There is a lot of activity at the school at the moment and I have to add a LOT of excitement – so many great things are about to happen for our 80 students who a year ago didn’t even have the school! The building work is coming on nicely now that the rice season is almost over. The struts for the roof are going on, the floor has been levelled inside and the terrace is being built.
The roof with overhang, so the terrace area is in the shade and also will keep the heavy downpours in rainy season away from the open doors and windows. The windows will always be open during the day for the simple fact there is no glass, just bars for security and at night there are wooden shutters which will be bolted and locked. It is too hot all year round to have closed windows.
The students are busy making bottle bricks for the environmentally friendly toilet and wash room we’re going to build. The bottle bricks are made from old water bottles stuffed with all the non-biodegradable waste such as carrier bags – this means we can clean up the litter in the village and show everyone a new way to recycle waste. Plastic and polystyrene is a big problem in Cambodia as it is cheap and useful but it is new to their way of life and as there is no way to dispose of it, it just gets blown around the country causing a whole new set of problems. Our bottle brick building will hopefully encourage other villages to follow suit and put their waste to good use, as well as provide better hygiene facilities and therefore improve health as well.
The other reason there is great excitement is because we have decided to increase the student numbers and invite younger brothers and sisters to come and join us. This will provide a number of excellent opportunities for youngsters who otherwise may never go to school but also will free up their older siblings who would normally not be able to come to school because they are supposed to be looking after them. Children as young as 12 have sole care of siblings when their parents leave the village to go and work in Thailand.
One of the reasons we chose this village for a school is to try and stop people being forced to break up their family by offering practical skills and creative learning so they can help themselves find local work, rather than unskilled factory work in Thailand. The sad truth is that many who leave for Thailand never come back either because they were unwittingly been trafficked or they can’t get back over the border. All Cambodians lost their identity papers during the Khmer Rouge regime so a passport is impossible – this means they cross over to Thailand illegally and have to pay heavy bribes. Sadly, getting back can cost more than they can afford, and even if they can it would mean only coming home once or twice a year for religious festivals.