Oct. 2008

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Arun Sua s’dei,

How is the Fall shaping up? – a few more colors and a little less heat? Are you breaking into the fleece wardrobe, yet? Over here it seems to be flip-flops and T-shirts pretty much year round whether it’s for the ease of rolling up you pants to wade through a puddle or just to keep cool. And we are definitely in the Green, gReEn, GrEEn season with all the new rice sprouting up. Mmmmm…. and mango season is just around the corner.

So, the expression, “Getting there is half the fun.” was definitely the case in early October when our entourage of 42 (36 Cambodians and 6 Americans) enjoyed 27-hours of travel, 3 airports, and an overnight in Penang to travel our 698 miles from Phnom Penh to Medan, Indonesia. Phew! It was, however, a good way to fill up a couple pages in the passport with some colorful Visa stamps. And I’ve never filled-out so many Arrival and Departure Cards in my life. If you are looking for statistics, it takes 4 people approximately 15 minutes to complete 36 individual Customs Declaration Forms.

This year Medan was host to the ECFC conference, a regional missions conference attended by 600+ people. All three days were packed with amazing stories of the work being done in countries from New Zealand and Papua New Guinea to Bangladesh and Mongolia. Each day, our Cambodian team donned headsets to receive their “relayed” translation. Some relays went like this: Indonesian to English (uniquely accented by an Indonesian translator) to English again (my version of the English) to Cambodian (translated by Naret for our team). Never thought I’d have a job as and English to English translator. Okay, so the Starbuck’s around the corner from the conference center was a great blessing when we got a break in the action. Starbuck’s has not reached Phnom Penh; some may throw up their hands and say “Is that possible?”, but for me, at that time, it was a welcome little latte-taste of home, along with a caffeine boost for the next session. Please, no comments about the photos of McDonald’s; when you need a Big Mac, you need a Big Mac.

The last night of the conference was Cultural Night, and each country brought their ‘best’ traditional song or dance to the stage. Our contingent, decked out in Khmer silk attire, performed Rohambong – a dance traditionally performed at harvest season (for Emily, Josh, Michelle, and I the two-minute lesson just prior was…..ah… maybe not enough). And, some how I ended up with the microphone and the honors of introducing our group and the dance; good thing there wasn’t any singing involved. So, there were adventures in Medan from beginning to end.

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

Here we go! With the English program hopping, and the library in full swing. It’s time to put a little dance action into our vocational venture. We are working on a tailor training program that will create a line of custom Cambodian products to be sold in our shop or through boutiques in Phnom Penh. We already have three locations in town excited to see our line of designs.

Why is this important? How can it help? Here is a little background: the kids can attend public schools through 12th grade and travel back and forth to school safely and conveniently as a group. The average monthly cost per individual child is $12 for primary school and $24 for high school; but just like home, when they are ready for university different interests emerge as well as the need to travel in different directions for schooling. Now, they need a bicycle, or a scooter and gas, in addition to the funds for a much higher tuition. The average tuition runs about $500 a year. The older kids seeing this time of university approach are excited, but worried with the thought of ‘How am I ever going to be able to attend university?’. They don’t want handouts and safe, convenient part-time jobs are virtually non-existent. So, lets bring opportunity to them.

With equipment and training, the kids in their freetime will use their creativity to develop their own line of products, which will expand the variety of items we sell in our shop. It will also serve to grow a personal education fund for after they graduate from high school. Income will be divided, with a portion going back into the program for additional equipment, materials and maintenance, and the other portion being deposited into an account for their personal education. This in turn will also provide an opportunity for them to learn money management. The income earned may not be enough of course, but it will contribution greatly toward their tuition. More importantly it will provide them with a hope for their education and an opportunity to work toward their dream.

How do we get started? Well, our first training team will be here in January and staying for a month. That is Lari and Berit Warner (Yes, mom and dad) who together have…. we’ll just say…. MANY years in the fashion design and manufacturing industry. We also have our jewelry designers on the way as well. But, to move this dream another step, you are greatly needed because for this to happen we need equipment and materials. At the moment, we have one machine which looks a little like it fell off a truck in the 1930’s, and that machine,by itself, is not going to get us there.

Now, if we can transition some of the incredible effort that is being put into our growing and busy library toward the purchase of sewing machines and materials, we will be in business – the business of producing beautiful Khmer crafts and building educational opportunity. We can buy materials here, as well as quality machines for roughly $100, which is great because there won’t be any wait or costs related to shipping containers. Our hope is to raise $5000 over the next three months, which would allow us to purchase the needed equipment as well as make modification to the craft room that would make the space cooler and the layout more effective. So, now I/we ask (knowing the economic is not treating everyone very well) that if you are looking for an chance to build a business, to partner with kids that have a willing heart to work for their education and dreams – please consider this investment. Your support is incredibly appreciated and is, of course, tax deductible by contributing through our Warm Blankets office.

You can donate on-line at this address: http://orphanprojects.com/shopsite_sc/store/html/page2.html

(you’ll see my picture and EVT Program.)

-or- by mailing a check to the office (please write EVT Program in the Memo section)

Kris Warner/EVT Program

c/o Warm Blankets Orphan Care

5105 Tollview Drive, Suite 155

Rolling Meadows, IL 60008

The amzing library and incredible progress the kids have made with their language skills have only been possible because of your prayers and support partnered with the diligence and dedication of the kids to their studies. Thank you for thinking of the kids and for all your support throughout this last year.

Things learned:

1.Flip-flops for fast cash. You know those comfy flip-flops you wore through the summer. Don’t throw them away, or at least throw them with purpose. Teach your neighbors a new game and maybe win a little cash. Here’s how it works, think of the game horse shoes – draw a line on the ground, and pace off about 30 feet, collect $1 from each of the competitors, fold each bill in half and then stack them all together. Place the stack on the ground and have everyone return behind the line. Now, one by one, toss, lob, chuck, or fling one flip-flop at a time at the pile of cash. Whoever flings their flip-flop into the stack of cash gets to pack it away in their pocket. There you go, fun for everyone. NOT that I’m advocating gambling! It’s just a game played over here.

2. Explaining how to order a Starbuck’s coffee to someone who’s never done it, requires flip-charts, pie-charts, flow-charts, a chart for the charts AND some kind of Starbuck’s-to-English dictionary.

3.Medan has whole restaurants devoted to that “king of fruits” – Durian.

4.The blue and orange gecko that lives behind my refridgerator can JUMP about 3 feet. BUT! I learned I can jump farther and scream at the same time.

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