I’ve just returned from nearly five weeks in Myanmar, Thailand, and Cambodia. In this report I’ll give you a quick look at some (but not all) of the projects I visited, all of which are benefitting from improvements made possible by YOUR GENEROUS DONATIONS to our Foundation.
At the Koenawin Monastery I got to see first hand the progress being made on the construction of a new dormitory that will provide housing for more than 150 girls, thus enabling them to live safely and get a high school education. I’m looking forward to seeing the completed (or nearly so) building when I return in the third week of April.
It was good to return to the Guiding Star Monastery School and visit once again with the inspirational head monk, Uvimala, and to see his dedication and commitment to educating the 149 high school students residing there. Shortly after this visit, we were able to let him know that funding had been arranged so that he can continue with the construction of his new building. Soon, the building you see here will have another floor added and will be topped off with a leak-proof roof. Having this construction done before the beginning of the rainy season will make a world of difference in the education and living facilities for those kids.
Another special treat for me was returning to the very remote, and very poor village of Khone Su and being there for the dedication of their very first pre-school ever. Because of your donations, we were able to offer the leaders of this village dollar-for-dollar matching if they could raise at least $3,000. They did that quickly. We matched their money. Then they built the school … twice. Yes, twice. When the building was about three quarters finished it was wiped out when a severe flood struck their village.
So, these dedicated people rallied, started over, and built their pre-school a second time. It isn’t fancy by any means, but the villagers are so proud of it. And they are even more proud of the 36 kids being taught by the two teachers that are working without salary, because currently there is no budget for that. We’re so impressed with the dedication of the villagers in Khone Su that we’re in the process of making another small grant so they can pay their teachers a modest salary for the coming year – and so they can construct an outdoor exercise apparatus for the kids.
University Scholarships. Thanks to an especially generous donor I had the absolute privilege of awarding a four-year scholarship to an exceptional high school senior girl so she can attend Rajabhat University in Chiang Rai. Here is Cha-m. Her dream is to become a doctor.
And, in conjunction with the Rotary Club of Maechan we were able to deliver significantly more funding so that a number of girls will be able to attend Rajabhat and Mae Fah Luong Universities in Chiang Rai.
Also in Thailand, I once again visited the Sisters of Providence in Chiang Saen – way north, almost to the Laos/Myanmar border. There, we were able to fund a substantial portion of the internal furnishings for their newly constructed residence, dining, and study hall for 30 at-risk hill tribe girls. And, with another wonderful donation we were also able to help them take out a lease, with an option to purchase, on an adjacent building that will house a new social business sewing custom products for the local and international markets.
While in Chiang Mai I had another visit with Sr. Anurak at the Wildflower Homefor at-risk, pregnant hill tribe women. Because of YOU – our generous donors – we are the lead funder (in conjunction with a foundation from Switzerland) for the construction of a substantial new building to house at least 25 women and their babies. In addition to the new building, we’ve also funded their operating costs for one full year.
Venturing to the northeast region of Thailand known as Isaan, I was able to see the brand new Sponsorship Program building YOU funded with your generous donations. Needless to say, Sr. Sutisa is thrilled with the new building including the expanded facilities it provides for her sponsorship program staff, for large-scale community meetings focusing on anti-trafficking and anti-violence towards women, and for sheltering trafficking victims attempting to return to Laos.
Lorm Loerum, the education monk at Wat Damnak in Siem Reap was delighted to receive funding for 30 brand new sewing machines for his Life & Hope Association where each year he trains 28 women to become skilled seamstresses. His 10-year-old, worn out machines can now be retired and used for spare parts thanks to your generosity along with a donation from the Edmonds Daybreakers Rotary Club.
The proud graduating class of 2016
We were also very busy in Cambodia with CEDF–OpCam (Cambodian Economic Development Fund – Opportunity Cambodia) located about 75 Km north of Siem Reap and serving a group of 18 incredibly poor villages in the Anlong Samnar commune. YOUR donations are funding two projects with CEDF—OpCam. One is helping to expand their animal raising program to include pigs, ducks, and chickens so that more families can have a source of both food to eat and income from raising and selling the animals and birds.
The second project YOU are funding there (also with CEDF-OpCam) is the first ever pre-school for the village of Prey Angkor. It isn’t quite ready for use yet, but will be by March of 2017. YOUR funding, along with a contribution from the Edmonds Daybreakers Rotary Club, will provide tables, chairs, shelving, books, study materials, and a teacher’s salary for the coming school year. Twenty kids will now get a head start preparing them to later begin attending the local primary school.
Lastly, I’ll mention an upcoming workshop I’ll be conducting when I return to Siem Reap in May.
In the course of this work it is becoming increasingly clear to me that philanthropy is never enough. Rarely are donated funds adequate to keep social organizations afloat for the longer term. So, I’m redoubling my efforts to help these organizations find other sources of support, primarily from (a) direct community engagement, and (b) more importantly, Social Business.
To address this need I’ll be leading a workshop in Siem Reap this coming May where we’ll be bringing together the leaders from 10 to 15 local organizations all focused on educating disadvantaged children from the surrounding (and very poor) villages. We’ll have two days to explore possibilities for entrepreneurial initiatives and share ideas. Already, we’re generating quite a buzz in the local community. I’m very much looking forward to those two days with these dedicated people and seeing what the collective wisdom of the group will look like.
That’s it for now. I’ll have more to report when I return from my upcoming trip in April and May. Meanwhile, Your donations to support this work are always welcome and greatly appreciated.
YOU are making a real difference for hundreds of kids.
Life is good — at least for some of us it is. Others need a bit of help. Together we can provide exactly that.