AN EMAIL FROM CAMBODIA

Thank you so much for your encouraging letter.  All our staff are saying after you left, that the group was so friendly and really went out of the way to relate to the locals.  We received positive vibes and friendship.
Toni has written to me, too, and sent me photos of children’s artwork that they would put up in a website and sell to raise funds for the programs here in Piak Snaeng Chas Learning Center.  I printed the pictures and showed it to the children.  They were all delighted and said how talented Toni’s children are!

Name of Learning Center:  St. Mary’s Learning Center
Location: Piak Snaeng chas Village, Siem Reap, Cambodia

BACKGROUND
The St. Mary’s Kindergarten School in Piak Snaeng Chas Village is a little learning center that seeks to form the little children in good values, and in many basic subjects of learning.  Located 27 kilometres away from Siem Reap city, east of the famous Angkor Wat Temples, and travelling on potholed road, one reaches the place after an hour-trip by a pick-up truck.  The kindergarten school looks after the children who are often left to the care of grandmothers by parents going to other places to earn a living.
The families are poor, often relying of an average usable family income of $3 per day.  There are about 250 families and 1,500 individuals belonging to this village.  People here are farmers who live on the proceeds of the rice fields and fruit trees.  Many parents go out to Sim Reap or neighbouring fields to work in other people’s field for wages.  Some of them go to the neighbouring Thailand to work in factories and fields.  All the same, the children are often left behind to the care of ageing grandmothers.
The Catholic Parish of Siem Reap has been involved in this village since 2007.  Youths have come regularly to gather children and play with them, wash their hair from lice, and teach to them values for better living.  Our commitment to the people here has gradually gone stronger through the years.  Now, we have a kindergarten class, a catch-up class that runs in the morning and afternoon, catechism class, and Rice Soup Program.  We are also starting an outreach to mothers to teach them about the hygiene and sanitation.  Also, with the help of friends from East Anglia, we will soon begin a daily meal program for those studying coming to school in the morning.
THE KINDERGARTEN SCHOOL

Teacher Map with her kindergarten pupils.

A scene during the Rice Soup Day.  About 150 children come regularly – and their mothers, too.
The kindergarten school is a wooden structure building with two classrooms, roofed with corrugated iron sheets.  In 2007, the parish team that went here regularly on weekends to teach the children decided to rent a little space in the village where children could meet.  A teacher was hired to teach children how to count, read and write.  That was the start of our work with the little ones.  In the year 2016, the Catholic Parish of Siem Reap took a more active stance in raising the quality the formation and education of the children.  The school was improved – the portion of the lot at the entrance of the school was filled and levelled, a porch was added so children can play outside the rooms, and the floor was cleaned and covered with linoleum sheets.  A new shed was constructed to make cooking of rice soup for children easy.  Today, forty children come to school every day:  One class in the morning for kindergarten and catch up classes for those in elementary grades, and another class in the afternoon for another catch-cup classes in reading and arithmetic.
RICE SOUP PROGRAM


Every Thursday, we serve rice soup to the children – those in the kindergarten and those in catch-up classes, including those who used to study with us but are now enrolled in the public elementary school nearby.  About 150 children come to this weekly program.  Some mothers also come with their infants to partake of the food.
This is all for now.
All God’s best blessings to you!
One with you in mission,
Fr. Totet Banaynal, SJ