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

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Floating school - preliminary costing

The preliminary cost estimates for the construction of one floating classroom, of approximately 7m x 10m is:

Wood needed (11.14 m3 x US$350/m3) = US$3900
Bamboo = US$850
Windows and doors = US$375
Zinc roof and the plywood ceiling, nails, smoothing wood etc = US$1100
Transport/petrol/phone = US$550,
Labour = US$1400
Tables US$25 x 25pcs = US$625

Total construction cost = US$8800
Add maintenance costs (US$400 per year x 10 years) =US$4000

So I reckon if we can raise US$13,000, we can have a single classroom school with a toilet operating for 10 years minimum. The wooden school structure can last 30 years.

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

A floating school in Boeung Rial? Yes, it can be done!!

We are excited because as we learn more and more about the geography of Boeung Rial and the surrounding environs, as well as the various options for a floating classroom, we are increasingly convinced we can put up a floating school.

It is quite clear that the lake cannot take a deep hulled structure, such as what we saw in Prek Pra. We were however, told there was a floating house up river from Boeung Rial that Juhan was looking after that was built upon a deck floating on bamboo. We were not aboe to view this floating house, but a day later we were able to view from a distance, a similar floating building.

North of Kampong Thmor, two tributaries of the Tonle Sap cut across Highway 6 - Steung Chinit and Steung Tang Krasang. Just off the bridge at Tang Krasang, there was a floating office of the Fisheries Police. It was the perfect model of what we think a floating classroom might look like. The deck floats upon what seems to be large bundles of bamboo running lengthwise. The building itself is the size of a classroom, and there is a skirting platfrom around. The bamboo floats appear to be supported at strategic locations by oil drums.

We were not able to get close enough to view the actual structure, but what we saw gave us cause to be hopeful. For one thing, there seems to be local expertise to build a shallow hulled floating structure that could serve as a classroom. Other considerations are that the materials used are relatively cheap locally available material, that can be easily maintained and replaced should they deteriorate.

Ps Samreth and Kea will now go and do their homework to identify the contractor and to cost the building of one floating classroom.We think we should do just one classroom first, and then add on in modular form, the other classrooms as the need arises.

Fishing Village @ Boeung Rial #4 - the community

In the dry season, Boeung Rial is perched in the cove of a small lake south of the main TonleSap. It is linked to a number of family clusters along the shores of a river than runs in a Southerly towards another lake, e.g. SonnTann (hope I got the spelling right) and Kampong Chham (apparently named because some Chham fisherfolk used to live there. (BTW 'kampong' actually means a port by by the river).

We hopped into small narrow fishing boats which brought our team to Kampong Chham where we had a meeting with the heads of Boeung Rial and Kampong Chham.

SonnTann (?spelling)

Disembarking at Kampong Chham

Village Chiefs of Kampong Chham and Boeung Rial

Veron, just before she got 'baptized'

The sun was already fast setting as we returned to Boeung Rial. All in all, a good productive outing. We had a meeting of minds and have been convinced of the villages' commitment to the idea of a floating school. Importantly, Juhan (Ceruk), the Boeung Rial Chief seemed like someone we can trust to take charge of the school.

Monday, January 11, 2010

Fishing Village @ Boeung Rial #3 - temporary school

While waiting for the school to be built, the pastors have set up a temporary structure, making use of the tentage we had provided them before, for a part time school. A teacher comes in 3 times a week to take simple classes. The teacher's salary has been sponsored by private funds.

It was a very heartening sight to behold, and I was actually very excited by what I saw. What was especially heartening was the sight of mothers carrying babies, sitting with the children listening attentively to the classes and learning alongside the children. There is no surer way of getting the children interested in schooling than if the mother learns alongside.

Three generations of illiteracy is surely coming to an end.

Distributing used clothes

Beautiful little girl. Smart too. Her name is Rii....or at least that was what it sounded like.

Fishing Village @ Boeung Rial #2

Boeung Rial
The Fishing Village, Boeung Rial had relocated to a small 'lake'. They were connected to a number of family clusters connected by a 'river. These clusters were variously named SonnTann and Kampong Chham (not the main town of the province!).

Boeung Rial village chief. His unfortunate name of Ceruk (pig) was happily renamed by Esther to Juhan (John). He is a steady dependable sort of guy, who has apparently been looking after a floating 'house' down the river, so he is a good choice for someone who can look after a floating school.

Most of the the community in the Boeung Rial clusters are Christians, thanks to the untiring efforts of the pastoral team. Sadly, their faith is not yet strong, although they will attend fellowship and worship meetings whenever these are held.

Floating School@Prek Pra

Prek Pra is a village about half hour south of Phnom Penh, on the Bassac River (distributary of the Mekong/TonleSap). We drove there to visit with Judy Johns of the Christian & Missionary Alliance because the Alliance looks after 2 floating schools catering to the riverine Vietnamese community there.

There were two floating classrooms. The classrooms were actually built upon large boats. In the photo you can see the hull of the boats beneath the classroom. On either side, were short booms held up by oil drums. These apparently were to provide some stability to the classrooms.

It wasn't very clear how deep the hulls were, but we estimated perhaps about 1.5 -2 ms.

It wasn't a model we could use, as we think we might need a shallower clearance on the flood plains. Judy wasn't sure, but she estimated the yearly cost of maintenance might be in the region of about US$600.

Judy, Veron, Esther, Jhon, Me, Jimmy. Piang Ngok taking the photo.

Fishing Village @ Boeung Rial #1

October 2009 (above)

January 2010

The revisit to the fishing village was interesting in many respects. Firstly it was strange to actually find that the village had 'disappeared' from their deployment site when we last visited in October. We knew that they moved periodically but to find their deployment site dry and totally deserted was somewhat strange.

By the way, the Village name is actually Boeung Rial, rather than Boeung Ria. The name just refers to the lake (boeung) of the Rial fish. The Rial fish is actually the 'greater snakehead' (Channa micropeltes) or as we know it, the toman, or loi her, or san yu, but in the context of this village I think it more refers to the small silver fish, Trey rial (Henicorhynchus siamensi) that the fishermen haul in on their small nets and use for making the fermented fish paste, prahok.

Trey rial (Henicorhynchus siamensis) (above)

Rial (Channa micropeltes)

Tropeang Russei - a reality check

Tropeang Russei turned out to be much farther than had been anticipated, although large stretches of the road weren't as bad as we had thought so we were able to move along at a reasonable pace. Still, there were stretches where the going was tough. All in the driver estimated about 300kms of dirt tracks that we covered during our expedition. But that included 2 failed attempts to reach Svaychak, a village beyond Touk Pii we had wanted to visit. The tracks even in dry weather, proved impassable for our yellow bus.

Our wonderful yellow bus. The driver was really superb in navigating us through these often treacherous tracks.

Tropeang Russei turned out to be a resettlement village in process of forming up. The provincial government had apparently allocated a large swathe of land for handicapped veterans and their families to occupy. On paper there were approximately 370 plots of land allocated out.

I think most of it went to relatives of veterans rather than the veterans themselves. Most of the allocated plots have not yet been occupied. The land seemed rather inhospitable as there was little in terms of steady water supply for irrigation of crops. The current occupiers eke out an existence through a fledgling charcoal 'factory' and foraging in the nearby forests for valuable woods to sell. This unfortunately pits them against nearby villagers as they compete for the same resources. The impression we got was that they weren't really on good terms with their neighbours. There apparently is already a school only about 1.5kms away. The village leadership wanted to press for a school and a dispensary/nursing station for their own village, and expected that these facilities would encourage the other allocated families to move in.

Given the uncertainty with respect to the future of the village, we felt that it was not timely for us to place a school in Tropeang Russei. Perhaps at a future date, when the village is a bit more mature, we can reconsider the options.

We took the opportunity to deworm the kids

Monday, January 4, 2010

A new venture?

So we return to Cambodia tomorrow. This will be the first trip for 2010. Jhon, Jimmy, Piang Ngok, Veron and myself. For Piang Ngok and Veron, this will be the first time.

On the previous trip Ps Kea had raise the possibility of a visit to a very remote village in the Santuk district. Poor, isolated and often exploited because of timber concessions, he asked if we could help. So here we are heading towards Tropeang Russei (Bamboo Pond), not knowing what to expect. It will be a rough ride...approximately 40kms NorthEast, off the main road at Kpg Thmor. This relatively short stretch of dirt track will takes us approximately 4 hours to navigate through. Because there is nowhere to stay in the village, it will be a day trip.... meaning 8 hours of slow bumpy travel. We will do what we can, get to know the village leadership...and evaluate their needs.

We will need your prayers for journey mercies and for security.

The other mission will be to revisit the fishing village, and meet with the village leadership. The idea is to discuss how we can build a school for them.

Meanwhile Esther has planned for a small party for the handicap in Baray. Piang Ngok has offered to sponsor the party and I went today to the Verge in Tekkah to pick up a whole bunch of balloons and party blowers for them. Pray that all will have a great time.