Thursday, July 26, 2007

NGO - the magic word

Since a couple of days, we're staying in Siem Reap. It's a nice little town, which is going through rapid tourism boom. Everywhere, just an in Sihanoukville, hotels pop out of the ground. The usual techniques to attract the attention of passing tourists are also applied here: yelling at you from a distance "Mister-wan-collldrink?!" or continuously repeating the offer of "five-for-only-one-dollar".

The biggest boom here is not tourism though, it's the NGO "business". Everyone who ownes a guesthouse or knows a bit of English seems to have their own private initiative to help a family, village or school. Makes sence, because poverty is all around you. Also the big organisations are present; Plan, UNICEF, we've even seen a building of SOS Children's villages (also sponsored by Dutch organisations). We talk a lot about this; what do the people here actually want and which type of aid is most effective?

We have a lot of good examples from practise around us. At the moment we are staying at Baca Villa ( which is also run by a Dutch man named Jan, same as Orchidee guesthouse in Sihanoukville (It's not that we're chauvinist, we just heard this is a nice place). This Jan is supporting the entire Baca family and currently employs twenty-three people - all brother, sisters, nieces and nephews. He has also just set up a school in the countryside, where children can take English lessons. The classes are very popular; the only teacher had some two-hundred students! Many come from surrounding villages.

Tuesday Jan took us to visit a school to which we donated a part of the Nam Jai moneyt to; the Wat Prenn School of the Salariin Kampuchea foundation. Jan knows Saskia, one of the founders and a good friend of mine, and the other that run the foundation, very well. It was busy, because there was a documentary showed of the Tonle lake. Whether the kids understood everything, I strongly doubt. Fortunately they get to visit the `Wildlifecentre` in Siem Reap to study the snakes and other wild creatures from up close; then they'll definately grasp it all!

A lot more to tell; we've seen many pagoda's and still enjoy ourselves here.
More will follow soon.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

Greetings from Kleng Leu

After a long journey and a few days in Phnom Penh, we hopped on the Mekong Express Limousine Bus to Sihanoukvelle. Being experienced travellers, we hadn't arranged for a pick-up from the busstop, which caused us to be surrounded with motodop (motorbike) drivers offering us rides. After looking around, we found the man in charge - he was carrying a notebook and a megaphone. He arranged two motorbikes (3 USD) to take us (bagage in front) to Orchidee guesthouse, where we met Cees.

Sihanoukville is still relatively new to tourism, but big real estate contractors are buying every piece of land they can find. This will undoubtedly turn this place into a beachcity like Kuta in Bali in a few years.

Kleng Leu, the village where Cees set up the Mondol Op'thom school, is a victim to this trend. Yesterday we drove to the village near the quarry. Several years a go the village only consisted of a few shacks, now concrete houses pop up everywhere. The villagers are selling their land - walls, fences and barbed wire is put up on the strangest places.

Cees takes us to the school and we peek into the classrooms where the children are taught Khmer language and mathematics. They have only two more days of school before summerholidays begin and many have already started their vacations early. No one who can do anything about it..

Opposite the school is a small house on poles, which has been bought by Cees to make into a computerroom. First the house is sealed so that it stays free of rain and thieves, then a teacher for computerlessons can be sought and computers bought. Our donation (and yours!) will be used for this project.

Much of what we've seen is hard to grasp. Houses are made of wood and are not well taken care of. The village is confronted with dengue - the mosquitos sting during the day, the mosquito nets are thus of no use. While we use 'deet' as moisturiser, this is too expensive for the villagers. A little boy has died some months ago.

The government denies all claims that not enough is being done to prevent dengue. In adverstisments in the paper, they explain what they do to keep the people save. Just this morning (Cees told us) a man with a megaphone drove by on a bicycle to inform us of the dangers of dengue. You see, the government does care!

Well, that's it for now.
The pictures will be uploaded later.