Friday, November 27, 2009

The Pure Water Program

The second presenter was Mieko Morgan, wife of Jon Morgan. Mieko is Siem Reap Water Quality Manager for Health, Pure Water and Literacy Programs and described the process for bringing clean water to villages and homes. A process developed in Calgary, Canada is being used but is built in Cambodia. It involve a form 30” square and 36” high as concrete is readily available. Into this concrete form is a layer of gravel and a layer of sand and has a copper pipe at the bottom, curving up and then protruding to the outside of the fram as a spout.

Water is added to the top and is allowed to settle through the sand and gravel layers. This creates a bio layer on top from the impurities filtered out of the water. Adding water (1 liter/day minimum) keeps the biolayer rejuvenated.

To obtain a filter for a village, a group of 30 families must get together and request it, agreeing to use and maintain it. A contract is made with the villagers which includes that if they do not use or maintain it, it will be removed. Depepending on the usage, cleaning is required about once a month. If the water is very dirty, it is best to let it sit before it is added to the filter and prevent overloading the biolayer. To get more information on this system, visit
By Lee Sneddon

The Lake Clinic - Cambodia

Jon Morgan as the director of the Lake Clinic, Cambodia spoke at a breakfast meeting on the project. Currently they have one boat doing mobile doctor services to floating villages in the south east area of the lake. These villages are extremely poor. They are fishermen who sell their catch to the wholesalers for the market. There are 7 villages in all. The medical boat goes out for 4 days at a time with a staff of 5. As the boat is small, there is no privacy at all and the volunteer doctors are working with Khamer only speaking help making it a very isolated feeling together with the privacy issues. As such, Jon assures volunteers are well aware of the situation and must come from the Angkor Childrens Hospital where he was chief administrator previously.

The boat goes to a common warf where the patients come to them and wait their turn for treatment. As the people are treated, everyone else gathers around to watch – quite a challenge but very necessary to bring healthcare to these people.

The Lake Clinic Cambodia is a non government organization which relies on donations. For more detail and information visit their web site Money for their first boat came from donations in Noreay who are now developing a second boat which is much larger and will have separate rooms for operations, dental, examinations plus have small private rooms for staff. With the facilities on board the boat, patients can be separated easily for examinations and medical procedures in private.

Operating costs for this boat mobile clinic runs about $13,000. per month in total. Cost for the larger boat are estimated to be $12,000. per month do to built in efficiencies.
By Lee Sneddon

Transpotation in Cambodia

As you travel the dusty roads of Cambodia, you are witness to the many modes of transportation used by the Khmer people. The cow pulled carts, a constant flow of bicycles, multitudes of motorcycles, top of the line Lexus SUV's, local buses, luxury coaches and the ever popular Tuk Tuk. All of these compete for a piece of the road.
On an early morning ride, you will witness the scarf covered women and uniformed school children peddling in perfect cadence.One can only look in awe at the many uses of the motorcyle. It is not uncommon to see up to three live pigs strapped behind the driver! The number of people they are able to fit onto a motorcycle is beyond belief. Often a family of four will share one bike with the toddler held right at the front. The record number of people seen on one bike was seven! Six smiling children wearing school uniforms waved at us as an adult drove them to school.
By far, the most popular mode of travel for tourists is the Tuk Tuk. A Tuk Tuk is like a little stage coach pulled by a Honda 125. The ever friendly drivers will weave you through the pot holed streets of Seim Reap for the negotiated price of one or two American dollars. A ride in a Tuk Tuk attacks all of your senses as you navigate through the town or along a country road. A Tuk Tuk ride is a must for a true Cambodian experience!
Travelling the roads of Cambodia is a thrilling life experience. One can only conclude that the most dangerous job in Cambodia is to be a Driving Instructor!!!
By Lynn Ross

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Working in a Different Culture

It has been an interesting experience . Many of us have been on SE teams before in various countries Each has proven to have its own rewards and its own challenges . Each of us brings some skill sets and some job related skills and we think we know what we are doing. In our own setting and environment we probably do. But when you move to another culture things change. . WE are working on projects that we did not define and which we will probably not finish. It will be our host community that not only defines the project and will use the facility but will probably have to finish the work that we start doing. Thus we work with them - beside them and must rely on them for their advice and guidance.
IN addition of course we must work with their materials and their tools. The later are often not what we would have to use at home and - perhaps we are spoiled - expect to have available for use here. This includes not only tools but materials as well.
Today we started the day with a great presentation by Dr Paul Morgan and his wife about providing health care and water sanitation to the floating villages around Lake Tonlap. Earlier in our visit we had seen one of these floating villages but apparently it was “middle class” by comparison
Then a group of us went to a school to work on various improvements to the facilities. Frank installed a new sink and tap. Jim & Brian worked with some locals from BTC to prepare the site for a floor pad for a new classroom and Al and Tom worked on constructing and installing some new bookshelves in the library. I was not expecting to see a power saw , planer and drill there but was eternally glad that it was there. It allowed us to complete the job – well almost – today. The wood was soooo wet that it oozed water with every nail. It was so hard that it split easily and was very difficult to cut by hand. We did get the shelves assembled and installed but there will have to be some doors installed when the wood dries out. On Tuesday we were asked to make a new table for the art room. The natural choice for us Canadians would be plywood – BUT – plywood is not a normal material used here. We had to search for it. We were told that it was very expensive. Well we located some ¾ in plywood good 2 sides for 18.50 per sheet – a small fraction of its cost in Canada Materials and hot weather are 2 of the challenges . Another challenge is language and communication. Fortunately a few of our working companions have a few words of English and we make out very well with sign language and smiles and laughter . It is a joy to work with them . And do they ever know how to work – oh to be 20 years younger!.
By; Tom Sears

Wednesday, November 25, 2009


Thirty five rural school children received new and nearly new bikes thanks to the Rotary Clubs of Bracebridge Muskoka Lakes and Orillia. The bikes were presented to the kids at the ground breaking event for the Bakong Technical School (a Rotary District 7070 supported project).

Lisa McCoy of Gravenhurst Rotary, a retired library worker, who volunteers in Cambodia for 5+ months a year, is the driver of the Bike Project. The bikes, with chain guards, fenders, front baskets, rear carriers, bell, tire generator light, and cable lock cost from $30 to $40 locally sourced and delivered to the rural community. One size fits all!

Local school administrators gave Lisa and her helpers, mature scholarship students from Project Enlighten, a list of needy students who are vetted by a written application followed by an interview and home visit to verify needs and circumstances. The proud new bike owners are in public schools in the Siem Reap and Bakong districts of central Cambodia. The donors will all receive a picture of the new bike and its new owner from Lisa’s team.

The bike becomes the primary means of family transportation. The new bikes take little sisters and brothers, moms and dads to school and market. The bikes are crossovers (or girls bikes in old terminology) so even if you are barely higher than the handle bars of a 30 inch wheel bike you can stand to ride until you grow into the bike.

The roads, lanes and pathways are full of bikes at dawn, midday and again at 5 pm. No car rides to school here! School is 6 days a week and many schools have two shifts.

There are lots more deserving kids who would like bikes. By the end of January, Lisa will have distributed over 140 bikes in many communities through Cambodia. If you or friends or clubs want help donate one or more bikes check out Lisa’s Blog

Anne and Bob Fisher

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Volunteering at the Library

After spending two afternoons volunteering in the library under the able guidance of Lisa and the Chief Librarian, Vuthy, we soon learned how to make ourselves useful (I think!)
Here are a few of my reflections!
- Small cozy room where students love to come and go
- Special new table and benches arriving much to everyone’s delight
- New shelving units built on the spot and set up for immediate use
- Lots and lots of books of all sizes , for all ages, in all categories
- Happy chief librarian, Vuthy, who enjoys his many volunteers, both students and outside helpers
Musical instruments and singing in the corners described to us as a “long poem”
- Adhesive tape that was impossible to use
- Sitting on the floor, organizing lower shelves
- Sheer delight at opening boxes of donated books
- Chatting with student volunteers about “What is your name? Where are you from? How old are you? (Nothing is sacred!)
- Happy, beautiful faces all eager to learn

Joyce Westlake

Monday, November 23, 2009

A Visit to the Silk Farm

We visited the Silk Worm Farm today and found the entire production of Silk to be very interesting. The worms are fed a diet of Mulberry leaves from trees that are grown on the property. The worms eat until they are large and then they stop eating and they turn from a white colour to a pale yellow. At this point they are put on twig branches where they will begin to create a cocoon. The entire process takes 47 days. The cocoons are then boiled in water which allows the silk strands to be retrieved and wound around the spools. The outer layer of the cocoon is where the raw silk comes from and the inner layers are the fine silk and most desired silk. The dying process is very interesting as they use herbs and plants to get their colours from.

The weaving of the silk is very labour intensive. This is a skill that requires many months of training and the accuracy level needs to be 100%. The weavers are paid by piecework and the average wage is about $90.00 per month. This is considered to be a well paid profession. The products that are produced are absolutely beautiful.

When shopping in the markets you must be very careful when purchasing items that you think are made of silk, often they are not pure silk but a blend. Pure silk is quite expensive and for good reason.

This tour was informative and gave me a much better appreciation of the value of silk garments.

SUBMITTED BY Joanne Stewart

Sunday, November 22, 2009

The Smile Orphanage

Very close to our work place there is an orphanage with approximately 16 children ranging in age 5 – 19 years of age. These children are very small in appearance and quite immature by western standards.

The NGO running this orphanage is Japanese and most of the funding comes from Japan. Although there is funding in place the operation is still quite basic and there are many areas that require improvement.

We arrived in our Tuk Tuk early in the morning. Our Tuk Tuk was filled with shoes, hair ribbons, toys, soccer ball and beautiful dressed dolls. A friend of Jim and Joanne Stewart (Anne Sargent) made 11 beautiful dolls which we distributed here at this orphanage.

The focus of our visit was to assess the needs of this orphanage however we found the children to be delightful and receptive to our teaching efforts. They were very interested in speaking English with us. We taught them English words. We used many methods such as board work, verbal demonstrations, songs and games.

The time went quickly but before we left we took the eldest boy with us to the local market and with his assistance we purchased a large amount of fruit for a very little amount of money. This was something that pleased the children especially having some apples. We were able to supply them with pineapple, bananas, watermelon, lichee fruit and of course the apples. It seems that apples are a specialty here.

Over the next two weeks that we are here, a number of our group will visit this orphanage to assist the children with their English lessons. Our greatest assets to these children is our ability to help them with their pronunciation.

This was a very special day for us.

SUBMITTED BY; Diane Allen, Joyce Westlake, Joanne Stewart

Friday, November 20, 2009

Visit to Handicap International

November 20 2009
This morning 5 of us went to visit Handicap International, an organization which helps people with disabilities regain their independence, dignity and legal rights. It started in Cambodia in 1982 in the Refugee Camp and now there are projects in over 60 countries with 11 branches here in Cambodia. People with both acquired and genetic disabilities are treated all free of charge. Prosthetic limbs are made on site and patients [with parents if necessary] stay in the in house hospital with meals, free room and clothing for up to 3 weeks. We had a comprehensive tour that include the processes for making the individual prostheses, the dorms, kitchen, social work office and most impressively the physiotherapy practice area where new mobility/stability skills are honed. For obvious reasons the only photos allowed were of the types of home-made prostheses they arrive with and the units finished products. We were all asked to purchase and wear masks for the tour as an H1N1 precaution. No one is turned away, all services and mobility aides are free and the unit provides out-reach services at home. All very impressive!
Pat B and Widit
FYI: web site…………………

Thursday, November 19, 2009

A Morning with Poly

We were asked one morning, to look into the possibility to help a land mine amputee. His home had been damaged by heavy wind and could we help. Chris & I said we would look into it and we were introduced to Poly. It was necessary to hire a Tuk Tuk to take the three of us to Poly’s home that was “not too far” away. After an hour we asked how much further and were told not far. It took just under two hours to get there but that is not the story. During our trip Poly vary openly explained his accident. He was 8 years old and was walking through a heavily wooded area with a friend when he stepped on a landmine. He explained that as soon as it went off, he continued to stand supported by his good leg and looked down to see his leg was missing below his knee. His friend helped stop the bleeding and went off to get help.

Poly continued to tell us that he was laying down staying very still waiting for help to come when he heard some rustling coming his way. He pushed himself up to a sitting position only to see a tiger approaching. Being very frightened, he reached over and picked up his AK-47 and fired off 2 shots and the tiger ran off. It sounded like a Hollywood move as Chris and I could hardly believe our ears. I didn’t know there were Bengal Tigers in Cambodia but have since had it confirmed there are, in the north east part. I was so taken by the story I did some quick math. Poly is 23 and the accident took place in 1994 during the Vietnam occupation so Poly was 8 years old. I asked, what were you doing with an AK-47 and he told me it was for protection. Where did you get a gun like that, I continued and he said from his house. I found it belonged to his father who was also a landmine victim but I don’t know if his father was still living with him.

Poly was taken in by the landmine museum where he was taught to live with his disability and was taught English which he spoke fairly well. Aku Ra at the landmine museum later took Poly and trained him as a mine clearing team member which he did for a while but later left the team to go back to his family home.

This was just one of the many unbelievable hardship stories that we have been hearing during our trip and thought it was worth passing on.
Submitted by, Jim Stewart

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

We're Making Blocks in Cambodia

When you volunteer to help build a school in Cambodia as a first time Rotary Sweat Equity participant, you can’t be too sure what that will involve. Well, as we have learned, it involves getting down to basics.

We knew that we would be working with cement blocks, but what we had not fully appreciated was that we would first have to make - yes I said make - the cement blocks. You might not have made cement blocks before, so I will give you the information necessary to make your own cement blocks, if you find yourself in need of doing so.

Many people would expect that you would have a cement mixer and that you would feed the ingredients into a revolving drum that would mix the materials to the appropriate consistency and then fill a cement block mould. But we are in Cambodia and we don’t have a cement mixer at the moment, so we are doing the job in the Cambodia way - simple hard work.

The process is overseen by our Cambodian workmate and 23 year old supervisor Nang, who showed us how to make cement, with nothing more than a shovel and a flat piece of ground and, of course, the necessary ingredients. Fortunately, important preparatory work had already been done at the site of the future Bakong Technical College, where the materials had been assembled and a cement pad had already been made as the assembly and drying area for the cement blocks.

The essential ingredients for a batch, are 14 large pails of medium coarse red sand, 100 kilos of Portland cement and the right amount of water. How do you know what the right amount of water is? That’s where experience comes in and why Nang has his job and why we were on the shovels. First, shovel the 14 pails of sand from the sand pile and place them in the working area - flat ground beside the cement pad - and then add the cement. Dry mix them by shovel until fully mixed - about a 10 minute exercise and then the hard part - add the water to the required amount and mix thoroughly - another 10 - 15 minutes until the perfect consistency is achieved, as determined by our supervisor. We got better as time went on in spelling off each other so that the three shovels were kept in constant use by the five or six volunteer labourers. This gave new meaning to the term Sweat Equity - or as some of the T-shirts said - Sweet Equity.

The moulds for the blocks are either single or double size. They have to be lubricated with kerosene (applied with a paint brush every third use or so). Fill the mould by shovel, drop the mould from a height of about eight inches three times - not two or four - but three times to settle the ingredients and fill the mould fully. With a hand hewn wooden mallet, tamp down the mixture by applying several firm blows, scrape off the excess with the edge of the mallet and voila, you have a cement block ready to go to the next stage. Carry the mould to the cement pad, place it carefully and then turn on its side (if the consistency is right it won’t spill) and then comes the tricky part. With the mould in just the right place, quickly invert it so that the mould is upside down. Too slow and the ingredients will fall out. It is all in the flick of the wrists as we learned with a few failures having to be scraped off the pad and recycled to the mixing area. Remove the mould carefully and leave the blocks to dry for 24 hours. There you have it. Yesterday we did only 137 blocks, but with better organization and technique, we got to 227 today. They get added to the drying pile of blocks and count toward the quota of 2,000 that are needed.

Tylenol and electrolyte consumption is on the increase, but otherwise the work crew is no worse for wear. Frequent water breaks are essential and boy does lunch taste good after all this physical endeavour.

Brian Westlake

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

It All Begins

The visitors stopped as the scholarship students blocked the road. It was all about the surprise. At the gate, the brightly dressed musicians and dancers with painted faces eagerly waited. Then the signal was given to begin.
The procession was lively as the honored guests were accompanied into the site, drums pounding, cymbals clanging and piper piping. The visitors shook hands with the bystanders, clapped to the beat and tried to dance and be part of the celebration. Local villagers and their children in school uniforms lining the route bowed and smiled as each Canadian walked by.
The special treatment was to continue throughout the morning: their national flag draped among the others at the front of the seating for special guests; a brightly decorated and draped canopy with rotating fans inside to keep them cool; copies of speeches in English and a translator to ensure they understood what was said; bottles of cool water to keep them comfortable.
Leaders and dignitaries made speeches that affirmed the commitment of those present to the start of the new Bakong Technical College and the need for cooperation and participation from not only government, but also poor families whose children will soon receive a higher level of education. The goal? A higher standard of living for local children than the poverty they have grown up in.
When the ceremony ended, some 30 students received new bicycles thanks to Rotary Clubs in Orillia and Bracebridge. For the first time, they will not be missing school frequently because the dozens of miles in the walk home is just too much to expect a young kid to do every day.
For the visitors from Canada, the hard work was about to begin. The happiness and appreciation they experienced at the ribbon cutting ceremony was a wonderful way to kick off the project and show them just what a difference their efforts will make.

By Debra

Cambodia's Past

War officially ended in Cambodia in 1998 after 30 years of fighting. Looking around Siem Reap it is hard to imagine that as recently as 11 years ago these people were still fighting. If however you look around you will see much evidence of the war in the form of people without limbs. When you talk to people you will discover they all have horrible stores about those years mainly about the 1975 – 79 period. It is estimated there are still 3-6 million landmines in Cambodia. One out of 275 persons have been affected by landmines. Landmines were created to maim not to kill. If one person is killed you lose one soldier. If one gets caught by a landmine you immobilize 3 or 4 people as takes two to three to help the person who has been injured by a landmine. It is never nice to see a person without a limb however it is great to see a large percentage are trying to make a living and be useful. There are for example many legless booksellers outside of stores, who do not want pity at being beggars. They help each other too. I bought a book from a man who had two straps for arms. His friend who had one leg helped him give me change. As we walked into one of the temples at Angkor Wat there was a musical band all members were without one or more limbs and selling C.D.’s. We also visited the Landmine Museum started by Aki Ra a former child soldier who set thousands of landmines but has since taken to dismantling them. He has personally dismantled over 50,000 and is now training others to do the same. Canadians have played a major role in the museum, partly though funding and by the leadership of Richard Fetussi a Canadian photographer and of the honorable Lloyd Axworthy. They also have 27 school children. Five of our sweat equity team will be helping teach English to these children. Bill Morse a Rotarian from Palm Springs heads up the program. We were all moved by the good work they are doing. The darkest period in Cambodia’s history was the period from 1975 – 1979 when Pol Pot, the leader of the Khmer Rouge ran the country. Approximately 25% of the Cambodia population was eliminated in a genocide sometimes referred to as the Killing Fields. Many people were simply eliminated by firing squads, others were sent to do hard labour and died of starvation, and many more were shot after they outlived their usefulness. Some survived including our partner Ronnie Yimsut. On Saturday we went out to some of the floating villages, an amazing sight of houses built on limbs and floating along the shore. To get there we followed a channel that in the dry season is still under water. This channel was built by upwards of 10,000 people during the Khmer Rouge reign. Ronnie a boy of 15 was one of them. Both of his parents were killed very close to where we were. We passed a few huts which formerly was a Khmer Rouge garrison. This was only the second time Ronnie had been this way in over 30 years. It was for Ronnie, to say the least very difficult and very sobering for the rest of us.Submitted by Chris Snyder

We Made It

We Made it. Our flight from Toronto to Hong Kong was a long one leaving at ten minutes past midnight and flying straight through to Hong Kong arriving after three a.m. It was a good flight but long. It was interesting traveling west starting after midnight and never seeing the sun till sun rise in Hong Kong at 7:00am more than 18 hours later. When we got into the terminal we all headed for Starbucks since we had a 4 hour wait for our 3 hr. flight to Bangkok followed by a 1hr 10min flight to Siem Reap.
We were met at the Siem Reap air Port by Lisa McCoy and a number of volunteers to take our bags and arrange special tuk tuk transport to our hotel. This would be our mode of transportation while we were here. In The heat 30-35c the breeze in the tuk tuk was welcome. There is a busy schedule for us and we look forward to the challenge.