Then the ones who pleased the Lord will ask, "When did we give you something to eat or drink? When did we welcome you as a stranger or give you clothes to wear or visit you while you were sick or in jail?"
The King will answer, "Whenever you did it for any of my people, no matter how unimportant they seemed, you did it for me." .......Matthew 25

Monday, November 2, 2009

Transforming Chhom Trach

Several years ago we were almost accidentally let into a remote village called Chhom Trach.

We had just completed some medical-dental in a village called Ta Prot, and were already packing up when we were told of a nearby village that was very poor. Could we go in and help? We didn't need much persuasion.

Chhom Trach was a very much neglected village. Poor and shunned by the other villagers because of its history of being associated with thieves, drunks and likely ex-Khmer Rouge members (I still remember the armed policeman who escorted us in), it could only try and work the rocky infertile land for whatever subsistence they could get. On that first trip we did whatever medical-dental work we could, and resolved to return.

We had around that time already decided to embark on a school building strategy for future trips and Chhom Trach was easily the first choice for where we wanted to place a school. Despite being so poor and isolated, the local CMS pastors had already begun some work there and there was already a small cell group operating.

It was our first experience building a village school, but by God's grace we raised the required funds fairly quickly and were able to build a two classroom school, a bore-well and two toilets. But what really took us by surprise was the dramatic transformation of that village because of the school and well.

On our follow-up visit, we were taken aback by the change in the children and villagers. The children were clean (well...relatively...)!! And they were laughing and playing. The entire mood of the community was so different. While previously they were negative and despondent, the village we saw now had a sense of positivity, and dare I say it without sounding cliched, ... hope.

The transforming power of the well was so impressive that visitors to the village were inspired to place wells in other villagers. According to Esther, visitors to Chhom Trach had gone on to donate a total of about 53 wells for other villages around the district.

We continued to work with ChhomTrach. This year we were able to begin a once-a-week meal supplementation programme.

At US$0.25 per meal, we were able to provide a simple warm cooked meal of rice and duck's egg fried with some onions and carrots.

A management committee has been set up, which included the Dy Headman, the senior teacher, the kindergarten teacher and a mother from the community. Other than the teacher, the other 3 members were Christians.

From my left: Dy Headman, teacher, kindergarten teacher, mother

While there we took the opportunity to deworm the children as well.

The current operating costs for supporting the village are:

Meals US$0.25 per child per meal.
Currently we are providing 100 child-meals per week, so the annual cost is US1300 per year.

We provide a 'love-gift' for the Meal Committee members of US$5 per month per member, so that comes to US240 per year.

In addition we started a teacher incentivization programme to encourage the teachers do their best for the kids. This is a bonus of US$15 per month for each session taught by the teacher. Currently the school is operating 3 out of a maximum of 4 sessions, so the programme will cost us US$45 per month and US$540 per year.

Total annual cost for supporting Chhom Trach =US$2080. This amounts to approximately US$21 per child per year. I think it is money well spent.

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