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Visit SOID.

Posted: 26 august 2011

Loonbeek. Belgium As promised, here is a report of our last visit to Soid. We have been home now for a week, and have more or less recovered from the trip and its aftermath. Here is the news that you have every right to expect from us... How can I put into words how we experienced our visit? How can I let you feel what we felt? I will try my best; it was such a memorable trip again!

On Tuesday, 27 July we arrived in Siem Reap - after a journey of 26 hours. It felt like "coming home" again. Funny to feel that way, in a country on the other side of the world, where everything is so very different than in our tiny, little Belgium. And yet this is our second home. Not least to those who wait for us in Siem Reap. And they were definitely expecting us! When Vanna wrote that he was pleased that we were coming, his words seemed dry and meaningless at first, but when you see his face and just his whole person sees when you arrive, it is unmistakable: HE IS EXTREMELY HAPPY! Like a Jack-in-the-Box, he jumped from the lobby of the Golden Temple Hotel on to the street where he had seen us climb out of the car. Vanna was beaming ... and so were we! "You look the same, Martine!" "I am the same, Vanna, only one year older ... but still: the same!" We had looked forward to seeing everyone again so much and, of course, that began with Vanna’s warm welcome. By the time we arrived, it was too late to visit the school. School was already out. But that was, of course, first on the schedule for the next day. So we went to the orphanage where we handed out gifts to Pech and Rachna. Gifts from their respective foster parents from Belgium. You should have seen their faces. Of course, there were also gifts for the other orphans, as well as a little something for the others including Han – the babysitter. It was a celebration to see each other again. The orphanage looked good. And, thanks to the Scouts of Saint-Jean Heverlee, it was decorated with beautiful sayings on the wall and a concrete little "square" was built. It looked great.

After a good night's sleep (and boy did we sleep after such a trip...) it was time for a great reception at the school. The gates opened and everyone was on the playground: students and teachers holding a big sign with a welcome note written in large letters. Then they sang for us. We felt like a "king and queen" being welcomed with great honor - but also very affectionately! Then everyone went back to class and we were shown around to see the renovated school. Everything looked so neat and sturdy. We were so proud of this school, of these kids: they are what we do it for. Everyone looked so happy. Meanwhile, Vanna named us "Parents of Soid". A great honor, but also with large consequences; as parents, you're parents forever! And parents do everything for their children, right? The children now call us "grandma and grandpa". I'm still not entirely sure whether we should consider this a compliment... Well, of course we do when we look at the in Cambodian sense of the word, because Cambodians are very respectful of the elders of their families.

On the playground there are even more swings now and they do not have to be brought inside with muddy feet after a rain shower anymore because the playground is now paved with concrete. This is all thanks to the Scouts who sponsored this project. There was also a new classroom: Thay Thea’s hairdresser’s classroom. Here he cuts the hair of fellow students. He was pleased to give us a demonstration. Pania, the boy in the barber chair, didn’t seem to be in his element though... The tools available to our young hairdresser-in-training were not of the best quality and had to be replaced. Vanna ordered them from Phnom Penh so Thay Thea should be making use of them by now.

The library and the play room looked very neat. I was curious to see if everything was still there that I bought last year, so I opened the cabinet. As I was organizing the area a little, all of a sudden a gigantic spider appeared in front of my face. The monster was hiding behind boxes against the back of the cabinet and seemed to smile at me ... I practically jumped into Vanna's arms. "What?? What??" "Look, there, a spider!!!!" It was no big deal to Vanna (it wasn’t a spider, according to him, but it looked like huge monster to me). Without any fear, he took the animal out of the closet and gave it back its freedom. Ok, that was that... Later, when I unpacked all the toys I brought with me, there wasn’t enough room to put them away. So I decided to buy a second cabinet. There was just enough room for it in the classroom. We went back to the same shop as last year and the tuktuk immediately delivered the new cabinet to the school. The Kmer class also really needed a new chalkboard so we bought that as well in one go. We also covered the floor of the play room with large soft puzzle pieces, which are nice to sit on. The children could contain their delight. Especially when we tried out the new toys with them: Legos, marbles, a doll house (they couldn’t believe their eyes), baby dolls... too many toys to mention! It is it such a pleasure to give gifts (so much more fun than receiving them!) If you see how these children live, you’ll understand why Vanna says that the children prefer to stay at school longer to play than to go home ... For these children, the Veal Village School is not only a place where they learn new things, it is also a home where it's fun to be, to play together with things they only dream of at home! So it becomes even more important for us to keep this little project running. If you could see what a difference this makes to these children. Not just for their future but right now! It's good to see again how valuable this little project is. It gave us such a good feeling and tons of energy to keep working hard for Soid’s future.

After the new cabinet had been there for a few days, I again had the bright idea to open it to see if room had been made for the new things. When I squatted down and pulled open the door, there was a magnificent specimen of a frog waiting to be liberated. I jumped back into Vanna's arms again. The man was puzzled by my skittish behavior! The kids thought it was hilarious. One of the kids came to my rescue and grabbed the animal from under his feet. Vanna said they usually take such a catch back home (in their pocket), and have it for dinner...

The sewing class is also doing a good job. Chando, the teacher, is very good at what she does. The class showed us some of their nearly finished blouses. Children – girls only so far – who have English lessons or mathematics in the afternoon, also have the opportunity to learn to make clothes here. Patterns are drawn on and cut out of newspaper. Then the real work starts: the cutting and sewing. The finished products are handed out to the students of the school. Together with Vanna and Chando, we bought material for the sewing class at the market. But soon into the purchasing process, Vanna sent us away... With us around, he wasn’t able to get a good deal at the market. It’s good to see that although he receives money from us to buy things with, the money is not thrown around. After all, money does not grow on trees.

This trip we bought a lot of rice, enough for the rest of the year. $ 2,800 for 100 bags. This is slightly cheaper than last year. The rice, together with the sugar and salt we hand out, is still an important part of the project. Without these food packages, the children simply could not attend school. Since early 2011, the poorest children in the school are also fed breakfast. What is also new is the weekly fruit day at school. Each child receives a piece of seasonal fruit on Friday. Fruit is never eaten at home. This will cost about $ 150 each month, but we dare to hope that we will have enough budget for this.

At the teachers request, I organized another "educational seminar". The mathematics materials I brought last year needed some extra attention. And just like the kids, the teachers are also very eager to learn. Mental arithmetics and knowledge of numbers are not their strongest point. Although some children know their tables better than our Flemish children do…

One day, we treated the kids to watermelon. In our – spoiled - eyes, watermelon is nothing special, but when you saw these kids eat it, it made you want some too! It would have been a great commercial for fruit. Some children came back to school in the afternoon just for a piece of watermelon (usually they come for a half day, 140 children do not fit into this school at the same time). Unbelievable, isn’t it? And when we offered the children in the village an ice cream, the fences were down. A heavy downpour came and cooled things off somewhat, but it couldn’t spoil their fun and enjoyment. This ice cream tasted better than the biggest and best ice cream in a fancy ice cream parlor! The simple pleasures in life...

But all good things come to an end. Our week at school was over before we knew it. We had to go again. A party was organized, also for Kat, a British volunteer who spent one week at the school. There was music and we danced! Everyone had such fun... And then everyone got a present to take home: a bag with a bottle of water, fruit and some sweets. Everyone happy... then it came time to say goodbye again. The children wished us a safe return, expressed their gratitude and hoped that we will be back next year. AND WE HOPE SO TOO!

In the autumn, we will show pictures from this trip at our third information evening and the scouts will speak about their wonderful work. The date has not been set yet.

So, I hope that my mission was accomplished. I hope you feel as proud of Soid as we are. Know that this project could not do what it does without your loyal support! On behalf of the children of Soid and in the name of the teachers and Vanna: THANK YOU VERY MUCH!

Martine and Jaak

Hieronder een paar fotos. Meer fotos op flikr

Scouts Netjes in rij op de speelplaats

Scouts Rachna en Pech zijn blij met de geschenkjes van hun pleegouders

Scouts Martine en Vanna in het speelklasje

Scouts En de kinderen zien er ook vrolijk uit !

Scouts Lunch met de leerkrachten en Cat

Scouts Kast gekocht en onmiddellijk getransporteerd met de tuk-tuk

Scouts Martine geeft les aan de leerkrachten

Scouts 100 zakken rijst gekocht

Scouts In het dorp staan alle kinderen klaar voor een ijsje

Scouts En dan is het zover ....

Scouts En smullen maar ....

Scouts In het regenseizoen ligt het dorp er nog slechter bij

Scouts Lekkere watermeloen

Scouts Wat een verschil !

Scouts Heerlijke drukte in het speelklasje

Scouts Thay Thea heeft een slachtoffer gevonden, in dit geval Pania.

Scouts Big party