March 2015 HVTO Newsletter
 
 
Summary
HVTO’s progress in the first quarter of 2014 has continued apace with the graduation of our first medical doctor from the education program as well as commitments for 11 additional sponsorships. This brings our total above the 100-student hurdle. This quarter saw the ground breaking for the new Viking-financed HVTO school building discussed in previous newsletters. We also now have 9 students in our recently opened dormitory in Siem Reap in which the support of the PEWT Family Trust has been so instrumental. The purchase of additional furniture and appliances for the dorm to prepare for 10-15 more students that will move in after the summer is another ongoing project. Finally, Patti Baker (Chairman of HTVO-USA) completed her month-long whirlwind Cambodia stay, meeting with governmental ministries and representatives from other NGOs in Phnom Penh, coordinating dorm activities, interviewing students and well diggers, and of course teaching English classes at the school.
 
 
EDUCATION
 
HVTO School
This past month saw the ground-breaking ceremony for the new HVTO School building that has been generously provided by Viking Cruises Corporation. Mr. Jan Krueger, a Viking hotel cruise manager and ardent personal supporter of HVTO, was named by Viking Cruises as the official representative for the 24-February ceremony. Jan has donated money for the HVTO community program, office supplies, books, and the operating fund and he also acts as a focal point for many of the donations that come from Viking guests. See the photos below.
Jan Kreuger distributing books donated by Viking guest ,Suzy-Jane Tanner, prior to the 24-February ground-breaking ceremony.
 
Jan and our founder, Sim Piseth, breaking ground for the new Viking-funded HVTO School.
 
Work is proceeding day and night (until 10 PM) to finish the heavy construction before the rainy season and rice planting begins in late May. In an example of the communal spirit shown in rural Cambodia, the village men and older male students are providing free manual labor towards the construction of the new school building. This has allowed us to save roughly 40% of the construction costs had only outside labor been utilized. When complete this building, which is adjacent to the existing school, will greatly reduce crowding in the classrooms and allow us to add about 235 English and 75 Computer students. These students now attend classes in shifts, with many coming in the evening. This generous donation from Viking Cruises Corporation will have a major positive impact on our ability to educate these kids. Again, many thanks to Viking for making this possible.
 
Student Sponsorship
In the last three months we have obtained sponsorship commitments, mostly through Viking and Studiosus tours, for an additional 11 students, bringing our total to 102 (98 of these active). Because these students are themselves teaching their younger friends, they are forming the foundation of a self-supporting educational system in this part of Cambodia. (See ‘Giving Back’ below.) In addition to ensuring the sustainability of the program, there is no better way to learn than to teach. This growth shows our many deserving but unsponsored students that with hard work an education and a better life is indeed with their reach.
 
Graduate News
HVTO has a new graduate, Meng Seakleng, who has successfully completed his studies in Medicine from the University of Health Science in Phnom Penh and his two years of residency work. Now a General Practitioner, Dr. Seakleng is now seeking work at the Siem Reap Children’s Hospital. After graduating from high school in 2006 he completed a Bachelor of Medical Science degree from the university in Phnom Penh. This was followed by his Master of Medical Science degree, which he completed at the end of 2014.
Because his father is the Sophy Village medical practitioner Seakleng was strongly drawn to medicine from an early age. However, such intensive training is expensive, not only for the university fees and books, but also living expenses, because these classes must be taken in Phnom Penh. To most families this is an insurmountable hurdle, but because Seakleng’s family has relatives in Phnom Penh the free rent greatly reduced his living expenses. He began his studies in 2006, but even with reduced expenses, by 2008 his family could no longer afford his board and university expenses. So Seakleng’s family decided to postpone his studies until they could afford to pay for them.
 
It was at this point that Dr. Filipe Barrios, an American doctor of Columbian extraction, came to the rescue. Because he found himself with a visa problem that kept him in Cambodia for an extra day, he decided to hire Sim Piseth for a one-day tour. In the course of the day he learned of Seakleng’s financial predicament, which it turns out was very similar to his own when he was in medical school. After meeting with his family and learning all of the details, he offered to pay for all of Seakleng’s tuition for his final three years of university as well as the following two years of internship. Thank you Dr. Barrios.
 
Seakleng now lives in Siem Reap and is in the process of opening a practice and getting on his financial feet. He is keen to open a free medical clinic in Sophy Village, possibly adjacent to the HVTO School, where he can begin to give back to his community. Maybe he’ll be able to show his dad a thing or two.
 
 
Sim Piseth (left), Seakleng Meng and his sponsor Dr. Felipe Barrios (center) Michael Padilla (right).
 
Meng Seaklin, who featured in our previous newsletter, is also in the news as she has secured a job as a teller with Mega Leasing Company, a micro-financing company based in Siem Reap that provides small loans. She graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Accounting last November, but until now has been unable to obtain work in her chosen field. The English skills acquired through HVTO helped her land a job as a cashier at the Lucky Supermarket, which has bridged her until now. Seaklin works full time, but continues to be active in HVTO on weekends and at the monthly meetings. Here she shares her job experiences with the younger children for whom she is an ideal role model.  
 
HVTO University Student Assistance (College Prep Program)
Most of our university students are able to live with friends or extended family while they attend university in Siem Reap, but many cannot. In the culmination of an initiative called the College Prep Program, HVTO has rented a home in Siem Reap that is now being utilized as a dormitory. Originally planned to house about 15 students, the home under lease can accommodate 35 and has a small room that is serving as the HVTO office. (Our previous office was two desks in the spare room of our founder’s home.) This will help take our students off dangerous streets, give them more study time, and bring them closer to employment possibilities in the Big City.
 
The initiation of this project was made possible through the efforts of Ross King, one of our most ardent supporters, who is the founder of the non-profit S.P.A.R.C.K. organization (Schooling Poor and Rural Cambodian Kids) in Canada - http://www.sparcks.org/. Through his connections in the U.K. Ross was able to secure a matchable grant from the PEWT Family Trust which, combined with the efforts of Patti Baker, president and founder of HTVO-USA, has enabled us to meet the match and raise about $25,000 for this project. Ross is working to make this a renewable grant and you can keep up with his efforts on behalf of HVTO at - https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gkMviEdUMnA
 
Patti has just returned from a 4-week trip to Cambodia, and while she was in Siem Reap she stayed in a hotel across the street from our dorm in order to help organize and coordinate the activities there. She is ensuring that we are ready for the influx of new students that will need to be housed in the dorm at the end of this semester. Patti also spent a number of days meeting in Phnom Penh with representatives from the U.S. Embassy, USAid/Cambodia, and various Cambodian Ministerial Offices. For part of the time she also stayed in the village to teach English classes and help gather information on our various programs by interviewing the sponsored students and HVTO well diggers. Patti also spent many hours with Sim and Seaknam advising and coordinating the Cambodia and U.S. fund raising efforts.  
 
Patti is seeking to purchase a large van in order to more safely transport our students to and from Sophy Village and the dorm in Siem Reap. The highway connecting the village with Siem Reap is notoriously dangerous. Because our university students are required to return to the village weekly to assist in HVTO educational programs, insuring a safer 60-kilometer commute is a major concern. HVTO sees education as much more than classroom work, and the interaction of our many young students with these older students, who are both role models and are able to bring first-hand accounts of life in the bigger world, is critical to our success.  
 
 
Patti Baker, Chairman of HTVO-USA, interviewing Yin Sinan during her recent trip to Cambodia.
 
Giving Back
In yet another demonstration of the community spirit that is the bedrock of rural Cambodian life,  we have several older students that deserve special mention. Pon Solim, You Vakhim, Sras O, Lae Soklay, Chhea Makara, Savis Chorvan, Moeung Kunthea and Dy Mi are all voluntarily teaching English classes to younger students from their homes in the village. Using HVTO whiteboards, markers, furniture and lesson plans, the most ambitious of these is Dy Mi who is teaching over one hundred 4 to10 year-old students. Moeung Kunthea is typical of most of the other student teachers with 5-10 young children attending on any given day. More than anything else, it is this desire to give back that will ensure that HVTO programs will become self-sustaining.
 
An outstanding HVTO student-teacher is Dy Mi who is teaching many children in Pong Ro village.
 
 
Moeung Kunthea, like several other older HVTO students, is voluntarily teaching from her home in Sophy Village.
 
CLEAN WATER
 
Since 2008 HVTO has provided a total of 347 water wells to rural Cambodian families that would not otherwise be able to afford clean water. We have completed all ten villages in Kontreang Commune and are nearing completion of Rumdeng Village in neighboring Khar Pur Commune, in the process bringing clean water to nearly 2,500 people. Once Rumdeng is finished our efforts will move to the needy families in neighboring Chhup Village.  A recent article, made possible by the interviews carried out by Patti Baker above, describes how HVTO organizes the drilling of water wells and why we use local village men. It can be found on our website at the following link: http://hvto.org/hvto-project/clean-water/meet-the-hvto-water-well-installers.html. Through this article, and the stories told of these men and their families, it is possible to get an unvarnished glimpse of life in rural Cambodia.  
Two of HVTO’s most stalwart supporters in the drilling of water wells have been Germaine Artiss and Maria Scotti, teachers at Rosemere High School in Quebec, Canada. As Viking Cruise passengers in July 2013 they visited the HVTO center and on returning home discussed with school administrators, teachers, parents and students ideas for helping the Cambodian community through HVTO. Through their efforts, and those of like-minded people, they raised $3,771 which saw the drilling of 21 water wells in late 2013 for the people of Kontreang, Angkrong, and Tropeang Thnal Villages, which can be seen in the following video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KLdEpMU08vY. They then in the following year, again through Rosemere High School, raised an additional $3,206 for 18 water wells for the people of Rumdeng Village which can be seen in this video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9IDLaEuRblk.
The HVTO community is eternally grateful for the generous support of Artiss and Maria and all of their wonderful students and colleagues at Rosemere High School. Their work has provided the gift of clean drinking water to over 200 poor villagers that otherwise would not have it. We thank you from the bottom of our hearts. It is not possible to show photographs of all of their sponsored wells, but this one (HVTO well #267) for the Plouk Yi family from Angkrong Village in Kontreang Commune is typical. See below. The photographs provided to all donors of water wells show members of the receiving family. Because most of the men and many of the women have jobs all day or are at work in the fields during daylight hours, we often can catch only some of the children and a grandparent or two in our photographs.
 
 
Support
Having seen our work first-hand, Viking and Studiosus tour groups are HVTO’s main source of support. Living all over the world, with the aid of modern technology, former guests not only help financially, but also provide administrative assistance. This has been a great help to our founder Sim Piseth who, in addition to his many HVTO responsibilities, is a full-time tour guide that must be away for extended periods of time.
 
Patti Baker, a former Viking guest, is the chairman of Homestay Teachers Volunteer Organization, Inc., a 501c3 (charitable) organization incorporated in Florida to provide tax relief to US citizens that fund HVTO in Cambodia. This NGO simplifies money transfers as well as providing a vehicle for access to larger grants that can have a major impact on reaching goals. She is in need of volunteers to help continue the HTVO-USA work, so if you are interested, all that’s needed is access to a computer and the ability to use the internet. To learn more please visit the website at: http://www.hvto.org/about-us/hvto-contacts-in-usa.html or call Patti directly at 239-682-0067.
If you would like to provide HVTO with financial help, here is a brief cost summary:
 
Water wells:
$200 (A plaque similar to that pictured above is an additional $25.)
Donors receive a photograph of the completed well with information on name, size and location of the family for whom the well was drilled.
 
Sponsorships:
Below are the all-inclusive costs for student sponsorship.
 
Grades 1-9:           $270 per year
Grades 10-12:       $400 per year
University:            $550 per year
 
If you are interested in providing a sponsorship to one of our students, we have a list of deserving candidates that we can send from which you can choose.
 
 
In addition to sponsorships and water wells HVTO has a number of ‘one-off’ needs, including a refrigerator and water cooler for our dormitory in Siem Reap.
 
 
Children of all ages attend the HVTO School, beginning with introductory English classes, such as this Grade 5 Class.
 
Again, thank you for reading about our continuing story and we hope that you share our pride in HVTO’s accomplishments.
 
 
 
          Sim Piseth                                                                                      Seaknam Meng
        HVTO Founder                                                                          HVTO General Manager
 
 
 
 
 
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