A word from our chair
“Dear friends of Cambodian Kids Can,
In March this year, I again had the absolute privilege of visiting our projects in Cambodia.
In between meeting up with our young women studying at various universities in Phnom Penh, travelling to Prey Veng to meet with everyone at Mekhala House as well as staff and some students at Mekhala Learning Centre, I also spent time connecting with like-minded NGO’s to share experiences and expand our Cambodian networks.
And due to rather fortuitous timing, I was lucky enough to be able to attend the wedding of Phally, one of the first intake of girls to Mekhala House in 2005.
Both of Phally’s parents passed away when she was only six years old, and whilst she was taken in by an auntie, she was forced to work in the fields rather than attend school. Remarkably, as a result of moving into Mekhala House, Phally is now in her final year of an accounting degree at Kam Chai Meah university, having passed all her subjects and in the process of completing her final paper.
What an exciting future this young lady now has ahead of her, commencing her married life as well as embarking on a rewarding career in accounting!
Without YOUR support over past years, none of this would have been possible. As always, thank you!
We look forward to catching up with you all at our upcoming Annual Gala Dinner on June 22, 2018.
A word from our girls: Meet Srey Euy
“Hello! My name is Sok SreyEuy. I am 16 years old and I study in grade 8. I have 3 sisters. I am the youngest. We have lived in Mekhala House since 2011. Now my oldest sister is a tailor. After she finished vocational training, supported by Mekhala House, she has her own shop in our homeland. My older sister is living in Mekhala House with me. She is in year 12 now. I wish she will be able to attend university next year. Before we came here, we lived with our relative in very hard conditions. We had no chance to get education as the other girls in our village. Since we were sent to live in Mekhala House, we have chances to study both general knowledge and skills. In the future, I dream to be a teacher of English because I would like to share my knowledge to the other and help them out of illiteracy.
Today I would like to share my idea about Khmer New Year in Cambodia to all of you. In Cambodia, we celebrate Khmer New Year on 13th or 14th of April every year but this year is on 14th . There are 3 days for the celebration. The purpose of this celebration is to welcome New Year angel and the angel will bless us to be healthy, strongly, happy and longevity, especially, successful all the work. Before 13th or 14th people decorate their houses and prepare flowers, candles, incense and fruit to welcome the New Year Angel. During Khmer New Year, people bring food and sweet to serve monks at the pagoda to make merit to their ancestors and relatives who pass away. Most people who always work and live far away from their house pack their bags and head out to their homeland to celebrate Khmer New Year with member of the family. Usually, they meet each other only two time a year, Khmer New Year and Pchum Ben Festival.
In the villages and pagodas, people play Khmer traditional games, such as: Boss Ankunh, Teanh Prort, Choa Chhong…and dancing. The last day, people always bath the Buddha, monks, parents or older people. The purpose is to apology for any mistakes from the previous year.
Finally, I would like to say thank you very much to our donors and supporters who always sponsor and help Mekhala House. I need your support to achieve my goals. Thank you.”
A word from our staff: Meet Mey
“Hello! My name is Mey. I have worked for Mekhala House since 2009. First, I was a volunteer translating for two Board Members, for their first visit Mekhala House. After that I was given an opportunity to be a part time English teacher for Mekhala House girls. I like that job very much and I also wanted to work as a full time staff. I think that Mekhala House is a good project which helps the poor; especially this project providing education for the girls. Soon after I was given another chance to be full time staff. I was very happy because I can involve helping the poor girls to achieve their goals. Mekhala House not only provides them the education, but also love, safe place to stay, proper clothes to wear and enough school materials as the other children. As a result, two girls graduated and have good jobs in Phnom Penh. In addition, 11 girls are studying in University. Besides, the education, this project also focuses on Vocational Training which gives good opportunity to the girls who are not doing as well at school, thus there are also two girls who have finished vocational skills training in sewing and cooking.
Finally, I would like to say deep thanks to our donors, supporters and Australian Board members, who are always caring, hard working and sponsor this project. Without your help and support I do not know what we would do. So I am grateful and I never forget for all your kindness.
Wish you all the best and success all your work. Thank you so much”
A word from our supporters: Meet Mark
“Theara was one of the first girls to have lived at Mekhala House and, from when she arrived in 2005, has been a leader and inspiration to the other girls. She was a quiet young woman who commanded respect through her actions and values. At Mekhala House she was elected to be the leader to represent the girls, a role which didn’t come naturally to her, but which she grew into over time. In 2012 Theara passed her Year 12 exams and was the first to secure a position at a university in Phnom Penh. It was then no surprise that she adjusted to life in Phnom Penh, studied hard and, four years later, successfully completed her marketing degree.
On a recent trip, I caught up with Theara and nine other girls at a restaurant in Phnom Penh. It has been nearly 18 months since my last visit to Cambodia. During this time many girls had passed their Year 12 exams and begun studying in Phnom Penh. Some of the older girls had finished their university studies and were now working. Therefore, I was curious to see how they were adapting and, most importantly, whether the investment in education made by donors in Australia, the Board of CKC, the staff in Cambodia and, most importantly, the girls themselves were paying off and delivering long term, sustainable and impactful outcomes.
Enabling the girls to access education and realise their own ambitions in life, unconstrained by poverty is the main objective for everyone involved with CKC. For poor, uneducated girls from a village the only realistic options are either a life working in the rice fields or in the garment factories. While recently there has been an increase in wages for garment factory workers to over $150 per month, this work is characterised by long hours, oppressive conditions, little free time for socialising and frequent sexual harassment at work. This is not a career of choice. The girls at CKC know this and it is one of the drivers of their ambition.
I made sure I spoke to everyone to hear their latest stories. Overwhelmingly, they spoke of their dedication and hard work to make the most of the opportunity they had been given. There were the usual complaints you hear from university students – some subjects being difficult or a bit boring, the tedium of having to cook for themselves after studying all day. However, this was more than compensated at the excitement of being in a big city with its new experiences and knowing they were working hard to secure their own future.
I asked Theara about what she is doing now, and her story really demonstrates how CKC’s investment has led to dramatic and measurable outcomes. After completing her marketing degree, Theara secured a job with Vital, a supplier of bottled drinking water in Cambodia. She spoke of her passion for the job, the friendships she has developed through it and how much she enjoys visiting various clients and participating in promotional events. The shy girl who arrived at Mekhala House is now a confident young woman with a wicked sense of humour, easily mixing with people from all areas of life and in control of her destiny.
These outcomes are worth celebrating on their own. But it is in terms of income earning potential where the most measurable benefits are seen. Theara’s dedication to her work has already resulted in several promotions and pay increases. She now earns almost $300 per month, about double the maximum she could earn in a lifetime as a garment factory worker – and this is only two years into her career. Theara is well and truly on the path to Cambodia’s emerging middle class, with its resulting comforts and rewards.
Over her lifetime, the additional income that Theara can expect to earn over and above a life as a garment factory worker will be many multiples of the cost to support her at Mekhala House. In a world obsessed with achieving returns on investment, this seems like a very good result – and a compelling reason to continue supporting CKC.”
Meet Cambodian Association Victoria
“The Cambodian Association of Victoria (CAV) agreed to enter into a Memorandum of Understanding with CKC. CAV will support Mekhala House alumni who are undertaking university studies at various Phnom Penh-based universities, by providing a single residence for the girls. Living together will assist these young ladies to integrate into city life after spending their school years in rural Prey Veng.
CAV has consistently delivered excellent welfare services to the Cambodian community of Victoria since 1985. This has included assisting Cambodian families migrating to Australia, and also very importantly supporting Cambodian university graduates who have won Australian Government scholarships to undertake Masters or PhD studies in Melbourne.
At the same time, CAV has previously supported university students from poor backgrounds in Phnom Penh as they undertake tertiary studies in that city, and CAV now desires to continue this form of support in conjunction with CKC.
At a recent Poor Students Relief Fund Raising Event conducted in Springvale by CAV, Mr Youhorn Chea, President of CAV, presented a cheque to CKC Chair, Patrick Arthur, for $5,000.
CKC now look forward to working closely with CAV to help Cambodia continue to build its economy and enhance the welfare of those experiencing disadvantage.”
Vale: Carla Miller
“Carla Miller, one of CKC longest and staunchest supporters passed away in March after a short battle with cancer. As an ex-teacher, Carla always had a belief in the power of education to change and improve lives. She was the most amazing and dedicated supporter almost since the beginning of the project 12 years ago. Carla sponsored two girls through university, volunteered with the administration of the membership database and went over to Mekhala House each year to run an English camp with the girls for two weeks at a time.
At her memorial service, Carla requested that no flowers be sent and instead, that money be donated to Mekhala House in her memory. This generous gesture raised $5,200 which is enough to fund one girl at Mekhala House for three years.
Carla was greatly loved by all of the staff and Mekhala House girls and she never hesitated to get on the phone and chew a board member’s ear off if she thought we were lacking in our duty to the children…. Carla will be a great loss in her devotion to the girls, their well-being and her fierce determination that they should have better lives.
You will be sorely missed, our darling, wonderful, sometimes infuriating but always beloved by us all, Carla Miller”
Our recent events:
International Women’s Day Dinner
“On Thursday 8th March, friends of Cambodian Kids Can came together for our annual International Women’s Day celebration.
This year’s theme, Push for Progress, meant a lot to all of us at CKC. At CKC we push for progress so that more than 38% of the population complete secondary school. We push for progress so that 50% of the population in Prey Veng no longer have to live in poverty. And we push for progress so that the girls we support can continue to break the cycle and lift themselves and their communities out of poverty.
Thank you to all those who pushed for progress by attending our IWD celebration, to former Board member, Rebecca Dabbs for her moving speech and to Blossom Thai for hosting us.”
Dates for the diary
Join us for an intimate International Women’s Day Dinner
Don’t miss the biggest event on the CKC calendar…
…Our Annual Gala Dinner!
Friday June 22nd
6:30pm for a 7pm start
Don’t miss this opportunity to dress to impress, indulge in delicious food, win some top notch prizes and tear up the dance floor- all while empowering young women in rural Cambodia to change their future through education.
Tickets available here