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May 26, 2015

Dear friends and partners,

This past week we had a special visitor – Andre Leu has worked for 40 years in the development world and has visited development and agriculture projects throughout the world. Andre speaks in almost every country and addresses the UN on various development issues. With this kind of resume, we were not sure what to expect. What a delight to meet a humble and gentle soul – one who has seen much and done much. For myself it was a delight to speak with someone who understood what we were doing without a lengthy explanation.

Andre was fascinated by our savings program – a program that impacts the way the poor look at themselves and look at how to achieve simple but positive goals. He interviewed a number of families from various project areas – what was life like before Tabitha and savings and what was it like now. I would like to share just one family’s journey.

 

May 2015

Dear Friends and partners,

It is that time of year when schools in the region have received their final school calendar – why is that so important? It is important for us at Tabitha so that house building teams can send us their dates for next year’s build and we can plan accordingly. House building involves young people, middle aged people and the older, young at heart folks coming from all parts of the world to help build houses for families who may not get a house without their help. The impact of the houses on our families is immense. In Cambodia people believe that to die in their home will ensure a safe passage to the next life.

A few years ago, a team came and built for some of our families. At the end of house building we have a simple ceremony handing the houses over to the families. It is a time when we are reminded what a gift these families have given to us - the volunteers. It is the gift of a privilege – the privilege of sharing but a small part of our lives with our families here. We need to be reminded of this as often we come with the belief that we somehow  we have a right to do this – that we are entitled to not only build but to be treated as special people simply because we came. It is our time in this small ceremony to thank the families for allowing us to come and to help finish a small home.

    

March 26, 2015

Dear friends and partners,

Today is not a great day for me – today I am so very angry at our manager in Kompong Speu. I am angry because of his passion for the people he works with – I am angry because he broke the rules and installed 48 ponds without talking to us; without asking if the funds were there. I am angry because I saw the results of his work yesterday and in my heart I understand why he did this but angry that he would put Tabitha in a position that we are not able to pay for the work done by the contractor.

I am angry because yet again the passion of our staff for the people they work with, overrode their responsibility to us as an organization – putting pressure on me that I don’t want yet I love the results. His excuse for doing this was something I truly understood – the roads to his villages are at best passable – at their worst – bone jarring hours to cover but 20 kilometers.  The contractor would not bring his machine out on these horrible roads without ample reason to dig ponds – obviously doing 48 ponds was enough incentive. It is the dry season as well so the machine would not get stuck in muddy fields. All legitimate reasons.

         

 

January 22, 2015

Happy New Years to all our friends and partners,

Happy – it is one of those overused words that I actually dislike but yesterday I saw true happiness! Yesterday was senior citizen’s day in Tabitha. Being a senior means anyone who can survive past the age of 60. I travelled to Saeb Village in Kampong Channang to visit with two families who had received a field well three years ago. The road to these field wells turned rapidly into a dusty track.

I first met Norng Sim, 63 years old – a woman worn by the years of hardship and suffering. The only members left of her original family were herself and her 83 year old mother. She raised 6 nieces and nephews – her children.  She was so excited to show me everything she had grown on her 1 hectare land –rice, watermelons, trakun, long beans, gourds etc – she was very excited to show me all the changes that savings and her income from the field well had brought – her own rotor tiller and wagon, her bicycle, her new house and all its furnishings, her youngest son’s telephone shop – all her children are now successfully employed and they all live under one roof – 8 people.

But! – her true happiness – the thing that pleased her most and made her body shiver  with joy was – I now eat three times day – can you imagine – 3 times a day! – and anything I want to eat! What hunger this woman must have endured in her 63 years of life that food –in its variety and plentifulness was her happiness!

         

December 8, 2014

Dear friends and partners,

In this holiday season we often hear the expression of peace on earth – goodwill to people. Today all of us from Tabitha Cambodia l want to take a moment and wish each of you peace.

I had the opportunity to ask a few of our children, what present would they like – what gift would make their families have some form of peace – what would give them some relief from the daily grind of life. I would like to share several of their responses.

November 12, 2014

Dear friends and partners,

This past week I was once again reminded of what poverty is.  “Absolute poverty or destitution refers to the deprivation of basic human needs, which commonly includes food, water, sanitation, clothing, shelter, health care and education.” I went on a site visit to Preah Samach Village in Prey Veng Province.

It was disheartening at first – there are 1500 hundred families of which 90% are living in absolute poverty. It’s a hard thing to see people living in absolute poverty – so much of Cambodia is stunningly beautiful, especially at this time of the year when the rains have come and food is growing in abundance – the colors of the greens and blues are a treat to the eye – the poverty is not. 

Tabitha has been working here for two years – the stories of the families are heartbreaking – I cannot imagine living my whole life in a small thatched hut – each day a struggle to survive. I talked with grandpa – he is 85 years of age and has 10 grandchildren living in his home – there are no middle aged people around – just the elderly and the young.

                    

October 2014

I remember our first office – my goodness – when it rained it flooded – toilets overflowed and it always seem to rain at night – now we have been in our current location for the past ten years – I slept in one of the office rooms then and now I live in a lovely home – every night there was gunfire and grenade blasts and now I just hear endless dogs barking through the night.

My first staff was so frightened of everything – now they are my assistants and managers. Cottage industry was such a challenge – we have no skills they said, we have no resources – buying silk and cotton was beyond their grasp – using it to make our very first product – Christmas stockings – almost closed down the program as the staff didn’t know about Christmas or stockings – they just believed I had crossed the line of being ridiculous – they were not far off – they believed that people would laugh me out of the country if I wore those stockings on the street – now, they design and produce not only Christmas items but all kinds of products. 

 

September 15, 2014

Dear friends and partners,

Every so often I get to see the direct results of meetings we have had. We have a number of families who have lost all that they own through illness. The most striking community is in Saang –Kandal Project. What do we do with families who have lost it all. 753 families reduced to living three families in a small shack – no land, no means of bringing in an income.

   

It was a daunting and hurtful visit. What do we do? We decided that families needed their own home and a house building team came and provided houses for a number of these families – the commune gave each family a small plot of land for these homes,  6 meters by 6 meters. This was good but their incomes had not changed – the hurt was still there.

       

 

August 2014

Dear friends and partners,

It’s been awhile since I have written – primarily because Miriam and I have been in Canada for a summer holiday. It was so very good to catch up on the lives of family and friends – my only complaint was that trees have a way of getting in your face – too many for my liking.

 

May 21, 2014

Dear friends and partners,

This is the time of the year when schools in the region close for their long summer break. Miraculously it’s also a few weeks before my daughter Miriam finishes grade 9 – a year of tremendous growth and awareness for my girl – a year when yearend exams have become a part of her life and a part of mine – but we survived and are grateful.

This is also the time of the year when school calendars are out for the following school year – it is also Tabitha’s time of the year for house building schedules – so I would ask all of you who come regularly for house building – whether or not you are a school team – to send us your dates. It would help us so much in our planning as our own plans and budgets are being made for the following program year.

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