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Where are all the bicycles?

It’s been 3 years since I was last here in Siem Reap and I was expecting more tourists, more hotels and restaurants, but what I wasn’t expecting to see were less bicycles. There does seem an ever larger circle of expats, who are cycling but anything with an engine is by far the most preferred mode of transport.

I’m all for self-promotion and I guess that’s what we’re striving to achieve with HOPE, but I’m hugely disappointed that the serene calmness of Siem Reap has been replaced by noisy polluting vehicles honking their horns all over the place. It used to be a running joke when people saw me walking everywhere they would say “only poor people walk, those that have enough to own a bicycle own a bicycle, those who can afford a moto own a moto, those that afford a 4X4 own a 4X4”. Well I guess this is all part of the changing face of social mobility in Cambodia!

This is not the only change, and in terms of HOPE things are also on the move. The majority of children at Sangkheum Center have joined the young adult programme and live in a satellite house in town, either that or graduated from the programme altogether to lead sustainable independent lives. The younger children have been placed with family members in an increasing positive effort to keep children out of institutions and in a family environment.

The residential site that many of you would’ve seen or read about has now closed and the children’s support will go through a new locally based NGO called CCFO. They still have support and funds from Sangkheum’s Italian founders Progretti Continenti. We shall be continuing to fund this programme too.

The young adults in the programme now are the smiley, polite, playful children I used to see coming home from school while I was teaching the older ones. If ever they saw me they would always stop and greet me with a huge smile and a polite sompov with a “J’romp Sor”.

Meeting these children as young adults in their work places this week has made me incredibly proud, and most of all happy. When Tanya and I first set up HOPE, the one thing we couldn’t do was walk away and not know where these kids were going to end up. I am delighted to see how they have grown and harnessed the opportunities that have been given to them.

Successful young adult working as an admin assistant with CCFO mangager.

Unfortunately, not all have turned out the way we would’ve hoped and some have fallen along the way. It’s hard to hear some of the stories, but I’m still optimistic they will turn things around. It’s only a small percentage and there is time for them to come good.

Salariian Kampuchea have also changed their structure and will no longer be running their Life Skills programme. They have taken their vocational training one step further and have opened a hospitality training school on site. We hope to still be able to support their scholarship programme to allow students to study at the school.

This Life Cambodia continue their great work and inreasingly grow their commitments. We have extended our comitment for another year and have provided funds for their intern programme.

Despite our annual commitments we sometimes like to make ad hoc donations to organisations we see are working hard to make change and this year we decided to make a small contribution to the Women’s Resource Centre. An old familiar face runs the show there and we know she would be working hard to make great things happen.

This weekend we’ve enjoyied Khmer new year celebrations and it was a pleasure to see all generations enjoying the revelries. This year it wasn’t just your average tradional foods and monk blessings, this year I saw a whole different side of celebration as the streets were filled with water guns, water pistols, water bombs, buckets, bowls of water and talcum powder thrown at each other and the clean up still continues three days after.

Here’s wishing you all a very happy new year of the rooster!

Posted in Diary.