Our best year so far, our income has increased therefore our level of support has also increased and we have gained the support of sister organizations in CHOICE Germany and CHOICE family Singapore. Sadly the number of families squatting has also increased, with the growth in numbers from 140 families a few years ago to 190+ families now. The numbers requiring medical help is also up, and we have been successful in gaining operations for those needing them. Education for the children has been provided in the Villages with the creation of two temporary schools. We have been able to rent properties near the Village on town water, secured a 5 x 5 year lease and we have employed 3 Khmer staff. This will enable us to advance our work further by providing Safe drinking water and further Education and Vocational Training programs. This has been made possible by the introduction of Germany and Singapore. We continue to visit the Village with volunteers every Sunday and alternate between the Medical/supply trip one Sunday, and educational trips, teaching, art/craft or games the next. Thanks to all our Donors, Sponsors and Volunteers.
In March 2011, CHOICE was notified about Sokha, a 53yo lady who had fallen off the back of a truck. Having no money for an operation, she had laid paralysed and in agony for 10 weeks with a broken neck in 2 places. Her 16yo son Channy had quit school to look after his mum. CHOICE arranged and paid for her operation and later instigated Physiotherapy. During her ordeal we have supported Sokha and her family with essential items the whole time. This family of four is extremely poor, they do not own a house or have land or any such assets, and a friend allows them to live in what I could only call a “chicken shed” with a dirt floor. Sokha, much improved now, has been released from the Physiotherapy centre. We have built a concrete area for Sokha, all on the one level with a bedroom and undercover Physio training area; we have provided a wheelchair, commode, walking frame, and other essential items to help her manage. Now Sokha is stable we have arranged for an operation for her brother who has leprosy, one leg has been amputated below the knee. In the future he may have to have the other leg, plus his hands removed as well. We will continue to monitor and look after this family.
Our medical team has successfully conducted a clinic every fortnight in the Village, hundreds were treated on site, or taken to the nearby clinic. Several, who needed hospital treatment or blood tests were brought back to Phnom Penh. A 2mo baby girl had an operation to remove a life threatening abscess from her head. A 3yo boy was treated for severe burns and infections and was in hospital for several months. An 11yo girl was brought back for blood tests and found to be infested with worms, she was effectively treated. Several others were directed to local Doctors and received medicine; most of these medical costs were paid for by CHOICE. A 5 yo girl fell bottom first into a pot of boiling water, she could not use her bowels, and her burns were horrific. CHOICE gave the parents money to cover transport costs to and from Hospital. We have supplied colostomy bags for her after she had an operation to move her intestine externally. The girl has had her intestine reconnected now and no longer needs the bags; we intend to buy her a bicycle soon. We now have a 3 month baby girl with a severe cleft pallet, one hospital suggested to let her die; we went to another hospital that will help, they will operate when she gains enough strength. Her weight is gradually building up from 2lb at 2months of age to nearly 7lb now at 4 months. We have been providing this baby with formula milk powder. Early in the year we discovered an abandoned mother with 2 week old twin boys plus two older boys, she had nowhere to live and had no income. She begged us to either take her babies or else she would have to drown them. Not an option for us, we can happily report that we found a sponsor to help her family, built her a hut, and provided baby milk powder, rice, food, clothes, chickens, battery and light etc. and sent the older boys to school giving them a bike.
At the request of many of the women in the Village this year, we instigated Birth Control measures through PSI, an NGO in Cambodia who supply Cambodian women with birth control means. CHOICE brought 35 women and some of their babies and toddlers to the PSI clinic in Phnom Penh. After choosing a method to their liking CHOICE paid for the procedure, the transport and arranged a follow up check.
We have continued our Sunday supply trips this year with around 20+ trips to the Villages, clothes, footwear, food, spectacles, tarpaulins, toothpaste and brushes etc. The worst wet season on record was experienced this year, a special flood relief visit provided rations of rice, noodles, charcoal, mats, blankets and tarpaulins.
We helped 194+ families in the Villages, which equates to around 1000 people. Sadly 2 babies a young boy and a 48yo lady and an older man with TB have passed away. The death of one of these babies prompted us to provide formula powdered milk to the babies of mothers who cannot supply enough breast milk for their babies. We are currently supplying milk for eight babies. The young boy drowned in the wet season, and because of their poverty, he was cremated on the dirt road near their hut. CHOICE attended the funeral and donated $100 to the family, to allow the dignity of providing a ceremony for friends and family.
The introduction of the CHOICE Centre has allowed us to provide safe drinking water to the Villagers. As the existing toxic bore water consumed by the Villagers was slowly killing them, it has been a long term wish that we solve this problem. Now we purify the town water at the Centre and deliver the safe drinking and cooking water daily to the Villagers. We intend to expand our water deliveries to include some of the nearby schools and more villages once our service is more reliable. We will build a holding tank which can be filled overnight, as we have many outages with electricity and town water. Aside from the medical support,this has been the best single thing we have achieved for the Villages, and the most appreciated, it’s also a popular trip with our volunteers. The water was tested and is of excellent drinking quality, there will be huge medical benefits to the Villagers over time.
Schools are far away from most of the Village’s and it’s too expensive for families to pay for their children to get to and from school on a daily basis. So we decided to organize this ourselves. We found 2 qualified teachers who live in the Village, gave them a salary of $50pm, and erected a tarpaulin structure 4mx6m in one Village. In the other Village we could not find flat ground, so we arranged to set up a school in an existing house, for which we pay $10 pm. We failed in an attempt to build a more permanent structure in this village; we were made to pull it down by outside authorities. We supply all the necessary books, boards, bags etc. for both villages and began teaching over 100 children. This is fine on a temporary basis, but children cannot advance to secondary levels unless they attend a recognised school such as a government school.
With the establishment of the new centre and transportation, we now arrange for the children to attend the centre for the special Sunday event, and provide them with a healthy lunch. We purchased a flat screen TV and a DVD player to show educational DVD’s. We fitted out the centre with boards, desks and stools to seat the children. The second Sunday education/art & craft, fun day, has proved to be a great success with volunteers and very popular with the village children.
We also intend to pay for the fees, uniforms, transport and books to enable as many children as possible to enter the Government school in October, the beginning of the school year. It is intended to provide Khmer and Vocational training at the centre for those too old for the government school. We will provide breakfast prior to school and lunch as well for those doing Vocational training. Preparation for this training will start in May for about 60 children.
The CHOICE Centre:
The CHOICE Centre consists of two properties side by side, about 5 miles from the furthest Village, one property has been vacant for over ten years and needed extensive renovations. Some Trustees and Volunteers have spent many weeks getting the place ready. Seventy five truckloads of soil were brought in as the site was flood prone. A roof was added to the building we named “Russell’s Refuge” floors were raised, windows and doors added, and a new toilet block and garden shed were built. Many pavers were laid and water and electricity was installed. A large Tarpaulin over a metal frame was erected next to the new kitchen for a meals area. Another building we named “Georgia’s” house was completed and is used as a classroom. The main building had to be rewired and some flooring was replaced, we call this building “Singapore House.” The whole complex has been painted inside and out and ready for the initial intake of children. A purification plant was installed to provide safe drinking water for the Villages as well as at the centre. Having a lot of ground we intend to develop a vegetable garden and encourage the children to get involved by growing their own plants.
To be able to bring the children to and from their Village huts for schooling, we have purchased 3 motorbikes and two trailers, one motorbike being for emergency. Trailers are a normal means of transport in Cambodia, we can transport approximately 80 children at a time using two trailers. To deliver the safe drinking water we purchased a small truck, this easily carries 1 ton of water plus several volunteers to assist. We also use the truck for daily transport of volunteers and regulars between Phnom Penh and the centre, some 30k’s each way. Hopefully we will be able to purchase a minibus later this year.