Sunday, January 3, 2010

‘A Mine Free World Foundation’ and Rotary Support Rural Women’s Literacy

It’s been a busy week here at ‘Cambodia World Family - Krong Kep (CWF-Kep) ‘Grace Landing’ School.

This was the week that we held a 4-morning ‘Bracelet & Pen String Weaving Course’ at the school. 12 women, who partake in CWF-Kep literacy classes were chosen for this craft course.

Thanks goes to the Rotary Club of Bracebridge-Muskoka Lakes for providing the initial skeins of string for this project. Pauline Johns from Australia donated all the pens! At the end of the course, each woman received a US$5 private donation for her efforts.

This new project, run under ‘A Mine Free World Foundation’ in collaboration with CWF-Kep will help support further literacy education for many rural women here in Kep Province. The pens and bracelets will be sold at locations throughout Ontario, Canada and in Australia. The money raised will be donated back to CWF-Kep school and its wonderful outreach literacy courses.

These 12 women are being taught how to read and write in Khmer - some math too!

It was such a delight to befriend these 12 women, who could not speak English, but we had many laughs trying to communicate! They did pick up a few words in English from me.

The string-weaving of bracelets and pens is no easy craft to master, but after the first morning, they could all design a beautiful bracelet. I gave them some string to take home that first day, and the next morning each woman came back to class with various creative bracelets.

Even the small schoolchildren were running around us while we wove, picking up bits of string from the ground, and then they started making bracelets too - it’s really an infectious and fun craft - but more than that, it can now help support literacy here in Cambodia.

These 12 women are from Koh Soam, Audong and Phnom Lieve villages - areas where lots of the Rotary bicycle recipients are from. They range from ages 18-42. Project participant, Ung Sophea will act as the coordinator for the women and will make sure to keep them all in supply. She will also report to school Director, Mr. Om Chamnap on project progress.

What many don’t realize, is that up until 1998 the Khmer Rouge had a strong hold in this province of Kep. Formal education was not allowed, and the Khmer Rouge would frequently barge into schools and disband classes. As a result, there is a high rate of illiteracy throughout this province, and very few organizations operating in the area to provide this most basic of education - how to read and write in their own language!

CWF-Kep teaches Khmer literacy classes in 6 villages. They all are 6km or more away from the school, and are monitored weekly by CWF-Kep teachers. There are 20 or more in each class, and they are held daily. Each class lasts one or two hours, depending on location. All ages attend!

These classes are presently being funded by ‘Pro Literacy Worldwide’, and the workbooks are provided free by the government of Cambodia. Three levels of workbooks must be completed before literacy is attained. Once people become literate in Khmer, then there are opportunities for them to learn English, sewing or even basic computer skills provided free by CWF-Kep. But, all these programs are presently in need of support. See for further details on their projects here.

Thanks to Om Chamnap and teacher Tep Chien for taking me out to 2 of these rural classes - at Ampeang and at Chamcarbei villages - pictured on right. The second village had a class primarily made up of young people. Chamnap explained to me that many of these students work on the fishing boats all day, come to this Khmer literacy class for 2 hours, and then go back out on the boats all night!

The next day, we headed out to a third rural village class - but we never made it there. I was on a moto with teacher Chien, and teacher Sokhom was on a second moto behind us. Sokhom was hit head-on by an oncoming moto in the wrong lane. Sokhom suffered some minor injuries, but I gave him some money and sent him off to the local clinic for x-rays to be sure. He’s recovering nicely, but still sore. His helmut was destroyed - it saved him for sure! The bike needed the whole from wheel replaced.
So, there’s the news from another week here in Kep Cambodia.

Thanks to Dr. Pat Blachford and Bill Rathbun and family for supporting 11 more bicycles which will be added onto the final Rotary distribution of 55 more bikes scheduled for this month - 66 more bikes still to give out!

A big thanks to volunteer friend, Pauline Johns, who will be coming back from Australia to help me and Mr. Un Vanthon in Phnom Penh with this final distribution.

More bikes are still needed. A donation to ‘A Mine Free World Foundation’ of $50 can provide this rural means of transportation to a child here in Cambodia immediately, and can also be added on to this next distribution. Your donation can be sent to: A Mine Free World Foundation, 906 Fung Place, Kitchener, ON, N2A 4M3.
Many thanks to Linda Harrison and Dan Blix of Muskoka, Ontario, who are keeping the 'Embracelets' project going back home while I'm over here.

Many Thanks to the following Ontario locations that sell the bracelets and pens which help support women’s literacy here in Cambodia:

Ditchburn House, Gravenhurst (seasonally)

YWCA International Boutique, St. Clair Sve, E.,Toronto

I’ll also have them available for sale at future presentations again. Please email me at: if your business is interested in selling these bracelets and pens in support of women’s literacy here in Cambodia.