Friday, January 28, 2011

Two Days in Koas Krala Villages – Visiting Landmine Survivors and Volunteering for The Cambodian Red Cross

I’ve been two days on the back of a moto (small-engine motorcycle) traveling the bumpy, dust-red backroads of Koas Krala district, Battambang Province, Cambodia. My friend Sopheany from the Cambodian Red Cross has been taking me around to visit all the landmine-affected families that received business and vocational support from the Rotary Club of Etobicoke and the Canadian Landmine Foundation.

Sopheany Chhoeun is 27 years-old and the dedicated District Administrator for the Cambodian Red Cross. Her English skills are being put to the test as we travel together. She is doing very well with simple translating and in the past two days we have visited 16 of the 31 homes that were provided these businesses through A Mine Free World Foundation.

Rien Youm - His Barber Shop & Customer
Funded by the Rotary Club of Etobicoke
Sopheany from the Cambodian Red Cross
Studies Landmine Survivor's Files



It is a long moto drive to Koas Krala - over one hour- and many of the landmine-affected families live strewn throughout several villages. So, it pretty well means all day on the back of a moto. Of the 12 businesses we saw on Wednesday, 10 were doing very good!

Most of them were chicken-rearing businesses. In November each recipient received chickens and chicken baskets and capital to buy more chickens and build a chicken coop on their property. Well – after 2 months results are astonishing and the chicken numbers have multiplied rapidly! One man has 46 chickens now, many chicks and ducks also! Another man has 14 chickens, many chicks and a PIG!
Son Sang-Chicken Rearing Business & Chicken House
Funded by the Canadian Landmine Foundation

Vun Therm-Chickens and Chicken House
Funded by the Canadian Landmine Foundation


One amputee who got a chicken business used his extra capital to buy 8 ducks and he has 68 duck eggs being incubated and 7 chickens now and is in the process repairing his chicken house. Another Chicken business recipient also has duck eggs about to hatch. Seems all our chicken businesses have a duck sideline!!!! Another chicken business that we visited has over 30 chickens now.
Khom Kam-8 Ducks, 7 Chickens, 68 Duck eggs to hatch, Repairs to Chicken House
Funded by the Canadian Landmine Foundation
Two of the chicken recipients are elderly men, one lost a leg to a landmine - the other has a fractured hip and internal injuries due to a landmine. These 2 old men have actually bonded with their chickens. They actually love them. I hope they both realize they will have to sell them eventually...actually, they have been...but I never realized that many of the recipients treat their chickens with such warmth, care and love. Also was wonderful to see all the grown chickens nesting in their cardboard boxes or whatever is on hand to make a makeshift nesting box with.
Comfy inside the new Chicken House
You can provide a village level chicken-rearing business to a landmine-affected family with a US$125 donation to A Mine Free World Foundation. Each donor is provided with a photo and information of their sponsored family. See our ‘To Donate’ page- tab at the top of this page.

A Mine Free World Foundation provides numerous village-level businesses to landmine survivors:

The one barber business we visited needs a new clipper - I will have to get him one, his business will pick up again then. The other barber recipient had a customer in the chair when I arrived. He cuts people's hair in his wheelchair. His business is doing well.

One small shop business recipient has changed his business to an EEL Farming business - they are building a small, square cement swimming pool!!!! That is great! This is also a very lucrative village level business.

That said, Sopheany and I discovered that we both like to eat eel, so we decided to have lunch in a very nice restaurant in Koas Krala...we ate fried eel, and 2 plates of chicken and vegetables, plus Coca Cola and the tab was only $3.50!!!!!!

We had a lot of fun - Sida (Red Cross volunteer) came along also. We find one big problem with many of the poorest landmine victims. Many landmine survivors don’t own the land or hut they live in. Their homes are falling apart with huge holes in the grass walls and roofs. I would love to be able to fix up their homes, but if you make them too nice, the owners may take their house and land back – big problem. One solution is to fix up their home with perhaps a few pieces of metal sheeting and patch up the grass walls – just enough to keep the family dry.

Help Repair the Heang Family Roof!

Heang Saret's TV/Radio Repair Shop
Funded by Etobicoke Rotary Club

One wonderful family – a landmine survivor who runs a TV and radio repair business is a hard worker and good father with a loving wife and five children. Big holes in their roof...his shop get wets when it rains ...all over the electronics, which they have to cover quickly with tarps....the one small room where they all live in gets wet, but he does not own the land or the hut. He had customers at his shop and his business is doing great. Perhaps some metal sheeting for his roof will keep his family and business dry. If you would like to donate to this specific need, please contact me at:

....Oh Yes! - These were all surprise business inspections. The recipients had no idea thatwe were coming. They were all (except for an absent carpenter recipient) happy to see us again and proudly showed off their businesses.

One of our landmine victims has died since his family was given a small shop business. The old widow now runs the small food shop business and is very proud of it. This business has also given her otherwise lonely life some socializing when people come to buy small goods from her.
Hor Veourn's Widow- Proud of her new Village shop
Funded by the Canadian Landmine Foundation

Anyway, from what I have seen these past couple of days, the chicken rearing businesses are a huge success - these are huge chickens - no disease problems either. People with these businesses, sell the chickens and ducks from their homes to nearby villagers to bring in money as needed. Many of the chicken recipients still seek out extra outside employment as it pops up. They also eat the chickens themselves too. But, I was really amazed at how fast they grow and have chicks of their own.

A Mine Free World Foundation donor, Morn Mon, has supplied 2 more chicken businesses for 2 more on our list of identified 51 Koas Krala landmine families - Plet Hing and Khoun Kam. They will get their chickens on Feb 6 at the Rotary Wheels for Learning bicycle distribution. We’ll be giving out 70 bicycles to needy area children who lack this vital transportation.

Yesterday, it was back to Koas Krala for more 'business inspections':

Cambodia is so interesting when you allow the Khmer people to take you places, and you have no idea where you are being taken to:

Today, I arrived in Koas Krala, caked in red dirt from being on the moto for over an hour (normal - from the roads, especially now in the dry season) Sopheany drives me to the Koas Krala District Governor's office, because she thought it would be "nice for me to meet him" , even though he does not understand English...anyway, it turned out to be a pleasant meeting with the Governor, who even offered me a room with bath at the office to stay in if ever I should need one. (maybe he saw how dirty I was :-)

After that, again - having no idea where I was being taken, Sopheany drives me for another 45 minutes on bumpy roads to a poor, poor village, where a whole bunch of food has just arrived - I ended up volunteering all morning giving out food for the Red Cross (I guess the Cambodian Red Cross has been helping out Rotary so much, so it's time for me to help them out a little :-) was truly a fantastic experience....the food program they have directly gets the food to the very poor!!!....a donor can provide a box of food staples for a family for $12/month. Contact me if you would like to support this food program for the many landmine-affected families in Koas Krala.

Cambodian Red Cross prepares food for distribution

They also provide enough seeds for garden for a family for $25!!!! I told Sopheany that I would try to find her more funding for this and the food program...she says she has so many more poor that she just does not have funding for. One of our landmine victims who got chickens also got seeds for his whole garden that he had just tilled by hand. He was so, so proud to show me his fantastic chickens...his new coop and his garden ready to be seeded.

After that, we visited 4 more landmine survivors who received businesses, lunch and then THREE of us (Red Cross volunteer Mr. Loeung drove)went on the moto,( because roads were so bad and Sopheany was too scared to drive), to her parent's place, where we spent the rest of the afternoon eating pineapples from her father's garden and then back to Battambang - filthy as usual, bones hurting from the moto, but with three lovely pineapples and and feeling wonderful of the many cherished village visits here so far.

To view more photos from the past two village days CLICK HERE


District 7010 Governor Dawn Straka said...

Lisa, I congratulate you and those that work with you. You are certainly "Bridging Continents" in a very practical and caring manner. All the very best, be safe. YIRS, DG Dawn (Straka)

Neal said...

Hi Lisa

Thanks for the great updates on your work. So great. So impressive and so needed. I enjoy reading all of them and just think you are great. A great Rotarian. I look so forward to enjoying a few cold pops with you again there in Cambodia. Great to see your blog. Thanks for sending them. Keep going and best of luck always. Bob Qua (