Saturday, July 31, 2010

Cambodian - Children and food

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Exhilarating rain and faith

I was running towards the TsimShaTsui Ferry, about 2 kilometers into my run, when I saw the rain coming from behind the Hong Kong Island.  The mountains on Hong Kong Island started to disappear into the rain.  Then the buildings half way up the mountains.  Then more and more, all within a minute or two.

At one point, the whole island was swallowed by the rain.  Leaving behind only the buildings right at the water’s edge, including the Exhibition Center.  It looked like the whole island consisted of tall buildings on a flat piece of land, like Manhattan in New York City.

The rain devoured the rest of the buildings, leaving only a faint outline of the exhibition Center.   Then the boats in the harbour started to disappear. 

Suddenly I realized it was my turn.  Should I stop and seek shelter?  Like the tourists on the promenade?  I was sweating profusely at that point.  So it was a choice between being soaked with sweat, or being soaked with sweat and rain.  It was an easy decision.  I decided to finish the remaining 8 km despite the rain. 

Oh, how exhilarating it was!  I pounded the pavement while the rain pounded me.  I was soaked from top to bottom.  I could feel the rain water sloshing in my shoes while I splashed the water in the puddles.  I don’t remember having so much fun splashing in the water since I was a kid.  The rain was actually a bit sweet.   I heard oo’s and ah’s from the tourists lining up under the shelters.  But I was enjoying myself so much I didn’t care.  At one point I took off my glasses and discovered I could see no worse, because the rain was so heavy.  My only worry was that I could fall into the harbour if I should slip. 

Then I remember telling my cancer stricken uncle about faith in God earlier in the day.  And his decision to commit to Jesus.  In fact, it was my wife who asked him whether he wanted to believe in Jesus, and he said yes.  I think she has more faith and courage than I do.  Then we prayed together.  So the rain came in good time, reminding us of the cleansing power of God.  Even my running shoes look cleaner and whiter after the rain now.  God moves in mysterious and powerful ways.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Motorbikes of Cambodia

Many people - and things - ride on motorbikes in Cambodia.  One of the riders is a lady missionary.  Can you spot her?

Thursday, July 22, 2010

The Children of Cambodia(柬埔寨的孩子)

Education in Cambodia is compulsory and free, for 9 years, in theory.  In reality, the children face many difficulties.  In theory, they do not have to pay school fees.  In reality, they are charged extra fees to supplement their teacher’s salaries and other expenses.  Many children can not attend the public schools because they do not have the money to pay the extra charges. 

Classes at the public schools are only for half a day, probably because of budget constraints.  The teachers are paid a very low salary - about 50 US dollars, I was told.  They have to take on other jobs, such as tutoring, to supplement their salaries.  It is easy to imagine the impact on the quality of their teaching at the public schools.

Community centers such as those run by Village Earth and Anjali House provide supplementary education to the children who attend the public schools.  Often, the haphazard classes run by Village Earth are the only classes that they attend, because they cannot afford the extra fees charged by the public schools.  The Village Earth staff would implore the teachers at the public schools to let these children attend the public schools even though they cannot pay the extra fees

Many parents do not send their children to the schools because the children are needed on the farms, or otherwise to supplement the family income.   Many children make their living on the garbage mountains, or begging on the streets. 

Schools such as Emmanuel Primary School  (以馬內利小學) run by International Christian Concern (基督徒普世關懷差會) provide a particularly valuable educational service to some of these kids.  Orphanages such as Rhenish Homes (禮賢之家) go even further. 

The rich kids, as always, have their private schools and international schools.  They even have regular soldiers moonlighting as security guards for protection from kidnappers.

Our children in Hong Kong face their own challenges: rote learning, competition to get into the elite schools, suffocation by the pressure to succeed, ...  

But the poor children of Cambodia would probably love to have the chance to face such challenges. 

Monday, July 19, 2010

Cambodian Service-Learning - White Lotus

White Lotus is a very special ministry.  It is run by two American lady missionaries, Sherry Lile and Debbie Tetsch.   They reach out to abused girls, many of whom are young girls forced to become sex workers.   They set up a place for the girls to live, teach them practical skills, and set up businesses so that they can make a proper living.  It is very challenging work, with a not-insignificant amount of risk.  They demonstrate tremendous courage, enduring dedication, infinite patience, and abundant love.

Out team tried to help them with some computer work, and taught the girls some crafts.  The girls are very smart, and learn fast.  The organization can also use some help in making use of the Internet.  To promote their cause and events, and to distribute the handicrafts made by the girls, for example.

A side story.  On Sunday, 4th July, we were on a 6-hour bus ride returning from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh.  Two of our students have gotten sick, running fevers, with diarrhea.  The girl was vomiting, very weak, and seemed to be getting worse.   By 6 PM, and still 2 hours away from Phnom Penh, we felt we need to take them to see a doctor.  But we were really not sure where to go, not being familiar with the Cambodia medical system, and at such a late hour on a Sunday.  

I called Sherry.  She referred us to the SOS, a clinic run by Americans, which happens to be just 2 blocks away from our hotel.  So I took the 2 students to the clinic as soon as we arrived at Phnom Penh at 8 PM, with help from 3 other students, and sent the other students to have dinner.  The clinic was clean and tidy, and very well-equipped.  The doctor was very professional.  He felt, as we did, that the students had food-poisoning.  He  ordered a series of tests, and prescribed anti-biotic for both of them.  The girl had to be re-hydrated through intravenous drip.   Later that evening, my colleague V came with 3 other students to take our place, so that we can go back to the hotel to rest.  Eventually, after about 5 hours, we all came back to the hotel.   Both students recovered and came back to Hong Kong safely. 

We are all very grateful to Sherry and Debbie for the much needed and just-in-time help.  And we told them so.  Our next task is to figure out how we can support their work.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Cambodian Service-Learning - Children of Rhenish School 禮賢之家的孩子

At the Rhenish Homes, we also try to teach the children digital story telling with image theatre.   We asked them to make poses to present an idea or a situation, taught them to use a digital camera to take photographs, load the photographs into a computer, edit the photograph, print them out, and put in the words to complete the stories.  在禮賢之家,我們教孩子們用形象戲劇的方法講數碼故事。我們教他們擺一個姿勢表現一個情景, 拿數碼照相機拍一個照片,把照片下載到電腦,編輯,打印,加上文字變成故事。

Most of the children have never seen or used a digital camera nor a computer before.  They are very excited using the equipment.  They are very smart and learn quickly.  They are also very well-behaved.  They do not fight to play with the camera or computer, even though it was clear they all would love to use the camera and computer. 

They let us visitors take our food first.  They pile our bowls with food.  They clear the table and wash the dishes after meals.  They play soccer and other games with gusto.  They ask me whether I am a Christian before I have a chance to talk to them about faith.  Many of them had very tough lives before.  Here they are being loved, and they are learning how to love. 

They are just lovely children.  They make you want to hug them and play with them and teach them.  They make us want to go back to see them. 

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Cambodian Service-Learning - Rhenish Homes

A team of us spent 2 days in Rhenish Homes, an orphanage run by the International Christian Concern about an hour and a half’s drive outside of Phnom Penh.  The last stretch of the road was unpaved, and full of potholes.  Hence the ride was very bumpy and slow. 

The orphanage is in a village of rice fields.  The rainy season has just started, the fields are filled with rain water, and the young shoots of the rice are being planted.  It makes very pretty pictures. 

Rice is the staple food here.  Our lunch consists of rice in soup.  The food is simple, fresh, and tasty.  I was told an extra meat dish has been added because there are guests.  And the kids let us get our food first.  The kids can eat a lot, and very quickly.   Our hosts were afraid we may not have enough if we do not go first.  I can believe that.   I was in a boarding school for poor kids when I was their age, and I remember eating 3 to 6 bowls of rice at dinner. 

All our food are cooked using big pots on these 4 charcoal-fired stoves.  They remind me of the orphanage in DingXi, Gansu.   There they use coal, because coal is plentiful in China.  Here charcoal is the cheapest fuel.   Another reason is there is no electricity supplied.  This orphanage runs a generator for lighting purpose.  And the generator is shut down in the evening after 8:30PM, when the kids go to bed. 

There is also no piped water.   Everybody collects rain water using huge water pots.  They also draw their water from the local water hole behind the orphanage - it is essentially also rain water.

Collecting rain water is far from sufficient for an orphanage with 90 kids.  So the orphanage dug 2 wells, costing several hundred US dollars each.   Fortunately, because it rains a lot here, they do not have to dig very deep to reach the water table. 

Such is the primitive situation in which the kids live.  But, for them, this is paradise compared to what they were used to.  Many used to make their living picking trash from the infamous garbage mountain.  Some have stolen.  There are 4 brothers here whose father ran away, whose sister died, and whose mother sells fruits in Phnom Penh but is often sick and cannot make enough money to feed them.  Here they have a warm bed, clean clothes, clean and nutritious food, caring teachers, an education, a future, and God - all for free. 

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Cambodian Service-Learning - Emmanuel Christian Primary School

The Emmanuel Christian School in Phnom Penh is a primary school for 150 underprivileged children who used to make their living on the garbage mountain.  The school is currently housed in an old former leather factory, in a village not far from the Choeung Ek killing fields.   It is sponsored by a Hong Kong NGO, the International Christian Concern.

There were not enough classrooms, so some classrooms were simply partitioned by panels.  The school charges no fees, and even provides the children with uniforms.  The kids that are not wearing uniforms are the new ones.  The school is very popular, and has to turn away many kids. 

The children are very well disciplined.  They were having their regular classes in their classrooms when we arrived.   Then they took their own chairs, filed out of their classrooms, set their chair down, and in just a few minutes, all 150 children were seated in very neat rows.  Amazing. 

The children were very smart.  They learned very quickly the songs and the movements that our students taught them.   They learned to play the games we taught them in very little time, and follow the instructions very well - even when they were enjoying themselves, laughing and screaming loudly.   They have obviously been taught well.  Not just in discipline, but also in English, and in Christian principles.

In a nearby site, the new school house is being built.  When it is finished, probably in a few months’ time, they are going to have better facilities. 

The ICC runs an international school besides Emmanuel Primary School.  Some of the teachers at Emmanuel are seconded from the international school.  And when the kids graduate from Emmanuel Primary School, they can enroll for free at the secondary section at the international school.  The ICC ministry is obviously very well planned and very effective.