Sunshine House water project up and running

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Retired plumber Keith Durward kindly volunteered his time and skills to help out with the project. He spent over a month onsite with Chumrarn imparting his specialist plumbing skills and knowledge. His mentoring not only ensures the work is done to Australian Standards, but also gives Chumrarn an insight into best-practice techniques to achieve quality outcomes that are rarely seen in Cambodia.

Sunshine House was built over a number of years and often with very poor quality materials (as these were the only ones available at the time) – as a result, we had pipes going all over the place. When we fitted the water filtration system and started to monitor its use we found we had some big leaks underground.  The only way to fix the problem was to simply start again and make it all one system. A big job, but had to be done.

With just a few taps in need of replacing, Stage 2 is now all but complete. This stage saw all of the old water piping replaced and fed into one full system, which now allows us to purify all of the water from across the property at one central location.

Stage 3 will see all of the sewerage linking into one place. This stage is the largest part of the project and involves trenches being dug right through the whole property. The digging works are currently under way and the workers are digging under the paths so the children have no problem with safe access and also so that we don’t damage the electrical cables that were laid along the sides of the paths.  Despite a couple of weeks of unseasonal rain and some very hard digging through clay we’ve made great progress  – the trenches have all been dug and we are only a week or so away from filling them  in and levelling the site. I don’t think the kids will be happy when it is all filled in… they have loved the adventure playground with tunnels and pipes! Chumrarn will be pleased though, because

he has to ensure the site is safe and this means rechecking the pipes each morning to make sure the little adventurers haven’t moved anything… well, boys will be boys and we have a lot of them!

After all the sewerage is collected in one place, it needs to be made safe and this is Stage 4. We have put in a series of settling tanks and will be turning the old duck pond near the road into a reed bed. This will then create an environment where nature does its thing, with the final result being clean water that can be safely disposed of.

We’ve dug the old duck pond out and it isn’t in good condition, so it will need to he remade but at least the hole is there.

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Read on….

In response to seeing vulnerable young children being exploited, we established the first of our child development projects – Sunshine House – in 2000.

By 2006, House of Progress was up and running. Here students completed their upper high school education, developed life skills and prepared for a tertiary education.

And in 2009 the first group of children to come into our care took the final step in their education journey – moving to Graduation House in Phnom Penh to commence   university studies.

Today, the children in our child development programs are joining a growing number of healthy young adults who take up and complete university degrees in fields such as civil engineering, design, architecture, accountancy, tourism and hospitality, medicine, English literature, business and economics.

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And our education emphasis doesn’t stop there – extending into the Kompong Speu community (one of Cambodia’s poorest provinces).

Our medical program – Operation Nightingale – operates seven medical centres that provide primary health care to the local community. We employ highly trained Cambodian doctors (with international post-graduate degrees and ongoing annual mentoring from Australian medical professionals) to provide medical care and vital health education.

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Through our community education programs, we continue to link education programs and educators (including the Western Australian Department of Education and Training) to 20 local schools. In addition, our programs and giving opportunities enable individuals, businesses, schools and other organisations to play a role in helping to provide education services to the community.

These programs were introduced against a backdrop of only 1 in 10 girls making it to Year 8 and only 4 in a 100 girls going on to years 11 and 12. Sadly, in many parts of Cambodia, especially rural areas, the idea that education is unnecessary for girls remains. And this, when also coupled with generational poverty and a lack of basic services in schools, prevents girls from continuing their schooling. The average rural Cambodian school has 600-800 children, no running water or toilets, and can’t afford books and stationery.

Instead of ignoring these facts, we saw an incredible opportunity for people in privileged positions like ours to bring about real change. So we made a commitment to put basics, such as toilets and running water, into government schools. We also run English Second Language courses at the government schools for some 500 children in years 4, 5 and 6, providing them with the essential language skills they will need to take advantage of the high school curriculum. And through our ’Case for Change’ program local children are given a backpack and school supplies.   While our ‘giving’ options also take an education focus, allowing generous supporters to provide everything from art supplies to a music teacher to enhance the education journey of underprivileged children.

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Recognising the potential education has to alleviate poverty amongst Cambodia’s poorest, we introduced a scholarship program to enable students from underprivileged backgrounds to complete medical and agriculture-related studies at university. By taking part in these scholarships, the students develop the capacity to effectively contribute to programs, projects and services that can contribute to their country’s productivity and social development.

All of these programs have been launched with a firm conviction that EDUCATION is powerful and a basic human right. It is through education that Cambodia’s most vulnerable will be empowered and play a part in the future of their country.

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Wen Giving makes saving lives possible!

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Sadly the incidence of breast and cervical cancer in Cambodia is a major issue; with these cancers being the leading two causes of death for Cambodian women. Around 1400 new cases of breast cancer and 1500 new cases of cervical cancer are diagnosed each year in Cambodia – the highest incidence per capita in South East Asia. Despite these cancers often being treatable, provincial women have limited access to medical services, health education and suffer a disproportionate financial burden when it comes to medical care. As a result, almost half of the women diagnosed have presented too late for treatment and pass away from the cancer.

Awareness Cambodia is combating these devastating, but preventable, diseases by providing screening and education for 1440 women over the next two years. Each clinic session sees a steady stream of women (25-35 in number) attending clinics for treatment and education. Operation Nightingale (Awareness Cambodia’s medical stream) reports a significant number of women being referred for further biopsies and treatment. Operation Nightingale Director Dr Chenda also reports that her time invested in training nursing staff has prompted the midwives at the clinics to ask for formal training too. While it’s early days yet, the pilot program is hitting its mark.

Dr Chenda describes a typical day:

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“Twenty-five women came to the women’s clinic for screening. The women were taught how to prevent breast and cervical cancer. Women must do self-breast examination every month. However, cervical cancer can be preventable by pap smear every two years and vaccination. Although the women have vaccinated to protect the cancer, pap smear is still needed every two years since the vaccine provided in Cambodia can control only two types of HPV.”

Awareness Cambodia wishes to extend a warm and heartfelt thank you to Mei Wen from the Wen Giving Foundation whose partnership and generosity is helping make this life-saving program for women in provincial Cambodia possible.

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Sunshine House Kitchen Renovation

News arrived at Sunshine House that funding had been sourced and a much needed kitchen renovation was about to begin – there was a tangible air of anticipation.

Plans where sought and the revamp began in early 2014.  I’m sure many readers have experienced a home renovation and understand the challenges of trying to function in your home whilst the chaos ensues around you.  Sunshine House kitchen reno was no different; we built a basic temporary outside kitchen area for our cook.  It was tough during the ‘hot season’ as humidity soared.  A fun fact we discovered was that tradesmen are universally created the same – they don’t always turn up when they promise.   After months of hard work by December 2014 the finished result had everyone smiling again and the challenges were long forgotten!

Kitchen Before

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A common rural cooking technique in Cambodia is to cook in a clay pot over a coal fire.  This method produces a lot of black smoke and isn’t environmentally friendly.  To bring out kitchen into the 21st century we had gas cooking appliances fitted for daily cooking.  Importantly we installed large gas rice cookers.  Rice is a food staple for all Cambodians and even breakfast wouldn’t be complete without a plate of rice.

Fresh vegetables and meat are delivered daily from the local market and a new large fridge was added to supplement the kitchen fitout.   Stone bench tops were mounted for sanitary food preparation and 4 large kitchens sinks were installed. Our dishwashers are Sunshine House ‘little people’ who are rostered on after each breakfast, lunch and dinner meals.

Kitchen After

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A walk in pantry has had built-in cupboards fitted for food safety.   New tiles were installed on the walls and floors which has made for a clean, fresh and hygienic environment.  New electrics were installed as well as fans and improved lighting.

Pheary has now mastered the new appliances and it has given her a refreshed enthusiasm for catering.    Sunshine House produces over 1300 meals each week – that is over 5000 meals a month.  This daily task is now a much safer, cleaner in our new kitchen!

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This renovation wouldn’t have been a possible without the wonderful generosity of Dorothea Haus Ross Foundation and Perth College.   We sincerely thank them for their joint support to bring about the realisation of the Sunshine House kitchen.

From each child of Sunshine House and our staff at Awareness Cambodia a heartfelt thank you to Dorothea Haus Ross Foundation and Perth College.  We are absolutely delighted with our new kitchen.

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Child sponsors Lamberta and Kevin make a heart-warming trip to Cambodia!

I had travelled to Cambodia four times prior to this trip, but this one was very different, as we had chosen a trip to Cambodia to celebrate our 40th wedding anniversary.I love the “life” that we saw on the streets. It is as if you can observe life happening out in the open. You see people cooking, eating their meals, squatting and chatting, checking hair for lice, sleeping on the sidewalk, bringing their livestock into town, children playing and all on the streets.

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Traffic is hilarious. If your lane of traffic is not moving, you just create another one, even if it is on the sidewalk!! We saw a “Cambodian” version of road rage. A moto driver, who had been weaving dangerously in and out of traffic, was clipped across the ears by another moto driver just to let him know it wasn’t appreciated.

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We spent a month in Cambodia, spending time in Siem Riep, Battambang, Phnom Penh, Sihanoukville, Kampot and Kep. There was so much to see and do. We chose to visit the “Kingdom of wonder” for many reasons: adventures; elephant rides; a quad bike tour of villages and rice paddies around Siem Riep; extreme buggy adventures in Sihanoukville; the Bamboo railway in Battambang; and a twilight Mekong River cruise in Phnom Penh. But, importantly, we sponsor two girls – Panina and Vatey – through Awareness Cambodia and we had never met them. We had both visited Awareness Cambodia’s projects in the past, but not since we had become sponsors. We couldn’t wait to go to Sunshine House  and meet the girls. On our way to Kampong Speu we stopped and bought morning tea for the children – brioche with condensed milk poured into the centre!! A favourite treat apparently.

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When we arrived at Sunshine House, Panina was at the gate. We were moved by the sight of this little girl all dressed up to meet us. Both girls were introduced to us. Panina was so much more reserved than the lively, 3-year-old Vatey. We had lunch with them, sat with them and showed them photos on our camera. Sponsorship for us is a long-term commitment. We loved the girls even before meeting them, but this experience has deepened the place that they hold in our hearts. We communicated with gestures, photos and cuddles and, when necessary, the staff was there to translate for us.

Time with the girls was the highlight of our month-long anniversary celebration.

We also stopped in town and visited the young people at the House of Progress , Awareness Cambodia’s upper school students’ home. It was great to see them, as when I had last visited Cambodia they were the children at Sunshine House and now they seemed like typical teenagers anywhere. I loved seeing the soccer trophies they had won, as it indicated a healthy competitiveness. Seeing these children succeed in life brings us a lot of joy.

Upon returning to Australia we had a photo of the girls and us put on canvas and it is hanging in our lounge in a central position.

We were sad to leave Cambodia, but it was time to go home and get back to work and dream of our next trip. It was a celebration that we will always remember.

Become a child sponsor or learn more.

Message from the Australian Foreign Minister

2014AwareCam_Grad_House-313Message from the Minister for Foreign Affairs, The Hon Julie Bishop, on the occasion of the opening of Graduation House, Phnom Penh – 7 September 2014

I am very proud of the efforts of two organisations from my home town of Perth – Awareness Cambodia and the Australian Rules football club, the West Coast Eagles (of which I am a former director) – that have led to this opening ceremony today, and grateful for the support the project has received from Cambodian Government Ministries and many others. 

 Education plays an important role in both personal growth and in enabling individuals to rise above poverty.  Young people who are fortunate enough to benefit from Graduation House and Awareness Cambodia’s ongoing support at the tertiary level will have exciting opportunities open up to them and I am confident they will go on to make a positive contribution to the future of Cambodia.

 Education is also an important tool for establishing people-to-people links and research collaboration between countries.  From the 1950s students from Cambodia studied in Australia under the previous Colombo Plan.  I recently announced Cambodia’s participation in the New Colombo Plan which will provide opportunities for Australian students to live, work and study in your country and build networks and friendships that will last a lifetime.

I offer my warmest congratulations on the opening of this new facility which will provide a secure environment for students to flourish and achieve their goals.

 

Christmas 2014 – read what happened

Xmas 1 2014 Xmas 2 2014 Xmas 3 2014 Xmas 5 2014 Xmas 6 2014 Xmas 7 2014Every year the Awareness Cambodia family has an incredible time celebrating Christmas.  Last year staff and kids from across our child development projects – Sunshine House, House of Progress and Graduation House – came together for a different kind of Christmas party… a day at the beach! An amazing time was had by everyone – with lots of food, beautiful clear water and loved ones to share it all with, what could be better?

A huge thank you goes to our amazing staff who coordinated and prepared a wonderful day. Of course without our donors the Christmas beach party would not be possible, so a big thank you to you all! Such a special day was had by all and wonderful memories were created for our children and students.

Find out more about Graduation House

2014AwareCam_Grad_House-10Awareness Cambodia’s Graduation House complex provides housing and specialised support to help tertiary students without families to complete university and vocational training. In addition it provides a secure, stable, rent-free administration and a training hub in Phnom Penh for Awareness Cambodia.

Graduation House represents a significant shift in the typical child development paradigm and is based largely2014AwareCam_Grad_House-11 on one simple thought: FREEDOM without a future is just another form of slavery. Every child – whether they are in Australia, the United States, Cambodia or anywhere else in the world – should be able to dream of a fulfilling life that includes a professional career, and not be limited by their circumstances. Through Graduation House we are helping underprivileged Cambodian children to realise their dreams.

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Every day when you watch a young person discovering the world, learning and growing is special, but along the way there are definitely some highlights! This year we were thrilled to have two students graduate: Chumrarn  graduating as a Civil Engineer and Somphos with a degree in Economics. When 2 small figures first entered Sunshine House back in 2000 it was hard to imagine how their lives would change. Now 15 years later we are celebrating their incredible success with them – it’s a journey we have been privileged to guide them through and we are so proud to have raised such strong, impassioned young leaders, determined to make theirs a better generation.

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The backbone of ACI – our volunteers

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Brenda Au – is a nurse and Health Manger at Sunshine House.  Brenda, who lives at Sunshine House with her husband Paul and three children, is our longest-serving volunteer.  With a desire to make a difference, Brenda moved from her homeland in Ireland to Cambodia and since January 2003 she has nursed children with HIV, mended broken bones and provided TB and hepatitis treatment for the new arrivals at Sunshine House.  In short, Brenda is a loved and treasured member of our team.

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Dr Piseth –is a medical doctor who has volunteered at our Operation Nightingale clinics since 2006 (when the program started).  In 2010, Gary was asked by Dr Piseth’s wife to speak to postgrad uni students about our work and volunteering. Soon afterwards Dr Piseth contacted us and became our first Cambodian volunteer.  Providing invaluable health care at our medical clinics, Dr Piseth continues to make a huge difference to the lives of the rural poor.

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Trudy and Tim James – are a Perth couple who packed up their belongings and headed to Cambodia to volunteer full-time with Awareness Cambodia in December 2011.  In only three years they have learned to speak Khmer and can drive motorbikes and cars along the chaotic Phnom Penh streets just like the locals! Much-loved team members within our Phnom Penh office, Trudy and Tim are currently in Perth awaiting the arrival of their first child.

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David Phipps –was sitting in the audience listening to Gary speak at a charity golf day in 2008. Inspired by what he heard, the retired engineer decided to visit Cambodia and see for himself the work we were doing. When he heard about our desire to build Graduation House he not only offered up his skills and gave us a donation to get the project off the ground, he took on the massive task of overseeing the construction of the complex himself. Every curve ball, problem and challenge has been sorted by David with grace and expertise.  He has contributed endless hours of his time and regularly travels to Cambodia (using his own funds) to keep an eye on building progress.  It’s fair to say that without Dave’s drive, expertise and commitment, the building complex would not be what it is today.

Awareness Cambodia isn’t government funded and we rely on donations from mums and dads, schools, churches and corporations to help us realise our goal of rebuilding Cambodia’s children.

Our volunteers allow us to do so much for so little. They are the heart and soul of Awareness Cambodia and help us to change children’s lives through empowerment, education and opportunity.