Saturday, June 6, 2009

‘Muskoka School’ in Cambodia Completed!

Over two years of fundraising, donations and volunteering has resulted in the completion of the ‘Muskoka School’ Project in Cambodia, a six-room government elementary school for 500 children in the impoverished village of Ta Trav in Siem Reap district.

Big-hearted Muskoka citizens, Rotary Clubs, area businesses and churches rallied to the cause of these children - half a world away – and raised over US$20,000 toward this school building project! Now, this school will proudly bear the name of Muskoka and its generosity for generations to come.

In the mid-seventies, Cambodia lost a third of its population in a mass genocide led by Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge. During those years, up to 2,500,000 innocent, precious lives came to unimaginable brutal ends, leaving Cambodia with a young and struggling population.

Not only do these people struggle with poverty, disease and lack of clean water - they suffer these devastating obstacles amidst the over 5,000,000 landmines that still plague the Cambodian countryside.

Recovery for the people of Cambodia is slowly progressing, thanks to organizations such as The Trailblazer Foundation and the Ontario-founded Cambodia Landmine Museum Relief Fund (CLMMRF) . The ‘Muskoka School’ is a Community Outreach project of the CLMMRF in collaboration with the Trailblazer Foundation; who managed the project on the ground in Cambodia. This project not only benefits the 500 children who will utilize it, but it also gave some much-needed employment to men and women in this rural area.

As a Rotarian, I am proud of the support that area clubs gave to this project. I am also overwhelmed and humbled by the many ways that Muskokans from all walks of life gave to this project. Some volunteered their time and donated items to our ‘Giant Garage Sales’. Others attended the fundraising evenings generously sponsored by the Boston Pizza Restaurants in Gravenhurst and Bracebridge, and at ‘Upstairs at Regatta’ at Muskoka Wharf. Many people gave in so many ways.

A special thanks to MPP Norm Miller for his support of this project.

Very sincere thanks to the staff and editors of Muskoka Today, Muskoka Magazine, What’s Up Muskoka, Gravenhurst Banner and Bracebridge Examiner.

There was a Muskoka Team behind this project – none of it could have been done without them - so be sure to give each one of them a big pat on the back. Dan Blix, area graphic designer, has been behind this project since Day One, and has put hours of time into it. Likewise, Bill Rathbun, fellow Rotarian – countless hours. Jay and Linda Harrison put their hearts, souls and muscles into this project, and saw the birth of this school for themselves when they came to Cambodia this winter for their 3-week ‘sweat equity’ trip. Rotarians Jim Goodwin and Pat Bongers also worked for the cause. Scott Aitchison and Tim Cantelon of Huntsville also made their way over to Cambodia to visit the Muskoka School children, and generously supported this project.

So, so many people to thank. They are all mentioned in previous posts on this blog. Be sure to read about all those who have contributed.

A special thanks of support to ‘Project Enlighten’ – . Each winter, all of our organizations head over to Cambodia, self-funded, and get involved with scholarship programs, school-building projects, cow and bike bank projects and numerous other projects to benefit the children and people of Cambodia, Burma and Laos.

This November members of the Rotary Club of Toronto (and I) will be heading over to Cambodia to fund and build the initial buildings of a wonderful vocational college project in another poor area of Siem Reap District – The Bakong Technical College . I’m hoping to get some area Rotary members to join along on this trip. More news on how you can support this project soon. Information on making Canadian tax-deductible donations to this project can be obtained by emailing me at

Many children in Cambodia will now have a chance at their Future Dreams Made Real through the opportunity of education at the Muskoka School.

The official Inauguration Ceremony for the school will be held late this fall. I’ll be there to represent the kindness of those in Muskoka who gave in so many ways for these children.

In the meantime; please read on and see how you can further help these 500 children. They need flip-flops and school uniforms. Please donate your items to our Giant Garage Sale on July 11 in Gravenhurst, across from Bethune House. Call us now to have your items picked up – Jay Harrison 705-687-7679 or Lisa McCoy 705-687-7679.

Many Thanks Muskoka!