MY FUNDRAISING CRISIS

Money isn't everything, but it sure helps. Savong's School - like every school world-wide, needs funds.

Money isn’t everything, but it sure helps. The school – like every school world-wide, needs funds.

Last week I reignited this blog after five months silence. A few of you will know that this year I had a health surprise, namely a diagnosis of Parkinsons disease.  So far the disease has not produced radical symptoms –  extreme shakes,  or, an affliction that strikes many sufferers, ( at least eventually,)  immobility. It is not uncommon for those with Parkinsons to freeze  when they get to a door,  and require some visual prompt to get them started again. I’d say I’m  bound to be on an interesting adventure to say the least.  But for now my symptoms include:

  • Loss of the use of my right hand when it comes to typing. My right arm is about as useful as a plank of wood.
  • The need for much more sleep!
  • A slowdown in my work rate –  my brain is sharp,  but it takes longer to get my thoughts down on paper.

During my  five months silence  I enjoyed a long overdue holiday with my partner, Susanna, and I spent quiet time ruminating about the impact of my condition.  It has scrapped the old rules, but the problem is there are no new hard guidelines.  Everybody with Parkinsons  experiences a different combination of symptoms,  and the onslaught of these occurs at different speeds. Who knows? So against this shifty backdrop I have been trying to contemplate what the impact will be on my life.  I’m starting to set goals  and objectives: of bucket list of things I want to achieve before – and just in case – I deteriorate beyond usefulness.

Some of these goals are very tangible.  I wish to complete a long cycle ride within the next 24 months,  and there are some writing projects that I have started already: things I have long wanted to write.

But there is one central crisis I have not been able to resolve,  and that is the funding  of Savong’s school in Cambodia. Savong’s project  has many branches –  two homes for children,  a student centre for older students in Siem Reap, as well is the school  in Bakong which serves primary school children as well is secondary.  It also provides scholarships to University  for the top grade 12 students each year.  These scholarships are worth about $1000 per student per annum  over the four years required to get a degree.

All up,  the school  requires at least $3000 per month to run, and a majority of this money has come out of my own earnings.  Over the past 10 years it has been more efficient for me to knuckle down to work, to earn my income as a researcher,  and to send the money over to Cambodia. Far easier than fund raising.

This last year I was going to make the transition  toward fundraising however.  I am almost 60, retirement is around the corner,  and I need to find an alternative  source of income to underwrite the ongoing expenses  of Savong’s school. I saw this as a kind of baton change in a relay race.  What the Parkinsons diagnosis did was cause me to stumble badly and drop the baton.

So now by my reckoning  I have got eight months  to get my fundraising act together.  Somehow,  somewhere,  through some people,  I need to find sponsors  to the tune of US$3000 per month. The school in Cambodia,  which serves many hundreds of children,  faces many challenges of its own:  my health shouldn’t be one of them.

See also: About the school.

And how to donate the school.

Opt-In. A fund raising idea for Savong’s School

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So there I was, drooling over a $4,000 bicycle when the idea hit me…

This year I have set myself a challenge. I’m 58 and within sight of that ‘retirement’ finishing line which, mysteriously, is coming up more quickly even as I’m slowing down. The challenge is to set up a fund-raising ‘machine’ that continues to operate, and prosper for the sake of the rural students we support, even if I’m run over by the retirement bus.

Fund raising. I wonder who enjoys it? I think one reason I don’t enjoy it – despite having a great cause to support – is that it fundamentally leads to a lot of people losing face. By asking you for a thousand dollars I risk that awkward moment of having a friend or acquaintance saying, “No, sorry.”  They feel awkward, I feel awkward.

A second problem is, I think, the way requests for money are framed. An out of the blue request for $50 seems like an imposition: an unexpected expense. Yet if you were buying a new car and the salesman said, look – the sports-styled magnesium cup holder will cost an extra $50 – then, well to hell with it! What’s an extra $50 when you’re already investing $40k? It’s nothing.

I recently visited a bicycle shop near where I live and it was there I had an insight flash. A way to fund-raise that removes the face problem and the framing effect. A bicycle had caught my eye. It got me reminiscing about a great 800km journey I’d completed with friends 20 years ago and I was seduced by the weight (about 3 nano-grams) and appearance. Just beautiful. And it could be mine for a mere $4,000 which itself was a discounted price. You could buy 45 children a new bicycle each, for the same amount in Cambodia.

Yet the person who buys the $4,000 bike is not a bad person. They may be a dedicated triathlete perhaps. Or a weekend road-warrior with the dream, simply, of sailing downhill on a summery afternoon after completing a personal challenge.

So if I were to accuse them of being selfish (“How dare you buy that bike when there are needy children in Cambodia!”) I’d myself be offensive. And both of us would lose face.

But if I were to ask that bike purchaser this offer: “Hey, you’re buying a fantastic bike – instead of paying $4,000 – how about contributing an extra $50 to make a child in Cambodia equally delighted?”  Now we’re talking. What’s $50? It is 1.25% and about a sixth of the price of the Italian leather saddle. And a lot more comfortable. Now the purchaser can easily opt in or not – and the amount, when framed this way, really doesn’t seem like a terrible imposition.

So there it is. My big fund-raising thought for 2014. Now I’ve got to find a few opt-in partners – starting with the bike shop. It needs to work for them too. But which bike shop can you think of would not want to spread the joy and benefits of cycling not just amongst the well-heeled west, but through the villages and muddy roads to the schools of rural Cambodia?

This boy needs love, attention and a role model

This guy needs love and attenton

Within any group of children there will be one or two who want extra love and attention. This young man is one of the needier kids at SOC and I recognise him from two years ago as “the boy who loved being picked up.”  His name is Sorm and his family circumstances are very poor – his mother unable to afford his care and his father is no longer part of the picture. This boy craves a father figure.

Latching onto a visiting stranger is not a long term solution though this boy is aware of the continuity of care – from sponsors who return, from visitors who have been here before. Better still, his life has structure at the SOC with friends, with daily chores, with regular mealtimes and with school classes: a far cry from his early upbringing where there was not always food on in the bowl.

Visitors to Cambodia almost always remark on the smiles on all the faces; but these days I’m more aware of the broken homes and tragedies that remain hidden from tourists. This boy is being given assistance and a relatively strong level of support – but growing up without a father is far from ideal.  We owe it to these children to provide them with steady, dependable role models.

Yoshikazu and Eri – two influential Japanese supporters

Yoshikazu and Eri - two influential Japanese supporters

I took this photo in 2011 and it shows Savong discussing a menu with Eri Tsuji. That’s Yoshikazu in the blue shirt. I’m thinking of them this week because they are now proud parents – but in 2004 Yoshikazu and another Japanese student Makoto were extremely influential in getting Savong’s School off the ground. They were the very first contributors to the project and they encouraged me to get fully involved as well.
To this day their influence is felt in the school. In late 2013 I was reminded of Yoshikazu when the teachers used a video-projector to screen their powerpoint meeting agenda: new technology courtesy of a generous gift by this warm-hearted Japanese couple. They have had more influence on the project than they may realise.

Proud parents Eri and Yoshikazu.

Proud parents Eri and Yoshikazu.

Two more supporters who have had a huge influence on the school. Click here.

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.