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.

I’m looking for a sponsor. $US40 a month.

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A few days ago I posted the story of a student who had contacted me via Facebook from Cambodia. He has been unable to go to school because of touch family circumstances. I explained how Savong’s NGO can’t just meet up with strangers and hand over money.

However, as Savong promised to do – he travelled (50kms out of Siem Reap) to a small rural village named Khla Khom, and he met with Mouencheat and his family. (See photo above.)  As you can see, it was a formal meeting and Savong conducted a formal interview, asking about the family’s circumstances (the boy’s real father is no longer alive) and about the reasons the young student is unable to go to school. Clearly, Savong told me, the family is very poor.

The other problem is that the free education system of Cambodia is not free at all. Author Joel Brinkley calls the system corrupt – but the truth is, state run high schools have resorted to charging for tuition because they do not receive enough from the Government. Cheat (that’s his nickname) requires $5 per month for English tuition, $7.50 for mathematics, $7.50 for school materials and – given the family circumstances, also requires $10 a month to cover living expenses – the income he can’t earn if he attends school.

This comes to $US40 per month – a modest sum for which I’d love to find a sponsor.

It strikes me that this is an efficient way of helping a young student who is clearly motivated to complete high school and, in time find a good job so he can support his family. The support enables us to support a young person’s future while keeping the family intact.

Please contact me if you would like to be a sponsor.  The next step will be to complete some paperwork (NGO’s must prepare an agreement with the family, so that they must spend the money for the purposes given) and then, with your support, we can commit to Mouencheat.

He lives in your global village. Would you be prepared to assist?

The ethics of gifting

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I had a very thoughtful piece of feedback today from a woman whose opinion I greatly trust and admire. Lori works with the brilliant Ponheary Ly Foundation in Siem Reap, and she has immersed herself in Cambodia and in the business, if I may call it that, of promoting and funding a worthwhile cause. The PLF is one of the most efficient, ethical NGOs that I know of in Cambodia, and if Ponheary Ly or Lori Carlson raise a point of discussion, well these are two people who are expert in their field, realistic in their approach and focused 100% on the cause of education for disadvantaged children in Cambodia.

Lori very politely asked me if I’d thought through the ramifications of yesterday’s posting about collecting good used laptops and distributing these to needy students in Cambodia.

Here are two downsides she raised. And I can add more.

1) Imagine you were the up and coming retailer in Siem Reap setting up in the laptop retailing business. Suddenly, an overseas organisation dumps product into your market.  Where instead of purchasing locally, and having that money largely spin around the Cambodian economy, we help put a nail into the side of the local family business.

2) The economy of shipping used laptops to Cambodia is less impressive than you might first guess. Between collection, packing and then shipping the value depreciates – but used laptops will also attract sizeable duty in Cambodia also. (We found that with books three eyars ago – even second-hand books.)

Good points. I can add another downside. Supposed we give a laptop in good faith and, used baby that it is, it fails or has problems.  Could the poor Cambodian student afford the repairs? Are we giving a gift, or a burden?

The discussion is a good one.  After all, the concept of world aid has moved a long way from the sending of used blankets to flood victims overseas.  Every gifting dollar needs to add value to the recipient – the individual, their family, their village and ultimately their nation.

I’ve always felt that education, per se, is one of the most socially beneficial and efficient gifts we can can offer – but just as I point out to visitors that bringing felt tips from overseas is quite needless (you can get them cheaper in Siem Reap, and you support local enterprise) then Lori’s point about bringing in laptops is precisely the same.

Time for me to go back, have a think and to better develop my thinking around the gifting of capital items.  Thank you Lori.

Meanwhile, lest I cause any confusion, let me point out that the Laptops awarded to scholarship students last month were all purchased in Siem Reap – brand new, and I dare say at a price cheaper than you could find in Singapore. Win, win, win.