Meet student Heak. I love this guy

I love this guy

Heak is a wonderful student at the SOC children’s home in Bakong, Cambodia near Siem Reap. Gracious, kind to other students, intelligent, helping the little ones – this photo was taken in 2011 and today he has grown taller and so have his responsibilities for it is he who drives the big tuk-tuk to the school each day, saving the students a hot dusty walk. I am convinced that he will go to University within a few years, and I wait in anticipation of what he will choose to do with his intelligence.

If you would like to know how to assist a Cambodian student through University, click here.

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A case of village justice in Cambodia

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Is a cop’s job to discourage bad behavior or to punish bad behavior? The local policeman in Bakong showed a very wise sense of judgement.

A couple of years back a girl attending Savong’s School  was harassed one evening by a group of local boys. Another student saw what was going on and the police were called from their station, a small building, not 200 meters away.

In a village like Bakong, 14 kms East of Siem Reap,  everybody knows everyone. It didn’t take long for the policeman, a genial fellow, to work out who the boys were. He went to each of their families and ordered the young men (all unemployed,) to meet him on Thursday morning at his police station. He also asked the girl to attend, as well as her witnesses; students from Savong’s School.

At the meeting the policeman, a well-built middle aged man in his olive green uniform, wore a judicial frown. After asking the witnesses to positively identify the young men he gave them a stern lecture. It was a grave experience for each guilty party because their parents were on hand as well. The feeling of shame was palpable. The policeman pointed out that they were on a bad path; a path that could lead directly to jail, and everyone knows in Siem Reap that this is not a good place. He told the boys that he had it within his power to send the boys to prison right away. In fact he could see no reason why not to, he told them. The boys were on the precipice. There were gasps in the crowded room.

Then the policeman who single-handedly played the good-cop, bad-cop routine said something unexpected. “If the young student asks me to send you boys to jail, I will do so immediately. It is up to the girl and her friends.”

The students formed a huddle and clearly they too were shaken by the enormity of the consequences here. Jail? After a few moments they asked if they could take the problem away with them to school where they would discuss their response with their classmates. The policeman gave them to the next day, and ordered the young men to turn up, with their parents the next morning.

At Savong’s School the senior students discussed at length what would be suitable justice. Soon they came up with a fair response. And so they turned up at the Friday morning meeting at the small police station in Bakong.

“What is your decision?” asked the policeman.

The students outlined their thinking. That the boys were clearly guilty of serious behaviour – cornering the girl and being sexually suggestive – but that jail was too harsh. Their recommendation was to let the boys off “this time” but that next time they would not hesitate to recommend jail.

Everyone heaved a sigh of relief. The young men were suitably chastened and, no doubt, faced their forms of domestic justice from their parents who had been disgraced by their sons. The policeman let the boys know that they had been very lucky that the students had been so forgiving this time.

And so justice was dispensed and, to my knowledge, the boys have walked a straight and narrow path ever since.

I’m critical, deeply critical, of Cambodia’s weak justice system whereby the rich and powerful can apparently get away, scot free, after a hit and run accident,  while a poor farmer can be jailed for years for protesting the illegal acquisition of his land and livelihood.

But on another level I totally admire the fair work of the local policeman in Bakong. His wisdom and local knowledge mean, I’m sure, that he has never needed to unlock the rifle cupboard that he keeps on show with its old Chinese army rifles. Neither did he press formal charges. Instead, knowledge, shame and a reminder of what “could happen” is armament enough for the policeman to keep the peace in this rural community.

For another story from Savong School – The boy who was nearly sold.

Or a story about An actual folk tale from Cambodia

If you enjoyed this true story about our project in Cambodia, don’t forget to press the FOLLOW button – we’d love your company.

Interior study – rural Cambodia

Interior study - rural Cambodia

Today I’m writing an article for a New Zealand magazine: Renovate – and of course the focus of the magazine is on how we express ourselves through our homes. Those drapes, those architect-designed features. In this photo I took while visiting a family in rural Cambodia I was captivated by the simplicity of the home. How much do we really need in our lives? The family works hard, growing rice, but apart from cooking utensils and clothes there were few keepsakes or possession used to define their lives. I’m not sure if, as a westerner, I’m guilty of romanticising poverty, but it struck me that the simplicity I saw in these homes was a reflection of lives not defined by poverty so much as by the rhythm of the rural day. I was reminded of the small building footprint of the home my father was raised in, in rural New Zealand.

For a look inside another home (I asked permission) click here.

True Confession: What Prince Charles must feel like

True Confession: What Prince Charles must feel like

There were a few moments in Cambodia recently when I felt like royalty. On my first morning out to see the children at SOC, Bakong, we drove out and Savong had arranged a reception at the gate where all the children were lined up. I’m welling up as I write this because those children applauded me as I entered the grounds – a sustained applause that made me feel both humbled and also exceptionally proud. I shook hands with the children, and high fived them – first down one side of the driveway, and then down the other side. I wanted to give something back.

I’ve been in the position of receiving honours before – in my work for example, or at high school – but this experience was on a whole different level: it was emotionally very charged.

Ten days later the school prize giving was held, and afterwards gifts were given to attendees and I helped share these out. Theavy borrowed my camera and took this photo, and to my horror I realise that slowly – through age, girth and those ears – I’m turning into Prince Charles. There’s something very: “And what do YOU do?” in my posture. But the truth is, I was treated like royalty and yes, I’m endlessly interested in the students and the hopes and dreams they possess. That greeting at the gate: honestly, that is one of the most special moments I’ve ever been treated to in my life.

Here’s a direct way you can change a life in Cambodia.

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The young man photographed above comes from a poor rural community where family incomes of less than $US50 dollars per month are not uncommon. With this background no matter how bright the student is at high school, university is out of reach. In a real sense, poverty is passed on from generation to generation.

Well, for this student the cycle has been broken thanks to a simply managed realistic university scholarship run by a local school in Bakong, Cambodia and supported by sponsors overseas – practical people who commit what adds up to ‘coffee money’ to ensure bright students can reach their potential. Once these students win a good graduate job (in Cambodia less than 3% of adults have a degree – compared with 26% in the USA) then they will help their family. Your gift keeps on  giving.

If you would like to sponsor a University Scholarship student to cover enrolment, living allowance, transport this costs just $US80 a month, and we have set up a SPONSOR arrangement that will bill you automatically each month for this amount – with a limit of 24 months. (For your security.)

You have the right, of course, to cancel donations if your circumstances change – but this is a great way to set up a significant support system for a rural student in Cambodia.

Click on the Logo to take yourself through to PayPal and the $US80 per month, ongoing subscription.
Click on the Logo to take yourself through to PayPal and the $US80 per month, ongoing subscription.
  • For further information feel free to write to me: Duncan Stuart at duncan@kudos-dynamics.com
  • All donations are receipted – they are lodged into the registered New Zealand charity Cambodian Rural Schools Trust
  • PayPal is secure
  • All funds, apart from a small transfer fee, go to the project. We do not incur marketing or admin expenses.

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Six winners of Savong School university scholarships announced – can you help?

Six winners of Savong School university scholarships announced - can you help?

I support a school in rural Cambodia that serves more than 500 high-school students. The focus is to help their employability and to give them the opportunities they lack due to the poverty gap. Following recent examinations at Savong’s School six university scholarships have been announced. Winners receive at least 4 years support through university (1 year intermediate followed by 3 years Bachelors degree) in the form of their annual fees being covered, a laptop computer presented – to enable study – as well as daily transport from Bakong to Angkor University (14 kms away) and a modest living allowance to cover the costs of being a student. For westerners this works out at $US1,000 per annum over four years. For these students the opportunity is a golden ticket out of poor rural conditions, and a chance to reach their potential. Contact me if in some way you’d like to support one, or some of these students. $20 a week, coffee money, can totally change a life and that of their family. duncan@kudos-dynamics.com

More details: click here.