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Newsletter february 2012

Posted: 24 february 2012

Sittard. Netherlands

From 24 January – 11 February 2012 we (Wim and Gertie Dohmen) have visited SOID in Siem Reap, Cambodia, in order to discuss a number of topics with SOID’s director Sok Vanna and to arrange a number of matters. We have also visited SOID’s Veal Village School a number of times (handing out ice cream and other delicious things!) and we have cooked dinner twice in the orphanage of SOID. Moreover we have had meetings and discussions with volunteers, sponsors and other people. We have also visited a number of other NGO’s.

The main purpose of our visit was to investigate possibilities for building a new school for SOID. Before we left, we had consulted with Martine and Jaak, two fellow members of the SOID Board. The investigation has been quite a job, but it was well worth the effort!

Since the creation of SOID in 2006, the teaching has been done in plain buildings made of wood and bamboo. The disadvantages of these primitive small buildings are obvious: they require quite some maintenance, from time to time rain water shows up in the school, and the noise nuisance between the classrooms is considerable. We have never really complained about this, because children and sponsors were happy that teaching was done at all.

Now, however, we had a number of reasons to reflect once more on the school building:

  • In Spring 2014 the lease contract for the land on which the school is since 2009 will expire. Extension of the contract and at what conditions are uncertain.
  • The land of the school is in an area where building is prohibited. When the present school was built in 2009 on its present location, the local government turned a blind eye to it since in view of the simple construction they considered the building as a temporary one. When in the past few years it was necessary to build for example a stone wall, this was done literally by night in order not to attract the attention of inspectors. The ban on building prevents us from installing a number of useful facilities, like a toilet building.

First we have looked for suitable land. Initially, our approach was based on the assumption that we might get land for free. That is commonly done when a charity offers to build a school for a poor community. At our request Mr. Vanna has seen the village elder and we have had meetings with the director of the state school of Veal Village, and also with NGO’s in Siem Reap. Soon it became clear that free land is an illusion in the Siem Reap region because of the high demand for land for building hotels. Buying of land also turned out to be a problem. Land in the area where the new school should be built (i.e. near the old school) costs about Euro 115 per m2. We need some 600 m2, which means that we would have to pay about Euro 70.000. That we find too much.

In the end we decided to look for land that could be rented for a long term. After a number of unsuccessful attempts, in the end Mr. Vanna succeeded in finding a plot using his network. The site is located near the existing SOID school and we can rent it for 10 years , at a cost per m2 that is equal to the rent that we pay at present. The land is in an area where there are no restrictions on building

We have visited the site and when we realised that this was a stroke of luck, we did not hesitate to tell the land owner that we wanted to rent the land. In the days that followed the lease contract was completed.

We are very glad to report that on 23 February 2012 the lease contract was signed. With this done, the way is free for building a new school for SOID.

In Cambodia, we ourselves together with Mr. Vanna had made a design for the school. We want to build a school with 8 rooms, all ground level. In these rooms there will be three classrooms (Level 1, 2 and 3), a small library, a kindergarten, a computer / sewing class, an office / storage room, and a community room for people from the village. Moreover we want to build a small building with 2 toilets, 2 showers and a big washbasin with taps. We will also have to drill for water and install an electrically driven pump. De whole plot will be fenced. Based on this design, we have determined a suitable lay-out for the plot, and at our request a local building company has made a cost estimate for the project. It is expected that once we start building, it will take about three months to complete the work.

In the lay-out of the site we have taken into account that in the future we may also have to build a small orphanage. SOID’s existing orphanage has been rented for an indefinite time, but the contract can be cancelled by either party without notice period. This is not ideal, but finding a solution for the school is at the present time our highest priority.

Part of the funding of the building project is available now. As soon as we start building, a considerable amount of money will be transferred to Cambodia. For this reason we will first set up a foundation in The Netherlands (SOID Netherlands). We will apply for an official tax status for the foundation from the Dutch tax authorities. This should make it possible for private persons and companies to receive tax credits when donating to the foundation. We will defer the actual start of the building until this tax status has been granted. This may take a few months and we would have liked to avoid the delay, but the financial advantage of doing this is such that we feel we should take the time that is needed.

You will understand that we ourselves, the other members of the Board, SOID’s director Sok Vanna, and the staff and children in Cambodia are all very happy and exited about the building of a new school!

Wim en Gertie Dohmen

Wim Computer lesson

Wim Handing out at school

Wim

Wim

Wim Ice-cream !!!

Wim Buying on the market for dinner in orphanage

Wim In the kitchen in the orphanage

Wim Joint dinner

Wim The orphans, their care-giver and Mr. Vanna

Wim Mr. Vanna and Gertie on the site of the future new school