Wednesday, October 21, 2009

'A Mine Free World' Provides Aid to Ketsana-Flooded Villages in Cambodia

$400 Food Aid Distributed to Flooded Village Homes in Roluos and Beng Donpa

Typhoon Ketsana, which affected 17 provinces in Cambodia, has left 36 people dead and an estimated US41 million dollars in damages. The National Committee for Disaster Management (NCDM) in Cambodia reports that these figures will rise. This US$41 million dollars only represents the damage to rice fields, homes and domestic animals. There are an estimated 1,000 schools damaged or destroyed. Roads to the ‘Muskoka School’ in rural Siem Reap district remained impassable for 2 weeks - some places flooded a meter or more. Damage to these roads are still under repair.

27,933 hectares of rice were damaged and hundreds of homes were destroyed with tens of thousands of families displaced - countless homes and villages still remain flooded presenting a serious threat of water-borne disease from the remaining stagnant water. 60,000 children in Cambodia die each year - many from waterborne diseases.

Yesterday, one of the children that I had visited in flooded Roluos village just this past weekend had died.

I arrived in Siem Reap on Tuesday, November 13th, and 2 days later, we made our first visit to flooded, impoverished homes in Roluos village in Bakong district. We went with a group of 11 people from the US - members of the Cambodian-American Community of Oregon (CACO). This group was led by friend, and Project Enlighten co-team member Chanly Bob. Chanly and his group had funded numerous bicycles for villages, orphanges, etc. They brought along some of these bicycles to Roluos to donate to the flooded families there. Our ‘A Mine Free World Foundation’ in Canada had raised $400 towards food for flooded families. So, in a wonderful, collaborative effort by both organizations - we heaped bicycles with food and presented them to these families.

A big thank you to CACO for donating 10 bikes to our very own Bike Bank Project ( ) .

Over the weekend, we went out to Beng Donpa village, Slorkram Commune in Siem Reap district. This village consists of 5,735 people representing 1,180 families. Roads there were still flooded, as were many homes. “A Mine Free World Foundation’ gave out food to over 100 of the poorest and most affected by flooding.

All this could not have been done without the help of ‘Project Enlighten’ university scholarship recipient Khemra Horm and her family. Khemra and her family had gone out and purchased all the food, divided it up into grocery-bag portions facilitating distribution. Khemra had pre-assessed and interviewed the most needy families. All families were given rice, tinned fish, soya sauce (staple for making soups) and packaged instant noodles. A portion of the money was also used to buy used clothing for some of the poorest.

Many thanks for the support of those who supplied the funds for this relief. A special thanks to the women from Daphne’s Drop-in at the Women’s Resource Center in Bracebridge, Ontario, Canada, who raised $150 for these direct relief efforts.

There are many more in these, and similar villages, who still need your help coping with the aftermath of Typhoon Ketsana. Details are in the blog entry below on how you can support these direct relief efforts through ‘A Mine Free World Foundation’, a registered non-profit organization in Canada - for details see: .

Let me take a moment and tell you about two families in particular in Beng Donpa village. Our distribution efforts throughout this village were authorized by village leader Meak Chan Monyrom, who accompanied us as we trekked on foot from home to home via flooded village roads.

One family - the large Joeun family - lives in a small, flooded hut pieced together by bamboo and tarp fragments. The family, and their home are pictured at the right. As you can see, the father is a landmine victim. The family survives by selling recyclable garbage that they collect. They had barely any belongings in their small, flooded home. None of the children go to school. They don’t have the small ‘fee’ it costs to enroll, nor do they have the money for the required school uniform, pencils, notebooks, etc. Whatever money they scrape together goes for food to feed the family.

At the center of the Joeun family photo, you will see little 11-year-old Sampeos (in the red shirt). She has not started school yet. “A Mine Free World Foundation’ is dedicated to providing assistance to landmine victims and their families. To get little Sampeos started in school for the year would only cost US$30 - $10 for 2 school uniforms, $5 for teacher ‘fee’ and $15 for a school bag and school supplies. Sampeos has already been designated to receive a bicycle through the Bike Bank Project. She just needs a sponsor to get her started in school. Please consider supporting her education.The two charming Joeun identical twins are too young to start school this year, but will be able to next year.

‘A Mine Free World Foundation’ has a special program called ‘Vanna’s Fund’, which provides financial assistance towards the education expenses for landmine victims and their families. It is named after Vanna, who lost her leg to a landmine at the age of eight. Maria van Santen, author and founder of ‘A Mine Free World Foundation’, was touched by Vanna;s story and wrote the children’s book ‘Vanna’s Dance’. Vanna is now 17 and resides here in Siem Reap, Cambodia where she is enrolled in grade 11. Her education and living expenses are supported through ‘Vanna’s Fund’. Vanna will now also be helping other young landmine victims who are supported through ‘Vanna’s Fund’.

Cambodia is a mine-infested country plagued by an estimated 5 million landmines. The Cambodian Mine/UXO Victim Information System (CMVIS) reports 199 deaths from landmines for the period of January to September 2009. Most victims are farmers working the fields or children playing in the fields. Many more are maimed by these explosive remnants of war.

The second family depicted in this blog entry is that of 9-yr-old Peon and his grandmother. Peon lives in a small, flooded bamboo hut. Peon has just started grade one. When I met this bright, friendly boy, I was immediately concerned with what were large, swollen glands or ducts under his eyes. There was also an infected discharge coming out of the corners of his eyes. Through translation, I found out that Peon was born with this large swelling under the eyes and that he also had been taken to the Angkor Children’s Hospital where he had received free treatment. The hospital here has referred him for free specialized treatment in Phnom Penh, but Peon’s family lacks the money for transportation to Phnom Penh and the possible need for accompanying family accommodation as well. This is so, so often the case in Cambodia. There are excellent hospitals providing free expert treatment for children in Siem Reap and Phnom Penh, but most often the case rural families lack the money for transportation to the hospital. So, often children suffer with debilitating conditions, or worse yet, die from lack of medical attention.

Volunteer work in Cambodia is often an emotional struggle of mixed feelings. There are many rewarding instances where a smile can be brought to a child’s face with the smallest gesture of kindness, hope or offer of help. But, there are also the times where you are unable to help, and walking away is a difficult thing.

On the horizon, there are yet many more rewarding moments to come here in Cambodia! There are many more Bicycles to be given out to needy students - thanks in big part to the generosity of fellow-Rotarians from the Orillia Rotary Club in Ontario, Canada, who recently donated $2,000 to ‘A Mine Free World Foundation’ for the Bike Bank Project in Cambodia - that will mean 40 bikes for needy kids in the districts of Siem Reap and Kep, Cambodia. More exciting news soon regarding the Bike Bank Project, the Bakong Technical School Project, the ‘Embracelets’ Project, and a visit by 20 district 7070 Rotarians from Canada!