Saturday, October 17, 2009

Rotary Sweat Equity - Next Stop Cambodia

Rotary Sweat Equity -

Next Stop Cambodia


Cambodia is one of the poorest countries in the world and the second poorest in S.E. Asia(after Burma).

Over the past 35 years, it has been through the extended Vietnam War followed by a civil war and a horrific genocide led by Pol Pot - more than 2 million out of 12 million people were killed making it on a per capita basis one of the worst genocides in history. The war left behind many scars – a decimated infrastructure and a countryside populated by landmines, which continue to affect the civilian population. It is estimated one out of 276 people have been affected by landmines.

Cambodia is an agricultural based economy and schools are badly needed – 80% live in the countryside and many people are without clean water, electricity and poor health care(AIDS is the highest in S.E. Asia). While poor, the Khmer are very industrious and hard working.

On November 12th, 20 Rotary volunteers and friends from 8 clubs will be going to Cambodia to start building this vocational school (along with local Khmer people). We will be constructing the main meeting and dining area along with a bicycle repair shop. This latter is a small micro enterprise.

We will also be working in an orphanage, a rural school, helping with an outreach portion of the Landmine Museum and helping with the Cow Bank Program (which provides a cow to local poor farmers).

The project, the Bakong Vocational School is located about 30 minutes from Siem Reap. The school is the brainchild of a killing fields refugee, Ronnie Yimsut. Ronnie was plucked from a refugee camp by Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes. Ronnie is now a landscape architect living in Milwaukee. He has donated family land and much of his own money to the school. Ronnie, in spite of his experiences, is an incredibly positive person. He in turn has joined forces with Project Enlighten, a US based charitable organization doing work in Cambodia.

The purpose of the partnership with Project Enlighten is to provide Cambodians with skill sets to work in the newly created eco-tourism industry which is growing in the Siem Reap area. Project Enlighten has a number of Rotarians on their advisory board including Lisa McCoy from the Gravenhurst Rotary Club, Bill Morse from Oregon and Kilong Ung also from Oregon. He is also a Killing Fields survivor. His story was featured in the June Rotarian.

There will be daily blogs posted once we arrive to keep all our friends, families and Rotary Clubs up to date with photo’s and interesting stories and experiences. Register as a follower and be notified each time a blog entry is made. Your comments about the postings are also appreciated by the team members to show your support for the efforts being made. Thank you for your interest.

Posted by: Jim Stewart