Monday, May 13, 2013


Well, we might be rather a long way from Siem Reap and Spitler School Foundation, but it doesn't mean we're completely out of touch.  I'm sure our regular reader would be delighted to catch a glimpse of the beginnings of  Spring in North Yorkshire before we return to the real purpose of this blog.  We would normally expect to be in Siem Reap at this time of year, but Loll's neck problems have made travel out of the question at the moment, so we will give some updates based on our daily communications with Sarin and Jim and the teachers at the schools.  But first: Spring in  Saltburn-by-the-Sea. Our solar powered sovereign (thanks, Jim!) is actually beginning to wave as the first rays of sun break through the clouds of North Yorkshire.

Meanwhile, in Siem Reap it has been very hot recently and, along with frequent problems with the electricity and water supplies in the town, life has become a little sticky.  Of course, Kurata and Spitler school don't rely on the town supply of electricity and water but there is always a real need to maintain the equipment that we have. The schools rely either entirely (Kurata) or partially on solar energy for the electricity supply.  When a problem arises the results can be serious as the water pumps stop working, which means there's no water for the hand-washing programme, no water for the developing gardens and no security lighting at night.  Luckily, a couple of donations helped to rectify the problem, and a new inverter was put in at Kurata school - and back came the power and the water!

 We have frequently commented on the importance of the developing hygiene programme at Spitler Foundation Schools.  It's difficult to appreciate the problem if you live in the West, but all of our children come from Ang Chagn village which largely consists of wooden huts with thatched or metal roofs, no running water and no electricity.  Cooking is usually done over an open fire and the whole family might share one sleeping area.

It is obviously difficult to keep clean and therefore prevent the spread of infections.  Keeping the water flowing is, therefore, essential.

Danny's visit to Siem Reap in 2010
We have been involved with Spitler School since a chance meeting with  Danny Spitler back in September 2010 when we happened to catch him on one of his visits to the school.  We have been working with Jim to help provide some continuity in the educational programme and, in particular, support for the English teachers.  Many others also contribute to the Foundation in greater of lesser degrees and it is always encouraging to see so much interest in this project.  But not surprising, however, as the thing that struck us most when we first visited, and which must also strike other visitors, is the care and dedication of the staff and the wonderful organisational ability of Sarin who manages to keep the whole project functioning.  One of our good friends deserves a special mention as he has been involved with the school for a number of years.  Geoff Cole is a frequent visitor to the Spitler and Kurata Schools and, as an ex-Head of Modern Languages in a school in the UK, he has provided expert teacher-training for our English teachers.  Recently, Sarin and the teachers made a small presentation to Geoff in recognition of the hours he had spent, not only wobbling out to the schools on the back of a moto, driven usually (but not always - it's a long way out) by a friendly moto-dup driver, but also working in the heat of a classroom with each of our teachers.

Sarin also has many contacts with local hotels and often tour groups will visit the schools, with prior arrangement, to make donations and carry out carefully planned activities that fit in with the educational needs of the children.  A group recently came out to Spitler school and helped with tree planting, desk painting and assembling bicycles which they had bought for our students to use as they move on to Middle School in Siem Reap (about eight kilometres away).

There is a constant need for support, of course, as the Spitler Foundation is now a very large operation, with some 700 children in the two schools, as well as a growing number of Grade 7, 8 and 9 students who attend the Middle School but also receive some support from the Foundation.  We also have 27 staff and teachers working over the two schools - and SSF provides salaries and/or supplements to all of these dedicated and hard-working employees.  We have frequently highlighted the difficulties of getting out to Kurata and Spitler School, and it is a tribute to all the staff that they are willing to make the daily trips out to remote areas for a very modest (certainly by Western standards) recompense.  

But it's not all work!

A Wedding
 A couple of months ago, two of these wonderful teachers decided to push the notion of cooperation and fellowship to its limits and get married.  Hun, a Grade 4 teacher and Sareoum, a Grade 2 teacher, were married in their home village in March.  Hun has worked for Spitler Foundation for 5 years and this has to be a tribute to the school and the Foundation that so many of our teachers wish to stay with us, despite the difficulties in travel and the sometimes less-than-ideal working conditions.  (A cause worthy of support - see ways to donate on the right!)

The happy couple.

We wish them well.