Jan/Feb 2009

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Arun Sua s’dei,


This is one of those times when you are a little apprehensive about starting something because you are not sure where to start, and if you get that figured out you’re afraid you might not be able to stop. Fortunately, everything that has been going on over the last six weeks is incredibly exciting so it’s a bit different than facing ‘Spring cleaning’. Yes, it’s been SIX weeks since the last update and I really apologized.


January started with a 5-day trip to Bangkok to pick-up and sightsee a bit with mom and dad before coming over to Phnom Penh. In short, here is what you can put into a few days; a visit to Jim Thompson’s House – four traditional Thai teak wood houses tied to together and packed with antiques to create a museum for the man who revitalized the Thai silk industry 50 years ago; walks through the Bangkok streets bumper-to-bumper with technicolor taxis and tuk tuk as well as wall-to-wall high end departments stores and cheap end street stalls; there was also a visit to the gold gilded Royal Palace, a taxi boat ride with the Thai version of dragster races (that would be the long-tail boats that race up and down the river delivering both people and produce). Think of a kayak with a V8. We also hit the corridors and back alleys of the weekend market where you could buy everything from vintage Levi’s, to a variety of garden gnomes, or even grilled squid on a stick. Sometimes it’s very hard to decide what to get. But the grand finale was the clickitty clack train ride to the river Kwai bridge and then a visit to Tiger Temple. I think all the tigers had a very big lunch before we arrived so they were a little sleepy; fine by me because some were also very, very big. But you could plop down right next to one or all of them for a… “Good kitty. Please don’t eat me!” and a photo op. You have to see the pictures.


Okay then it was off to Phnom Penh and WORK. From day one we were at Oressey market where we purchased four industrial sewing machines and all the sewing items necessary to get a small factory started. We had scissors and nippers, bobbins and rippers, chalk and oil, thread and meters of material. We were set…. well almost. Our sewing room at the Center needed more lights, and a bigger circuit breaker so we got that squared away. Then, the next four days were all about sewing. Mom and dad were training up to fifteen girls at one time and if you counted the boys perched on the looms and peering through the windows you could add another five or six. The girls learned the machines, how to read and cut from a pattern, how to sew and turn, and ultimately to create some very nicely designed placemats, draw-string bags, and purses. They did an amazing job. Four days wasn’t enough though and we scheduled in two more days later during mom and dad’s visit to complete one more bag as well as discuss design ideas, quality requirements, and future goals for our new business. It was very, very, good.


Next stop…Angkor Wat. For two days we played Indiana Jones at the temples; climbing up, down, and all around the 1000 year-old sites of Angkor Wat, Bayon, Angkor Thom. Then I returned to my English classes and they stayed to relax and visit two cultural arts centers. With my week’s classes finished we took the weekend to explore the coast in Kampot and Kep as well as visit an Aspeca orphan home. During the weekend, our team from Warm Blankets arrived and it was time to prepare 700 kids for a trip to the beach and Baptism. On Monday, kids began arriving from the provinces, Tuesday everyone piled on to busses for a visit to the Royal Palace. Yes, 700 that’s right! And on Wednesday morning at “oh dark early” 5:00AM they piled back on to 13 busses and we caravanned three hours to Kampong Som the for this amazing day. Only a hand full of the kids had ever traveled more than a few kilometers from their Homes let alone seen the sea. It was a very big day and time for them in so many ways.


With this event finished, it was unfortunately also time to say goodbye to mom and dad. I’m looking forward to how their students roll the excitement about their new sewing skills into our new business and the development of their Personal Education Funds. We have meetings set and will soon head into the shops of Phnom Penh for market research and the purchase of more materials to keep our line of merchandise moving.


The week of the 16th was spent with Joyce and Bethany from Warm Blankets and a work team of about 15 kids. We had 3,800 books to sort into levels and divide into libraries. It was amazing to be a part of the sorting and stacking, labeling and….laughing. We now have 20 complete libraries, which from your help will bring smiles and learning to over 600 children. One hundred plus books in varying levels are packed into large plastic boxes and ready for delivery to our Homes. We still have more books at the advanced reader level. So, when our next shipment comes in we will continue the process; being sure that each library covers the children’s range of reading levels. If you are considering sending books to Warm Blankets, it would be wonderful to receive those at the beginning or emerging reader level. I’m also very happy to say that we have a library/teacher Rosa, who will start overseeing the library and teaching regular classes for our youngest kids. Rosa is also a worship leader so there will be the sound of some beautiful “do, re,me,fa,so,la,ti’s” combined with “ABC’s” and “Ga, Ka, Go, Ko, No’s” (Cambodian alphabet) coming from our bonalay(library). And, we have a computer as well as TV/VCR on the way so we’ve got even more education options ahead.


This last week was beads, beads, and more beads. Joyce brought with her and the WB team literally pounds and pounds of beads and stones from the simple to the extravagant as well as the tools to bring our jewelry designing and production business into full swing. The materials were part of more generous donations, which have and will continue to change the lives kids here. Over the last five days, Joyce worked with the youngest kids on design and simple stringing of bracelets and necklaces. And with the older kids, she has taught the fine skills needed for creating and assembling more elaborate pieces. Every class has become more and more difficult to wrap up and pack up as the kids are just not ready to stop.


I hope I have not wiped you out. And I will do my best to get back on the monthly schedule for you and for me. I love you and thank you so much for your interest in and support of the kids over here. They are thriving. You are helping them to discover new strengths, to see their value, and break away from a poverty mentality. With just a few resources they are able to show off such incredible creativity and ingenuity. So, we are excited to see how our new sewing and jewelry ventures unfold and begin to provide for the dreams of advanced education.


One last event, yes we even squeezed in a dedication ceremony for our Medical Clinic. It is an incredible facility set up with an ER, recovery rooms, pharmacy, lab, and dental office. The ceremony had traditional dancing, a speech by a representative of the prime minister, and a ribbon cutting. It was a fun day.


What’s up with the EVT (English and Vocational Training) program:

1. please see above

Kids’ Library:

1. please see above again

Things learned:

1. You can put a lot into six weeks.

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