A new year – this is the year when Savong’s School in Bakong turns 10 years old. So time for a newsletter. This edition is a short one with new facts and figures about the school. We also set out our fund-raising goal for 2015, and we did a quick comparison – did you know that you can run an entire school in Cambodia for 250 students, for the same cost as sending 2 boys to New Zealand’s Auckland Grammar? Interesting comparison.
Click the picture below to download a PDF of the newsletter.
November 2014 - Primary school has started
Running a school is never easy, but this last month Savong’s School started providing primary school services to help meet the local shortage of primary school facilitites in Bakong. Nationally there are 54 primary students for each teacher – so you can imagine the need for additional resources.
Nevertheless Savong’s School is trying to work in with the local State Schools which, so far this new school year, have not settled on their school hours – making it a tad difficult to knw when exactly to provide classes.
We’re sure things will settle down soon however.
Meanwhile if you’d like to sponsor a teacher – we need your help. Fill out the attached sheet and we’ll be in contact.
PLEASE HELP SPONSOR US
Crowdsourcing Appeal - April 2014
Cambodia needs more primary school teaching. Savong’s School intends to offer morning classes for Grade 1-6 children.
In recent weeks on my blog pages I have published data from MOEYS demonstrating that there is not only a shortage of primary school teachers across Cambodia, but a particular shortage of primary teachers in the province of Siem Reap. What that tells us, and Savong hears this directly from the Bakong community, is that the addition of primary school classes by Savong School would help fill an urgent gap.
So Savong has developed a plan to redefine the school so that when the new term begins in October 2014, after the Pchum Ben holidays, the school will henceforth be open in the mornings to offer primary classes for grades 1 through to 6, and then in the afternoons to offer the existing language school services, (including computer classes,) aimed at high-schoolers, from 2 o’clock until 5 o’clock.
Details of the new primary education
- All classes will of course be free, and that is a fundamental promise of Savong School. This will suit families who can ill afford the cost of sending their children to the state schools which tend to charge money each month despite official government policy.
- The primary school classes will be limited to around 30 students each, so that the teacher-student ratio is kept to a desirable size for the sake of the teachers as well is the students.
- The primary school will be recognised by the Ministry, and classes will be conducted in Khmer.
- Six primary school teachers will be hired for the task, and each will be paid up to $150 per month, which is not exactly extravagant by local terms, but these teachers will benefit from the Western style of protection that Savong has always offered his staff; namely sick leave, bereavement leave, and three months salary if for any reason employment relationship should end. These things are designed to ensure all staff are respected, and feel protected from risk. (Only a minority of working Cambodians have the protection of sick leave.)
The new arrangement at Savong School is an exciting one, and absolutely consistent with the dream Savong had at the very outset in 2004 to provide free education for needy students in a rural setting. The plan will be subject to approval from the Ministry of Education, but given the local statistics, is unlikely to meet any resistance. MOEYS, to their credit, is working very hard to close the gaps in the education system – and the current shortage of primary school teachers is a particular priority.
Now comes our part as supporters of the project. For a start, to properly equip six teachers with necessary resources (books and materials) for primary school work, we need a starting fund of US $1200. Then we need to ensure that the salaries for the six teachers are met each month, and the budget for this is $900 US.
That comes to a neat and tidy $1000 per month, or $12,000 per annum to educate 180 primary school students over and above the existing students that we will continue to educate in the afternoons.
2014 - Good changes ahead.
March 20th – 2014
This last week I had a terrific Skype call withe Savong regarding the school. This year marks our tenth year of working together and I’ve often reflected on how the vision of Savong – to provide free education that gives a vocational boost to poor rural students – has remained intact while the expression of this vision has had to move with the times. Ten years ago providing language skills that would get a student work in a guest house was truly aspirational. Today that vocation is pretty basic and students are wanting to reach higher. Some want to be doctors, lawyers and business owners. Their dreams are bigger.
What Savong talked about is a reconfiguration of his school which two weeks ago received fresh licensing from the Ministry of Education, Youth & Sport (MOEYS) and is seen by Government as part of the network of local official schools rather than as an NGO “rival” to the State system. That distinction is important because up until now Savong School has been operating in a complementary fashion to the local high school in Bakong. When it operated in the morning, Savong’s school opened in the afternoons: the aim being to give local students a booster shot of additional education.
This year Bakong High School extended its hours, which we’re certainly not complaining about, but it has squeezed Savong School opening hours later and later. Right now it opens not at 2:00pm but at 4:00pm and finishes in the black of night which in Cambodia arrives at 7:00pm. This is late for the students, and less safe for those who walk to their homes.
Rather than be sandwiched like this, Savong sees a better solution which is to extend the hours of the school and to teach a wider syllabus including Khmer lessons (mathematics, history) as well as the languages and computer skills already taught. Students would be allowed to choose this school rather than Bakong High School and of course Savong would stick to the core vision of providing free education. State Schools are supposed to be free, but the practice of charging a monthly fee to help boost teacher salaries is widespread and hurts poorer families.
Examinations held at Savong School will – as they are already – be recognised by the State system.
The change of syllabus offering needs planning. Teachers, support textbooks need to be prepared, and any change needs to be carefully communicated to the community. Savong is picturing any changes to take place in October when the new school year begins.
Examinations were held this last week at rural-based Savong’s School – just ahead of the Cambodian Pchum Ben holidays in which families honour their ancestors. Many children took part in the exams which are held to an officially recognised standard thanks to input from a local university and authorization by the Ministry of Education. For the senior Grade 12 students these examination provide the opportunity to gain a full four year university scholarship and laptop computer so there is a lot at stake here.
Results will be announced in late October after the Pchum Ben holiday season, which of course means plenty of marking for the teachers. Good luck everyone!
This is new. Following a dramatic about-turn by the Apsara Authority who previously forbade new building in the Bakong region. This meant that the SOC was getting run-down and we were unable to effect upgrades or even the addition of extra toilet blocks. For a while it looked like we’d need to make the expensive decision to move to Siem Reap: a very expensive option.
But then last month, with Cambodian elections coming up, local by-laws were relaxed and permission was given to build two new dormitory rooms as well as two new toilet facilities. The project was kick started with funds that Savong and a group of Tasmanians raised earlier in the year, and building has been fast – though not quite fast enough to beat the rainy season. This photo (getting those tiles up onto the roof) came a day before heavy rains hit the district.
The plan is to re-roof the original buildings with tiles also because they are much more weather-tight, and cooler than tin roofing.
March 2013 - Laptops for Scholarship winners
2. A living allowance is granted each month to help them cover their living expenses and for books and stationery. It is important that these students not feel like a financial drag on their families.
To be honest, our fundraising had lagged last year, but this last month a very generous supporter made a donation that enabled us to buy a laptop for each of the students, and to cover their living costs and enrolment fees for another year. The gift gives us time to fundraise while providing continuity for the students.
At the Laptop ceremony the students were invited to bring their parents and this was a considerate move by Savong. Family is, or course, an especially important unit in Khmer society, and this was a chance to celebrate the success of these families: proud parents of the student children.
In the photo below is student Chorm Thea, age 22, and his dad on the left, a farmer who has grown up in extremely tough times. Chorm Thea is one of 6 children, and it is likely that once he gets his degree (these students are hard workers) he will then support his brothers and sisters through University as well.
In this fashion, the gift of a scholarship reaps tremendous returns in Cambodia, assisting not only the bright students who shine in the annual exams, but also their families and their villages.The giving isn’t all one way either. While doing their studies, these students also do some tuition, mentoring and other duties around the school.
Generous donation marks February 2013
The new year has started very busy for Savong’s School with a burgeoning number of volunteers including some returnees. The students really love the return of these friends and these volunteers bring a sense of continuity to the work.
Meanwhile our worries about fund-raising (basically I was unable to commit as much time to this as possible last year) were solved to a significant extent by a very generous foreign donation of $12,000 – sufficient to honour our commitment to the newer scholarship students to buy their new laptops, and to fund their living expenses and enrolment for the year ahead. The gift was from a supporter who has never been to Cambodia before, but was told about the project by a long-term supporter to the project. What a difference this gift makes.
Also a change in the way we communicate. The Newsletter may continue for a little longer, but we are going to be using a SAVONG SCHOOL BLOG site from now to more easily connect with our supporters. This will be updated on a much more regular basis. You can help us by opening up the BLOG and clicking the FOLLOW ME button in order to get your news from Savong’s project.
Elsewhere, from our ‘necessary but not all that interesting department’ we can report that a new accounting system is being set-up whereby accounts from the school and the children’s home and education center will be scanned, and emailed over to an accountant in New Zealand. The objective: a simplification of systems and great transparency.
January 2013 - Big Plans for SOC
On January 12th Savong posted a message on Facebook announcing a change of name for the SOC (Savong Orphan Centre). The new name reflects plans for the Centre to move into town, and to operate from new premises. The current site in Bakong is restricted because it is located within the region governed by the APSARA authority which restricts building and development in order to maintain (for the good of tourism, but to the detriment of locals) heritage values – in other words traditional villages but no new developments.
The new name: Savong Home and Education – Cambodia also reflects the educational focus of the facility.
“We would like to inform you that Savong Orphan Centre (SOC) was changed to SAVONG HOME AND EDUCATION-CAMBODIA ( S.H.E.C ) and the website of SOC has expired and we set up a new website, it is called :
www.savonghomeeducation.org so you can visit it in two weeks later and you will see what we are doing daily on our website.
And we will move it to other location in this 2013 if the fund allow but we need your help too.”
A group of Malaysian students recently visited the school and SOC and also raised funds and were actively involved in installing water pumps for local villagers- a good example of Savong’s outreach to the Bakong district.
Big thanks to our visitors!
A big thank you to our Singapore visitors(Eric Koh and his family) this month who sponsored a picnic to the children’s favourite place of all – Kulen Mountains. A Jounrey of 50km followed by a picnic and the…a swim under the fabulous waterfalls.
October 2012 - We launch our first ever appeal for books and scholarships
This month the scholarship program celebrates 11 new students from Savong’s School who will join the 4 previous scholarship winners in enrolling at Angkor University. Each student is covered for 4 years for fees, transport to town, and for living costs – and each will receive a laptop computer also: a must have for university students.
The scholarship is greatly assisted by Angkor University itself which is meeting the enrolment fees for five of these 15 students – a kind gesture from the University, and a reflection of the Director’s own commitment to helping rural students attain academic opportunities.
Download the latest newsletter by clicking here – (be patient!)
Meanwhile this month is Pchum Ben – one of the two major holidays in the Cambodian calendar. During the week offerings are made and remembrance is given to ancestors, and typically people travel to their homelands to be with family.
This can be an expensive season for those with jobs in Cambodia – because they will greatly meet the commitments of families to holiday together, and make offerings – and important part of the religious calendar. For this reason we have a tradition at Savong’s School of giving each teacher a cash gift at this time of year as a sign of respect and support. This year we gave $25 to each staff member.
Meanwhile with the new academic year started, the teachers have drawn up a list of the books and equipment they need for the school.
This amounts to around $1,400 and the priority is the books ($314 worth) followed by the water pump ($120) followed by the furniture.
This is the second time we have replaced fans which are inexpensive and, evidently, low quality. But anyone who has taught in the heat of the afternoon knows how hot it can get in the classrooms.
If you are visiting the school, or would like to help us with the $1422 appeal – please contact us for more information.
The appeal for equipment and books has been combined with our Scholarship appeal – our first ever blatant request for financial support!
August Newsletter has been emailed out, and you can download your copy right here. It takes a minute to Download the PDF – so be patient.
Thank you Galina for you wonderful portrait photo I used on the cover.
In this issue we discuss some new rules about gifting to the SOC children, and we list the children currently sponsored into university or advanced English education in town.
We just loved the shot – a relaxing moment for a few of the girls at the SOC.
- This month a big party was held for the SOC children and their counterparts from Happy Sunshine orphanage in town.
- Changes are afoot for the Sewing School that had been established at the SOC. A decision was made a few weeks back to re-establish this school at the Happy Sunshine Orphanage where there is more space available, so sewing classes are temporarily shut, andf the machines set aside for the new classes in town.
- Meanwhile the adults who had been learning sewing skills have all gained full-time employment with good salaries: a great success for the school and another small economic step forward for the people of Bakong.
- Poverty is still a serious issue in the Bakong community, and this month Savong donated food to 22 needy families.
- 8 children at the SOC were quite sick with a stomach bug, but received prompt medical treatment and are now much better. Last year we established an emergency fund for any situaiton such as this, in case medications are required that cost money.
- It is examination season for the older SOC boys – and they ahve been doing well, except for their most feared subject: accounting.
- Kim San at the SOC is enjoying her new status as a teacher – this followed a crisis where she felt she might need to quit school in order to earn money to support her mother. The answer was to employ her brilliance within the SOC so she could earn money plus continue with her education.
- Below – new signage by the school office. The school is undergoing a management makeover implementing a clearer structure and job descriptions for all staff – this reflects the growth of the school (what starts off loose and informal needs to become more structured) as well as management skills and lessons learned at University by Savong and members of his staff.
Savong School Newsletter - April 2012
The sweetest smile in all of Cambodia, the heavy burden of family responsibility, a generous offer of transport, a report on the monthly budget…all this and more in our latest newsletter.
Click to download – it’ll be slow so be patient – but that’s the Cambodian way.
Good this month to speak with Cecil Holmes an educationalist from Belfast who wrote a report with his professional observations and recommendations regarding teaching at Savong’s School. He found the experience extremely rewarding – especially because of the attitude of the students and their deep desire for educaiton.
One challenge westerners always come across is the difference between the somewhat rigid, “chalk and talk” style of teaching in Cambodia versus the more open, “free-discussion” style of western education. Cecil pondered this and has discussed with us a way to resolve that difference – by developing teaching units that build-on and extend what’s on offer in the widely used Headway textbooks. He tried this approach with great success and told us, via Skype, of a particularly enjoyable class wehre he’d given the assignment: “Come back tomorrow with three things things that you would love to do one day.” Next day the students came back with their wish lists – and one of them said how much he would love to go to see a movie. The discussion moved on: what kind of movie? “A love story,” said the student…and so the discussion moved on to the subject of love and the different types of love: love for country, love for family etc. Cecil’s role as teacher that day was to gently guide a discussion that came out of subjects raised by the students. As much as anything he was coaxing them to simply practice spoken English, but without focusing on the English – rather – by focusing on the topics of discussion. The love stories.
Meanwhile Cecil made a significant contribution to the school with the donation of a new Minolta copier so that teachers can print resource materials for teaching – not to mention test papers for the students.
Budget under pressure for the next 12 months
The running expenses of the overall school, SOC and scholarship activities of the project are climbing. This is for three reasons.
- First – the scope of the project has got wider, with more students in the care of the SOC, and an increasing number of students being sponsored through university.. We may have around 18 by year’s end. At the SOC we have had several new students join the family this year.
- Second – the quality of services is increasing. In 2005 years ago we thought opening a school was a big thing – but never dreamed how quickly we’d be offering computer teaching, or be offering university scholarships rather than, simply, languager education. Expectations and needs are increasing, and so are is our service delivery.
- Third: inflation. Local costs are rising, and this includes employment costs but also fuel and electricity. We don’t begrudge pay increases for staff and endeavour to pay fair, competitive salaries. For teachers we also cover sickness benefits (continued pay, plus medical expenses).
The monthly running costs, as of January 2012 are charted below – however since then we have added more children under the care of the SOC, and the Scholarship budget is soon to ramp up with the 2012 intake of scholars. Also the chart does not include capital costs – for example the building cost for the library or the SOC in 2008 or Student Centre which opened recently for older students located in town.
SOC - Licensed by the Ministry - March 2012
In Cambodia there have, until around 2010, been few rules and regulations governing Orphanages or Children’s Homes, and this gap opened the way for many to open including some, unfortunately, of a very low standard, and others – even less fortunately – designed simply to be a money making venture for the owners. Most orphanages appear do the best job they can with the resources they have.
In 2011 the Government signalled a toughening up of laws – setting higher standards including the requirement to complete documentation and full registration with the Ministry. The move, which created a lot of paperwork for Savong, is a welcome one for three reasons.
- First, the step will help clean out some of the less scrupulous operators. The SOC houses two children who were previously with an exploitive orphanage that offered no schooling for the children.
- Second, the move toward registration will finally enable the Government to see and understand the scope of child care in Cambodia.
- Finally, the move raises the bar for individual children’s homes. The regular audits and need for compliance creates a need for more stringent management systems governing Human Resources, Child Health & Safety and other issues.
Savong found the new registration process quite demanding and he and other NGOs frequently met to discuss the issues raised by the Ministry – another good side effect of the process. He has also implemented some new systems at the SOC – notably better record keeping of when children go home to stay with parents, and a more contractual relationship with these families also so that the role of guardianship of and responsibility for the children is made more clear. Good moves. They both reflect a maturing of Savong’s management style as well.
In March 2012 the SOC received its license. That’s the official paperwork printed above. (Can you read Khmer?)
Up in the air. We were excited this month to have an article appear in the Malaysia Airlines in-flight magazine Going Places which has a print run of 100,000 copies. In the December 2011 edition a profile appeared about Savong and the pursuit of his dream to provide education for disadvantaged children. A big thank you to MAS for this unsolicited article. If you have an iPad you can download an APP to see the magazine. And we have scanned a copy to spread the word: you can download the article here.
December Newsletter. Now here is our own latest newsletter – the December Savong School Newsletter. Click here to download this PDF document. Yes, it always takes a minute – think “Cambodia time” and be patient. Thanks.
Christmas Celebrations. Christmas is not really a day of celebration in Cambodia but on December 26th the children of SOC combined with their fellow students from the Happy Sunshine Orphanage to have a huge picnic and games day courtesy of very kind overseas sponsors. The children had a great time and activities included traditional Cambodian team games, modern dance as well as singing. In the audience were their fellow students and also overseas visitors and the local teachers. This event rounds off an exciting year for the SOC children full of parties, journeys, celebrations and – thanks to the typhoon – some dramas as well. They have also been studying hard, and we take this moment to thank them, and thank sponsors and donors for enriching the lives of these children.
Tree planting at SOC. Thanks to visitors, more trees – fruit trees – were planted at SOC. These include bananas and pawpaw.
November 2011 - 4000th Visitor to our Website this year
Tasmanians show brilliant support. A huge thank you to Newstead College in Launceston Tasmania (for you foreigners – that’s the island shaped like a generous heart, off the coast of Australia) for raising funds, yet again, for the school. This is $AUD1,000 – and we will be discussing with the College where they would most like to see the funds spent – there are a few candidate projects on the go at present! The kind people of Newstead College were instrumental, months back, in getting the chicken farm funded – and this small farm (that backs on to the school) supplies eggs and chicken to the SOC. Check out their newsletter from earlier this year.
There’s nothing quite so unexciting as website statistics – but this month we are coming up for our 4000th website visitor this year. Oh sure, that’s not quite up there with the 45 million or so who have visited “I’m Sexy and I Know It” on YouTube – but it demonstrates the quiet power of the internet in allowing interested people to find out more. We have averaged 12 new visitors every single day. This website sets out to be useful, informative, and straight talking – and allows those who are looking for a place to volunteer to weigh up our credibility. Thank you to the volunteers and visitors who have shared their photos and shared their stories.
A big thank you to Alexandra of the International Finance Corporation, part of the World Bank Group for finding with us a home for a number of laptops that are being retired from her organisation, but are still suitable for computer teaching. These will be a welcome addition at the school where there is a burgeoning demand from students for computer skills.
Child Safety Incident Report. One of the many good suggestions made when we canvassed supporters about the draft Child Safety Policy was to create an explicit channel for volunteers and visitors to report any incidents where violence, bullying or compromosing behaviour that ought to be followed-up. Good suggestion. On the Child Safety page we have posted the link – and we promise to act on every incident reported – big or small. Meanwhile, based on feedback to the initial September draft of the policy – we have now posted the November draft: which is a lot more specific yet retains the balance between protecting children from harm, while still enabling their freedom to play, to adventure and to socialise.
October - November 2011
Following the massive floods that hit Thailand, Cambodia and Vietnam in September, thousands of farming families were displaced or lost their rice crops which were washed away. The floods were the most serious on record for decades. Savong responded by appealing to supporters for assistance – not for the school and SOC – but for the local Bakong community where the Siem Reap branch of Red Cross had identified hundreds of families in need as a direct result of the flooding. Savong raised $2800 and with Red Cross purchased rice and food supplies to provide relief for over 100 families.
The local news team covered the event (In Khmer). During the flooding the children at SOC were relocated to the guest house in town, and really they had an exciting time of it. Flood waters have receded now, but the impact will continue in the district.
In another show of community support, Savong School held a Blood Donation day – and 92 students donated blood to the local Provincial hospital which is always needing supplies. This event was also covered by the local news channel and looks set to become an annual part of the Savong School calendar.
As Savong says, students were a little bit afraid of giving blood – but with some encouragement realised how much this would help save the lives of others.
Meanwhile Savong has been developing his contacts in Siem Reap, and he has secured a generous offer from the University to match one-for-one the university fees for scholarships. So for every student we enrol through university, the university will waive the fees for another student from Bakong.
In November a new orphanage opened in town – the Happy Sunshine Orphanage – which is an Austrian initiative, but in co-operation with Savong and the SOC. The funding has come from Austria, and Savong was consulted extensively, to help navigate the local paperwork, land purchase and registration. The orphanage has been in construction throughout 2011, and on November 5th opened officially. It is a joint venture, and bears the SOC as part of its name. Check out the Austrian website. On November 6th the children from the new orphanage and from SOC joined together for a picnic day at West Baray.
One of the Sunshine directors with Theavy and Seyha, just before the opening ceremony began.
Savong told us how one of the Scholarship students from the school, Channtheng gave a straight from the heart speech to the gathered audience about how the school had changed her life. Savong said he, and many others, were in tears because the speech was so moving: an affirmation that projects such as these really make a huge impact on young lives.
The Savong School September newsletter features a detailed article on the draft Child Safety Policy, but also contains lots of news and photos from the school, health center and SOC. The cover story: our next five scholarship winners are announced. For a copy of the PDF, click HERE. the newsletter may take about a minute to download. Be patient and think of Cambodia.
Below – the generous support of Tracey and Juli and team of Korean students recently enabled the SOC to buy a Nissan utility vehicle that serves as bus, as pack-horse and general transport.
With the reopening of the health center at the SOC, it is time we told our story to more people, so a few weeks back we submitted a story to NZ Doctor, a weekly newspaper aimed at the medical profession. The photos came courtesy of Oliver Son who volunteered earlier this year and is planning a documentary about the subject.
For a copy of the article, CLICK HERE.
News - July/August 2011
July is generally the busiest month in terms of overseas visitors – and so it has proved this year with many good volunteers from Japan, Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, USA, UK, Spain and Australia.
Meanwhile the new accounting system is running pretty smoothly. If you making a gift directly to Savong, then ask to write it into his little black notebook where he records every expense. This gets typed up into Excel, then sent to a Chartered Accountant. Below – excluding the Childrens Home and the Health Centre, here’s a simple chart outlining the monthly budget for the school and the scholarships.
This budget will be stretched shortly, when a new group of scholarship winners is announced to join the initial quartet of students we support through university. The exam is soon to be held.
Earlier in July an extremely well-organised trip – sponsored by the energetic Palti family of Melbourne took older children from the SOC to the seaside town of Sihanoukville via Phnom Penh. It was the children’s first glimpse of the ocean – on day one the surf was pounding – and on later days they went out fishing and even jet-skiing. The journey was a thoughtful gesture, well structured, and designed to build the esteem of these students through challenges, successes and that golden feeling which all children should enjoy – of experiencing new things and becoming just a few steps more worldly-wise. A big thank you.
Monthly budget at the school, SOC and Scholarships
- The typical monthly budget of the school (not the children’s home or medical centre) is around $US1200 per month.
- Most of this is taken by salaries for the teachers, librarian and director while further funds (around $300 per month) are for running expenses.The running expenses of the school go up and down – but in a typical month the generator needs petrol, some books and stationery are purchased for the teachers and various items (volleyball net, shelves) are needed. We allow $300 per month for these, though visitor donations also assist here.
- Sometimes items over and above the regular running expenses are donated by individual visitors – for example computers. These are of course welcome.
The chart above, drawn up in January 2012 is already out of date however. More children have been accepted at the SOC so monthly runnings costs are closer to $2400 for the SOC, and later this year we will add significantly to the Scholarship investment.
The scholarship costs will rise for 3 years more, and then stabilise as graduates complete university at about the same rate as we award new scholarships. However we are also committed to helping the older SOC children through university once they attain Grade 12.
NEWS: June/July 2011
This is a busy time for Savong – with a full schedule of visitors and volunteers and a number of projects on the go.
- A group of Koreans here to teach the newly established Korean class at the school.
- Visitors from Spain, Indonesia, UK, USA, Australia and NZ booked in to volunteer. big welcome.
- Progress on the “town branch” of the SOC which is due to open in August.
- Paperwork filed for the Health Center, and reopening due in July.
- Maintenance issues – there’s always something. This time the water pump failed at the school, so it has been replaced with a petrol driven pump from the SOC, while the SOC gets a new petrol-driven pump. In fact we need a bit of help with this one?
- New vegetable planting – and more chickens. The farmer is working hard to develop the food stream for the SOC. The main priority with the chicken farming is to hatch more chicks and grow the flock – each weeks more eggs are hatching.
- Holidays in Cambodia. Galina and her mum took a group of SOC students to Battambang – which for most of the group was the first time beyond Siem Reap they had a great time…
- …and another holiday is booked for early July. This time the Palti family – Steph and the clan – are taking a group from the SOC down to Phnom Penh and then the coast of Sihanoukville for their first taste of the ocean.
- Some outreach work in the Bakong community has identified pockets of real need – well-building and other basics.
- Meanwhile in Tasmania and Singapore fans and followers, visitors and volunteers have embarked on two separate fund raising events to help the project. Really grateful thanks.
- The Savong Foundation is building the number of members to the Facebook page. Have you joined yet? Click here.
NEWS: June/July 2011
Here at last is the May Newsletter – a lot happening at the school and SOC. Click here to download a copy.
Introduction of Korean classes at the school.
Record enrolments at the school.
Full accountancy system implemented.
A start in writing a child safety policy – this covers health, safety and visitor safety.
New safety fence installed around the fish ponds at SOC.
Emergency fund established – for any medical emergencies.
Good progress on the “town” branch of SOC.
The first eggs from the chicken farm – these are being hatched for more chicks.
Five new visitor links added – check out what our volunteers and visitors are saying.
April 2011 - Sth Korean connection formalised
A busy month. In late March Savong was very kindly hosted by supporters on South Korea to a visit in Seoul – Savong’s first journey overseas and a step out of the 35 degree heat of Siem Reap into the 4 degree chill of Seoul’s late winter weather. The journey was made in order to see schools in Sth Korea, and also to discuss the support of a Korean language teacher at Savong’s School. This is in full harmony with the purpose of Savong School to provide free language education to students in order that they have an asset that makes them more employable in town. In Siem Reap the biggest single source of tourism is Sth Korea, and there is a shortage of Korean-speaking Khmer.
Heading toward Cambodian New Year, the teachers had a get-together lunch in town before being measured up at a local tailors for a new staff uniform outfit – as a thank you. On April 8th, the end of term fun day featuring traditional Khmer games, lots of food and a few formalities made sure the school finishes on a high for the Cambodian year. This is one of the two main holidays in Cambodia, and school children have a two week break until the end of April.
Meanwhile one of the longer-term supporters, Duncan Stuart, is heading to Siem Reap to discuss and update with Savong some of the systems at the school and SOC. These systems include:
- Child safety policies.
- Teacher skills development.
- Accounting, reporting and transparency procedures.
On Tuesday March 15th Savong went to Phnom Penh on business – and it seemed okay, even though his wife Aneed was expecting a baby. The child was not due for a number of days yet. But Savong wasn’t in Phnom Penh very long when he got the phone call from Aneed – the baby was on the way! Family took her to hospital and Aneed gave birth to a baby boy to join two sisters Visa and Sunna.
Aneed has forgiven Savong for being “out of town” and when we spoke to Savong he sounded mighty proud.
Construction has begun on a branch of the SOC orphanage – 5kms from Siem Reap’s centre. This has progressed for two reasons. One – the APSARA local authority has really put a halt on new constructions around Bakong where the school and SOC are located. This is a heritage area.
However the SOC now has 38 children and is crowded, and the plan is to provide a home nearer town for the older children in order that they have access to good schools in town.
Meanwhile Government regulations, recently introduced mean all NGO medical centres will, forthwith need to be registered. This is a good move (it will help weed out dubious operators) but while the paperwork is completed this month the clinic at the Savong Orphan Centre will be closed. A number of NGOs are working together to decipher the government regulations and requirements. We applaud the move to registration – it helps provide assurance – but the step is not without it’s extensive paperwork!
Work nears completion on the chicken farm which will provide eggs and protein for the children. A family will dwell on the site to manage the farm – so apart from generating food, the farm will add to self-sufficiency.
The university scholars are doing well. Over March they have an academic break after first semester examinations. These students also help out around the school and are very happy as a group – though, as any student knows – that depends on those exam results!
A lot going on in the last two months of 2010. Generous Singaporean support saw the completion of additional fish farm capacity (another 1000 baby fish have found a temporary home – yum!) and Australian supporters from Tasmania (Newstead College) have contributed significantly to the upcoming chicken farm.
To download the latest edition of the Savong School newsletter – click here. Be patient, it will take 30 seconds to download unless your internet is a lot faster than ours!
At the SOC new children have joined (four of them with their mother who now has employment).
Meanwhile on the less spectacular end of the spectrum, we’ve been developing the paperwork and systems with a new volunteer bookings calendar on this website in order to better co-ordinate volunteers, and with a work-in-progress guide for volunteers also. You can download the guide for volunteers to Savong School and SOC. Click to download and then wait at least 30 seconds (it will happen!) The document is just over 1MB
September/October. The four scholarship students have enrolled at University and have begun their studies. Meanwhile the new GP who works at the health clinic on Mondays and Fridays reports huge demand: some 70 consultations a day.
In early October heavy flooding has affected the region – roads and villages are underwater (October 11th) as they are in Phnom Penh and Sihanoukville. All flights in and out of Cambodia were cancelled due to the weather. Bet the fish are happy in the new fish farm however!
Here’s a link to the October Newsletter. (It will think for 30 seconds and then open up.)
Meanwhile there has been a fund raising outbreak in various places around the world. Terra and Janene held a couture fundraising effort in Vancouver, Nyetlin and friends in Auckland held a huge fund raiser party, while in Rotorua NZ Kylie Hickey and her posse at Rotaract have also been raising funds. (See story.) Hey, a huge thank you to everyone.
Meanwhile back in Siem Reap, the children at SOC had a fabulous day visiting the Cambodian Cultural Village (seeing life as tourists see Cambodia) and among the activities was archery – a hunting tradition that goes back a long way in Cambodia. What better way for the older boys to show off their prowess!
Day trips for the SOC children are a really popular activity, and they’ve enjoyed trips to the Angkor temples, to Kulen Mountain waterfalls, to the floating village, to West Baray (beach, lake and island) as well as to Karaoke when the Palti family of Melbourne improvised a wild night of food, fizzy drink and singing for the SOC staff and children.
Each journey works on all kinds of levels – bonding between the children, encouraging a sense of adventure and play, firing up young imaginations, and adding to the sense of love and care they children richly deserve.
July 2010 - Big events at SOC
There has been a lot of activity at the school and orphanage this period. Since April school enrolments have soared (we had to buy 20 new desks) and at the Savong Orphan Centre (SOC) a new health clinic has been opened, a fish farm has been filled with 500 fish, and a new skills programme fro unemployed local women has begun.
JUNE/JULY 2010 NEWSLETTER – Click this link and allow your computer 30 seconds or so to download.
April 2010 Newsletter
April 3rd, 2010 – we have the latest newsletter right here as a PDF file. CLICK HERE When you click on it, it will take several seconds to open so be patient – there’s a heap of news squeezing its way through the internet to reach your computer!
April 12-14th is Cambodian new year – so we wish everyone a very happy new year.
February 2010 Newsletter
February 10th, 2010 – we have the latest newsletter right here as a PDF file. CLICK HERE When you click on it, it will take a few seconds to open so be patient – there’s a heap of news squeezing its way through the internet to reach your computer!
Scholarships to University launched - January 2010
In January 2010 concerted efforts are being made to launch a programme that will select and then support the ‘bightest and best” senior students at Savong’s School to attend university with the assistance of scholarships. The programme is designed to help bright motivated students to reach their potential by knocking over the barrier of poverty which prevents attendance – the cost of fees, books, living, laptop and transport – all of which put university out of reach.
The school is preparing examinations to help select the top students, and they will also be assessed in terms of motivation and also commitment from their own families. The families need to agree that they won’t stop their son or daughter from studying.
We’re looking at no more than a handful of scholarships each year – and these scholarships will provide support for four years (Intermediate year plus three years bachelors degree.) The programme will provide mentoring and support during that four eyar experience, and the scholarship also covers transport into town – thanks to the generous gift to the school of a tuktuk.
Short video on YouTube about the scholarship.
Updates from Steph
Steph Palti has led her family on a second expedition to Cambodia – revisiting the orphanage and school, and connecting once more with the students. Updates and new photos are here on her blogspot.
Below – Steph and the children heading to market to buy new clothes. Later the party dined like kings at a local restaurant.
Registration of the Orphanage
The hard work by everyone in 2008-2009 to develop the orphanage was recognised with the registration of the Savong Orphan Centre as meeting local standards laid down by the Ministry of the Interior. Registration was introduced in part to help eliminate less scrupulous operators from opening orphanages as a front for scooping tourist dollars.
November-December 2009 - Orphanage Projects all Go!
Two Singapore High Schools visited in November, and both made an big impact – getting the study room completed at the orphanage was a mighty effort.
Chung Cheng High and XinMin School made an enthusiastic contribution, and there were tears when these students left for home. Right: XinMin students taught dental care and completed the study room, while earlier in the month Chung Cheng High students put in slavish hours, formed a human chain and moved metres of sand, earth and rock to form the foundaton of the study room. A brilliant effort that’s made a real difference. The orphan children now have a place to spread out (rain or shine) and do their studies. Savong plans to hire a tutor to provide more one on one teaching and care for these students.
For the full PDF version of the Nov-Dec Newsletter – click here. (It is 1MB so it may take a few seconds to load.)
October 2009 - After the Typhoon
Typhoon Ketsana ripped through Vietnam and Cambodia in late September with winds hitting 145 kph and bringing heavy rains, flooding and destruction to large swathes of rice farming. This is an economic catastrophe in the making for many poorer families. The school survived, high and dry and since then construction has resumed on the computer classroom and of the rainwater tank at the orphanage.
For the full PDF version of the October Newsletter – click here. (It is 1MB so it may take quite a few seconds to load.)
Below – for a while it looked like volleyball was off in favour of swimming at Savong’s School.
September 2009 - Australian invasion!
Steph is a 15 year old from Melbourne and she was really keen to get to Cambodia and volunteer teach. With her energetic family coming on the same journey (and loaded with lesson plans, and creative ideas,) this crew has taken the school by storm. Activities have included:
- Creative activities including mural painting, photography and music.
- A fabulous day for the orphans who were taken out to the Angkor temples, then to Tonle Sap lake on a chartered boat. The journey ended in an inpromptu swim and later dinner at a local-style restaurant.
- Read Steph’s blog and you’ll see how wonderfully everybody connects.http://stephcambodia.blog.com/
Meanwhile the economy continues to deteriorate in Cambodia, with two trends really hurting the educational opportunities for rural children. Inflation has made the cost of living soar, and many more families are below the poverty line this year. An outcome of that is the strategy by many families to take their children out of school and put them into the family business to help earn an income. Understandable perhaps – but many children as young as 7 or 8 are now part of the workforce.
For more September News – click here for the PDF version: SEPTEMBER 2009 SAVONG SCHOOL NEWSLETTER
SCHOOL NEWSLETTER August 2009 - rainy season and good developments
- Paperwork continues for the licensing. Stamps, ID, forms…! The Ministry of the Interior is widely developing a register of all schools and orphanages which will enable informaiton gathering (and planning) and the capacity to oversee the standards of all organisations. Good move. Among the conditions is that each organisation show it has a credible bank account.
- New motorbike. What’s red, quiet, more powerful and great to ride. On August 7th Savong and a group of advisers selected a new (second-hand actually) motorbike for the orphanage.
- Alan Crombie a teacher in a really good international school in Malaysia has visited Savong and is looking to organise a major visit by at least 27 students and 5 adults from his school to Siem Reap. They’ve raised funds and Alan contributes a lot of educational expertise also.
- August is holiday season for much of the nothern hemisphere, and peak time for tourism to Cambodia – and for volunteers to the school. This month Savong has had a busy, enjoyable time meeting volunteers from Japan, UK, Australia and many other countries.
July 2009 - at Savong school and orphanage
- Sponsorship was found for one of the orphan boys Seyha – thanks to a kind Singapore family.
- Savong has completed the kitchens at the school and at the orphanage. It’s great to have a floor above ground level during the rainy season.
- Paperwork has begun to License to school and orphanage under new Government regulations.
- We have an excellent volunteer from Japan staying at the school.