well to study. I often got bad study results because I was often late for class and absent a lot. Now I am really happy to come to school and I will try to study hard to get good study results. Thank you everyone for giving me this bike."

To help the children with their education:
Click here to sponsor a child today!