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Time does go by so fast when you do things that you like and are passionate about. Each day I learn something new and have different experiences! These past weeks I have been more or less following this routine. In the morning, I work in the office mainly on the newsletter , then I have lunch with the teachers at the Stung Meanchey school and in the afternoon I teach my third grade students. After school, I go to kick boxing classes or I go to play with the children in the orphanage; the energy required is the same, so by the end of the day I am definitely tired! We have also had various different activities. I took my class to the playground for sports time and even though the playground isn’t finished yet, we all had an amazing time and played lots of different games. Two weeks ago we went to the water park with the children of the orphanage and that was a great day too! One night we had pizza for dinner at the orphanage and all the children were lovely with their mouths and tummies full of some “italian love.” We also had a nice party with balloons, cake and music for the children of the orphanage who were born in July… Yes, they have monthly group birthday parties! The children love to have fun moments and I think it is important for them to play, dance and laugh, because these are healthy ways to distract oneself and learn how to keep a positive approach to life.
This weekend I am in Sihanoukville at the seaside for some rest before my last two weeks in Cambodia! My time here is almost over but I am sure I will still do and learn many things before I leave. Many thoughts about this experience are crossing my mind continuously… I will share them with you when they will be clearer!
Hello, I apologize for not having posted any news in such a long time. But I am doing million of things and time goes by so fast! I am really learning so many things every day by spending my time close to the teachers and the children… they are all wonderful people! I am getting to know their stories… some of the teachers have survived the khmer rouge regime and some have been through so much pain given their ages but they all believe profoundly in the importance of receiving an education and they work with huge passion! Some of the children are orphans and some don’t even know when they were born… all of them have lived in extremely poor conditions and are so grateful today for the help PIO is giving them and their families!
I am very busy with my 47 students of the grade 3 class I am teaching in but it is so rewarding just to see their smiles when they understand and learn more and more English. Yesterday, there were some visitors/donors at the SMC school and I felt so proud when some of them were able to have a fluent conversation in English. So terribly proud! Because it is not easy for them given that Khmer is a totally different language but to encourage them I am also trying to learn some Khmer and my accent makes them laugh a lot
I have also visited the country side and the Angkor temples and realized what Cambodia really looks like since Phnom Penh is a very big city, quite modernized and westernized compared to the rest of the country. The temples are breathtaking and so poetic but at the same time it is kind of said to think how such a powerful and rich kingdom has ended in deep poverty and corruption. The country side is still marked by the bombings of WWII, the land mines, and the civil war. I read somewhere that to be Cambodian means to be a descendant of a people that produced architectural masterpieces of the Angkor era which rival the achievements of any of the ancient nations but today the same people are “passive.” The one who survives is the one who is skillful at being deaf and blind. For what I have seen this is true for most of the older generations but I see a new hope and strength in the new generations… the children at PIO being a perfect example of this! There isn’t an explanation for what makes some countries powerful and others impoverished but there is always a solution to problems. It might take some time but I am positive about the fact that these children want to bring about change! And it’s great to give my little contribution to their education and to the cultivation of their dreams!
PS: We are working on PIO’s first newsletter! If you have any suggestions please feel free to contact me and if you want there to be anything special just tell me!
One week has gone by… settling in was not very easy but I am starting to feel more comfortable and productive! During the past days, I found myself thinking “will I be able to do this?” because I was feeling powerless in front of the many difficulties and problems these children and their families have to face everyday. I then understood that my efforts will help in any case and that it will take a lot time to solve this reality, but one should not give up. And I want to thank Jessica, Somaly (the director of PIO’s orphanage), and my mum for helping me to stop questioning my strength and will. I visited the three sites of the project and, although they are different from each other for location and organization, all the children and the staff are always smiling and welcoming you to share whatever they have…food, games, experiences… I have started teaching English in a grade 3 class at the Stung Mean Chey school. My students are very smart and they put a lot of effort in learning English as they all know well that it will be this skill will allow them to have good jobs in the future! Classes are useful for me too since I am getting to know the children, their backgrounds, and their dreams in first person and nothing could make me happier at the moment! Someone we all know quite well always says that, to fundraise, you have to know the basic needs and the issues first. And I hope to fully understand them thanks to these amazing children!
Event May 22, 2012
Brookville Country Club
I have been a Just World Ambassador since the 8th grade, so when it came time to do my Friends Academy Senior Independent Service Project (ISP), I immediately thought of Just World. In February, I had dinner with Jessica and asked her what she thought of the idea and she was all for it! In the beginning of March Carly Hitzig, one of my closest friends at Friends Academy, asked if she could chair the event with me. We had a lot of planning to do, but we had a lot of help. Jessica, Naomi, Caitlin and the Just World team helped us with ideas and approvals. Mrs. Hitzig and my mom were a huge help as well. We picked our date and checked with the Brookville Country Club to make sure they were able to accommodate as many people as we hoped to have, a dance floor, podiums and silent auction tables. Chris McCann worked on invitations, produced the cocktail hour fashion show, and managed the talent. Dina White helped us with the press and the speeches as well as posters and during the event handling. All in all it took us two solid months to create the event, but it was well worth it.
Carly and I created a Facebook page as a save the date event, which also served as a way to tell our friends about Just World International and what the organization does. Carly designed the bracelets as ‘entry’ tickets for the event, so when people paid for their ticket they got a Jump for Just World bracelet in the Just World colors. Chris and I designed the invitations, and Carly, myself and a bunch of volunteers including Carl Simpson addressed the invitations and mailed them out. Carly and I went to Brookville and worked on the menu and needs for the event including podium, dance floor, tables for the silent auction items, microphone, and monitors to show the JustWorld videos so people could see the benefit of the organization’s projects at the event. We contracted a DJ and worked with him on songs. We enlisted volunteers for check in the night of and to help us spread the word about the event. We were able to coordinate a celebrity guest from the Jersey Shore. Carly and I, with a lot of help from our moms, gathered thirty three silent auction items. After the posters for the event were created, Carly and I went through our school to post them and also put them up at local businesses around town. Carly and I worked with Dina on the press release and we were able to publish articles in the Glen Cove Record Pilot and Locust Valley Leader, as well as listed in the events calendar of every major news outlet on Long Island including News Channel 12’s Community Calendar. We sold our tickets in school and used social media to help our ticket sales. We chose the JustWorld colors of royal blue and purple for the table cloths and the flowers. We created spreadsheets of guest lists and auction items. 100% of our proceeds were donated to JustWorld.
The day of the event, we set up the silent auction items and took care of celebrity guest transportation and our final check list including helping set up the fashion show and making sure the menu, guest lists and layout was perfect. We had seven six foot tables to accommodate all our silent auction items. We put together the clipboards for each silent auction item. It took us six hours of set up the day of the event. The event ran from 6pm to 10pm and we had 160 people attend which was amazing! We raised over seven thousand dollars and more importantly raised awareness to how JustWorld International helps children in Guatemala, Honduras, and Cambodia, have a better chance at life. I visited JustWorld’s project partner, Los Patojos, in Guatemala and was really touched how much the program meant to those families. In our speeches, Carly shared that even though she had not been involved in JustWorld until this year, she was so touched by their mission, commitment and connection with the organization. We spent ten hours a week on the event for two months, which is more than the required commitment, but believe it was well worth it and feel really good about what we were able to accomplish. We are so lucky that JustWorld guided us so much and were so helpful every step of the way, to our parents and friends who were so enthusiastic in their support, to ‘The Unit’ who was an amazing celebrity guest and to Brookville Country Club who helped us create a fabulous evening for everyone.
Cambodia is amazing! Everybody I’ve met so far is so nice and welcoming and
they really smile with their hearts. Today I participated at the monthly
meeting of the teachers and the staff of PIO and although I didn’t
understand much (khmer is so hard… i can just say thank you for the
moment) it was useful to somehow understand how the organization works. The
new yellow building in Stung Mean Chey is very impressive and well
organized. I also visited the area where they are building a playground and
it was nice to see how the older kids wanted to help in the development.
I spent the afternoon at the orphanage playing with the kids and i have
no words to describe how amazing it was! They call me teacher and show a
respect for me that I have never received before from anyone… I was a bit
embarrassed because I didn’t know what to “teach” them but we did great with
singing and dancing! I will take this weekend to settle in properly, get
rid of the jet lag and visit the other sites. Starting next week I will
be in the office with Johnny, PIO’s project manager, to work on fundraising.
This is it for now! and its just the first day
Hope all of you are doing well.
When given the opportunity to take part in this trip we were expecting an experience much different than the one we had. Being ambassadors for JustWorld International, we never really looked past the headline of what we were fundraising for. Although we believed in the mission, we did not know enough about what exactly it was that we believed in. We went to Guatemala expecting to be faced with sad circumstances and stories, and although that is a factor, when we walked through the door of Los Patojos and felt the overwhelming gratitude and emotion from the children inside, we realized that it was something much more. There are children and families that have literally nothing in comparison to us and yet they are so happy and thankful for just being able to live, and they cherish every gift as a token of love. Another thing that really resinated within the group is that we were walking on streets that two years ago, we would not have been able to walk on, because of the negative influence in the community. So not only is Juan Pablo and Los Patojos helping the children in the project, but they are also reaching back to their families, neighborhoods and community to make it a better, safer place. Another thing we would like to recognize is the unfaltering hospitality of everyone involved in the trip. From Just World ambassador Juan Andres and the owners who lent us their horses to the family at Los Patojos and the Hotel Vista Real, all of the people who opened up their community to us really made the trip memorable (we didn’t want to go home!). The Guatemalan representatives of Just World International are passionate and focused, and their warmth and perseverance has had an inspiring impact on our lives. Maybe most important of all was the amazing group of Just World individuals that accompanied us on the trip. It is a truly amazing thing when like-minded and passionate strangers can come together for eight days and become life long friends. Thank-you everyone!
- JustWorld Ambassadors Sarah Abdi and Madison McDougall