Sunday, April 26, 2009

‘Muskoka School’ Progress! – Giant Garage Sale July 11th…And MORE!

The citizens and Rotary Clubs of Muskoka have lots to be proud of – a government elementary school is being built in their honor for hundreds of impoverished children in rural Siem Reap province, Cambodia.

This school presently has over 350 children in attendance at the dilapidated wooden structure on the Ta Trav school site. With the completion of the new six-room cement school building, the attendance is expected to rise to 500 students.
I’ve been back from Cambodia over 3 weeks now, and have received numerous updates from the Trailblazer Foundation (, the US-based organization on the ground in Cambodia implementing this wonderful school project. The Trailblazer Foundation is building this school in collaboration with the Canadian-founded ‘Cambodian Landmine Museum Relief Fund’ ( This blog entry shows a couple of photos from the April 7th and April 21st progress updates which I have received. To see more photos, please visit my Picasa Web Album Site at: .

As I write, the signs are being made for the school, and soon they will be ready to put the roof on the school. There is a second new latrine being built beside the school. This project will be finished sometime late in May, at which time the students will start to have classes in the new building.

The official inauguration for the ‘Muskoka School’ Project will occur in November or December 2009 and I’ll be there in person for that grand event.
During my visits to the school site, I encountered a couple of needs that the ‘Muskoka School’ kids have. First, and most important – they need shoes! The majority don’t have any of the standard Cambodian footwear – the flip-flop. This results in the children becoming susceptible to hookworm infestation – a nasty parasite that enters through the soles of the feet, and work their way up to the intestinal tract causing severe illness. For US$300, five hundred flip flops can be purchased at a local market in Siem Reap. Secondly, many of the children don’t have the standard government blue-and-white school uniforms. They can be purchased locally for US$3-$6, depending on size.

Mark Saturday, July 11th on your calendars – that’s the day we’re having the Annual Giant Garage Sale for the ‘Muskoka School’ children. We’re asking everyone to donate good-used items for this sale, which will raise money for shoes and uniforms for the children. Please consider volunteering for the day – we’ll need lots of manpower. Call or email me with goods to donate, or to volunteer at 705-687-8538 or . Thanks Carol Fraser and Jay & Linda Harrison for volunteering!

Money raised from this sale will also go toward some bikes for some needy students. US35 will see a bicycle, complete with carrier, lamp and basket go to needy rural students who otherwise have no way to get to school. This is done through the new Bike Bank Project – Cambodia: . It is with huge delight that I report to you on the fundraising efforts of a grade eight class at Huntsville Public School. They are presently fundraising for a bicycle for needy student in Cambodia! Take on the challenge, and have your class or group consider this small fundraising endeavor that can result in a huge change in the life of a Cambodian child.

As many of you know, I am as equally compelled to help the Burmese refugee students, as I am the Khmer students. All of us at ‘Project Enlighten’ ( have dedicated ourselves to a new project: Information and Technology Computer training scholarships (CICT Program) for the Burmese refugee students that I taught this past winter at ‘The All Burma Student’s I.T. Union’ in Mae Sot on the Thai-Burma border (ABITSU – ). For US $300 you can sponsor a student in a four-month intensive computer training course which will enable a student to further their education in this field. The course is done through internationally recognized ‘’ . More information on the ‘Project Enlighten’ sponsored CICT Program can be found at . Some of the proceeds from the Giant Garage Sale will go to this cause and the cause mentioned below.

Likewise, I have personally challenged myself to provide help for the ‘Kayan Women’s Organization’, a group of young Kayan women from Shan state in Burma. As a recipient of the Muskoka YWCA’s Women of Distinction Exceptional Achievements Award, I am a strong believer of women and human rights. Women in military-controlled and heavily censored Burma know little of the outside world and suffer constant violence and suppression by the military. I spent a month teaching English to these young women. Project Enlighten funded the repair of their computers, and purchased a television for them. Two of my students have recently gone back inside Burma for a few months to teach other women in their remote state. You can read more about these young Christian women on my Project Enlighten – Burma blog site.

Please visit my new blog site announcing a very special project: ‘Embracelets For Books’. I came back with 440 beautiful hand-woven bracelets made by elementary students in Siem Reap. No two bracelets are alike! The sale of these bracelets ( $6 - $8 ) goes towards further education for the students who made them. Naret Duk, our Project Enlighten Scholarship recipient in Cambodia is founder of this marvelous project, with Dan Blix and I acting as her Canadian Project Managers. I am pleased to announce that so far $80 in bracelet sales has been raised. Read more at:

The month of May will see co-Rotarian Bill Rathbun and I busy giving presentations to Rotary Clubs throughout Muskoka. Please contact me if your group or service club would like a presentation.

On a sad note:
BOU SENG HOURT1981 - 2009

With a very heavy heart and profound sadness we at the Cambodian Landmine Museum Relief Fund announce the passing of Bou Seng Hourt.
Hourt was the wife of Aki Ra, the gentle mother of Amatak, Mine, Meta and dozens of children who called the Cambodia Landmine Museum their home.
She made all our lives richer for having known her.
We will miss her.

In tribute to Hourt, I include the last photos I took of her this winter. Hourt was a champion of women who dedicated her life to landmine removal and the young victims of these remnants of war. She spent her days beside Akira in the minefields, was mother to countless child landmine survivors and spent hours in the running of the museum and facility in Siem Reap.

Last of all, a very special thanks to Gravenhurst supporters Bill Rathbun and Dan Blix who spend hours doing their part to help the children of Cambodia and the young refugees from Burma. They kept me going this winter while I was in SE Asia.

Search for me on Facebook, and become a friend of mine. This past winter, my Burmese English Class students intoduced me to Facebook - now help me make it grow!