It's great to see that the hygiene programme - and more specifically, the hand-washing programme - is being maintained at Spitler school, as we can see by these photographs just sent by Sarin. It's easy to forget that amidst all the successes of Spitler and Kurata schools, and with quite a number of volunteers appearing on the scene recently, the schools are still working in a remote village in Cambodia amongst real poverty and disadvantage. As I wrote some time ago, the child mortality rate in Cambodia is high: Cambodia has Asia's second highest mortality rate among children below the age of five, for instance. Clearly, we can't even begin to tackle all the problems that children and their parents in villages like Ang Chagn face, but we have made a small start by making clean water available in the school and encouraging a daily hand-washing habit. Regular health checks are also carried out by professionals from a local hospital. This basic hygiene programme is supported by the two 'nurses' who have been recruited from the village.
Many of the children from the village come from extremely poor households, like that of Buo, a twelve-year old boy from Ang Chagn Village who talked to our long-term volunteer Jule last year about his family. He and his family have lived in the village for seven years and every morning his parents go to Siem Reap to cut grass. They earn about 7000 riel ($1.75) a day between them. He loves coming to Spitler School where he says his favourite subject is English because it's a lot of fun and he sings songs and plays games. When he returns home from school he helps his parents with the housework in the one-room house. In the photograph you can see Buo, his father, his oldest sister and her daughter.
He's not the only one who loves coming to Spitler and Kurata schools, of course. As our friends Stuart and Barbara Marriott mentioned in their contributions to this blog, it is difficult to keep the children away from the schools when there is something going on - even an extra English lesson! Look at the success of the Apsara (traditional) dance classes that are held every Sunday morning in the school, and the results of which you can see in an earlier video on this blog. The classes are still running, thanks to the patience and dedication of their teacher - and the support by voluntary donations (which are constantly needed.) It's a good reminder that education is a good deal more than just the core subjects and in a country like Cambodia, where so much of the culture was lost during the time of the Khmer Rouge and the subsequent civil war, these traditions need constant support.
Here are the children and their teacher rehearsing on a recent Sunday in the newly re-furbished Library and Activity room.