Sunshine House water project up and running


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.

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.

lamberta 4 Lamberta 5

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.

Somphos                 Chumrarn

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.


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.

Dr Piseth

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.


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.


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.

Learning English Opens Doors

teacher and classFirstly, I would like to introduce myself; my name is Mr Tanghuot Teng. I am 28 years old and was born in Takeo Province, Cambodia. When I was six years old I started primary school.  My school was about three kilometres from my house and I would travel there by foot every day with my childhood friend who lived close by.

When I finished primary school I moved to high school, which was about 15 kilometres from my house. The road was very difficult. I would rise at 5:00am every day to prepare to go to school. It would take one hour and 20 minutes by bicycle to reach the school.  My family has seven members, including my parents, four brothers and my grandmother. Unfortunately, when I was studying in grade 12, my father died. It made my family situation very difficult and it was hard to live and study because we had no income.  I started to earn money by teaching English to support my educatkids in classion until I finished high school.

When I passed my exam in grade 12, I got a good result and eventually received a scholarship to study at university.  I undertook a Bachelor’s Degree in English in Phnom Penh.

In January 2014, I started work at Awareness Cambodia as the Coordinator for English as Second Language in Primary Schools (ESLPS) in Kampong Speu Province.  teachersWe have four schools and 12 teachers, and more than 550 students.  At present we are teaching grades 4 to 6 at the government primary school, as they do not provide English subjects and our program is the perfect complement to the education curriculum.

I firmly believe that our project will help children in primary school gain English language skills which will see their future opportunities greatly increase.

Say Hello to our Inaugral Scholarship Students



What province are you from? How far is your home from Phnom Penh?

Kampong Chnang, three hours from Phnom Penh.

Why did you want to study agriculture?

I really enjoy learning about the land and wanted to learn more and increase my skills.

What do you want to do in the future?

 I want to help care for animals.

What do you like about staying at Graduation House?

 The chance to study at university, good food, very friendly people.

What type of music do you like?

 Christian music, Korean, English and Khmer music.

What do you like to do for fun?

 Joking around with friends. They tell me that I make them happy when I have fun with them.



What province are you from? How far is your home from Phnom Penh?

Siem Reap, seven hours from Phnom Penh.

 Why did you want to study agriculture?

I have always liked this subject.

 What do you want to do in the future?

I want to make a business in my homeland, to have a farm to grow vegetables and have animals.

 What do you like about staying at Graduation House?

All the people are friendly. I like everything – the food, my room, I don’t know, all of it!

 What type of music do you like?

Rock music, old Khmer, Beyoncé.

 What do you like to do for fun?

Talking with friends and I like singing.


Malinda Malinda

What province are you from? How far is your home from Phnom Penh?

Kampong Speu, two hours from Phnom Penh.

 Why did you want to study medicine?

My dream is to be a doctor and help poor people.

 What do you want to do in the future?

Be a good doctor and have my own clinic.

 What do you like about staying at Graduation House?

Very friendly people – I like everything about living there.

 What type of music do you like?

Old Khmer singers, American music, Justin Bieber.

 What do you like to do for fun?

Dancing, singing and joking with friends.


CHEA Nita medical studentNita

What province are you from? How far is your home from Phnom Penh?

Kampong Cham, three or four hours from Phnom Penh.

 Why did you want to study medicine?

A lot of reasons. Doctors can help all people and help society progress. Being a doctor means I can support myself, my mum and my grandma. I can also keep working with Operation Nightingale to help the Cambodian community.

 What do you want to do in the future?

After gaining some experience working in a hospital, I would like to open my own clinic in my home province and help poor people.

 What do you like about staying at Graduation House?

I enjoy Graduation House because the other students are always very friendly and helpful.

 What type of music do you like?

I like romantic songs. Also the Khmer pop song ‘Mouse Loves Rice’.

 What do you like to do for fun?

Talking, chatting and joking. I like football but I am not very good!

I wanted to say that I was so excited to win this scholarship and I am so very thankful for all at Awareness Cambodia and their supporters.