We are only a month into the 2010, but it has been an eventful time for the Spitler School, and we are pleased to share the latest news.
In our last newsletter we informed you about the rice and mosquito nets which our foundation was able to provide to the village families. Thanks to the help of generous donors we were able to do an additional two distributions, thus helping to provide food supplements and protection from mosquito born disease for a large number of our students and their families. We will continue to keep supplies of rice stored at the school in case of additional emergency needs in the village.
We are very grateful to those who stepped up and donated additional funds, which were so instrumental in allowing us to provide this assistance to our students and their families following the flood that hit the village in early October.
We have maintained enough funds to do the road repairs that we told you about in our last newsletter, but the conditions have not become dry enough to begin. We are hopeful that the project will begin soon and we will be giving you an exciting report on this project in our next newsletter.
At the end of 2005, the year we began the school, Sarin invited the teachers to his modest home where he and Mary fixed them a Christmas dinner. We have encouraged him to continue this tradition, and this year we again furnished a Christmas dinner for our teachers and their families at one of the local restaurants in Siem Reap. It was also a good time to wish a happy first birthday to Sarin’s daughter, Vitee, who was born in November of 2008, only four hours after Sarin managed to get Pam and me on a flight to Saigon. As you recall this was after the Bangkok airport was taken over by protesters, playing havoc with our flight home.
In late December the Spitler School was invited to participate in a sports program being promoted by the Education Ministry as a part of their anti-drug campaign in the grade schools. The ministry is promoting sports activity and invited Spitler School to send a boy’s volleyball team to participate in a tournament in late January.
There is nothing like the Christmas season. It seems that, across the world, it is a time when caring and kindness are much more in evidence. The 470 children at the Spitler School have certainly been the beneficiaries of kindness and caring by a number of generous people in the past few weeks.
Our good friend Karsten, who helped us build the new 6th grade classroom last spring, provided another generous donation, giving us the resources to purchase a large supply of rice which we have been distributing to the most needy families in the village surrounding the school. Working with the local village leaders, Sarin has identified those students and families who were in desperate need of food supplements and made sure they received bags of rice. We were also able to pass out a large supply of mosquito nets to the families in the village. When the flood receded it left standing water in unsanitary conditions and breeding grounds for the mosquitoes carrying malaria and dengue fever. The children are very susceptible to dengue fever, especially if they are malnourished to begin with. Sleeping under mosquito netting increases their odds of avoiding this epidemic.
Villagers arrive for rice and netting distribution
Sarin and village leaders distribute rice
Sarin’s wife Mary hands out mosquito nets
Through the generosity of our donors we have been able to supply funds to continue to provide rice for the neediest families over the past several weeks as the village families attempt to recover from the flooding, which caused damage to the rice crops and stopped people from getting to jobs or bringing food to the village.
With all the emphasis on providing food and raising funds to repair the flood damaged road it has been a while since we used funds for new uniforms, but in late November funds were donated for school uniforms, and over 100 of our students received new uniforms in early December.
After our last newsletter informing all of you about the flooding in Siem Reap and the destruction of the roads, crops, and homes around the school, we received several offers of financial assistance including an extremely generous donation from a new friend who wishes to remain anonymous. This donation was sufficient for us to commit to the village leaders that the Spitler Foundation would help fund the road repairs, but we wanted them to get a commitment from the government for some of the funding. It appears that this will happen, and we are excited about starting the project in January, as soon as the conditions are dry enough to begin. We plan to hire many of the local village families to work on the road in exchange for rice bags and perhaps some money. It is our hope that the villagers will feel a real sense of community and pride working together to build a road into the village that will hold up during the rainy seasons.
Sarin and the village leaders take measurements and make plans for a new road
Good reason for a new road
The benefits of the new road will be many. Tourist groups will be able to get to the school without their buses getting stuck in the mud. It will be much safer and easier for our teachers and students to travel between their homes and the school. It should help the economy of the village as it will be easier for the villagers to travel into town for their jobs, and for supplies to be delivered to the village. We also hope that the road will enable our 6th grade graduates to attend a middle school on the bicycles that we hope to give them after they graduate next year.
We appreciate recent visitors to the school, Buddy and Brenda Gitlin of Boston. They sent 400 toothbrushes to the school prior to their visit, but when they arrived they went on a shopping spree and brought notebooks and mosquito nets to the school. We were also happy that our good friends from Florida, Les and Shirley Hoffman, arrived for a visit during their recent trip through Asia. Les and Shirley have traveled with Pam and me on several other adventures and have been regular donors to the school.
We hope these photos, in Khmer and in English, express our thankfulness and our very best wishes for a joyous holiday season and very happy and prosperous New Year.
We want to send a very special THANK YOU to those who have provided financial support to the Spitler School over the past two months since our last newsletter.
Thank You PV – you made the new road a reality
Karsten Schroeder – thanks for helping to feed the village
Dick and Maureen Wright – thanks for all the new uniforms
Terry Lyman – thanks for your continuing generosity
Buddy and Brenda Gitlin – thanks for enduring the mud and helping out
Elva and Terry Schoenrock – in memory of Carol Jean
The Boulton Family
Bob & Betty Rosas
Les & Shirley Hoffman
The Sugerman Family
The DeFrain Family
Danny & Pam Spitler, Directors Spitler School Foundation P.O. Box 730 Peoria, AZ 85380 “Resource Providers for Cambodian School Children” http://dannypam.smugmug.com/gallery/2466201_eEC9c
I have been looking forward to sharing plenty of good news in this newsletter as the Spitler School began its fifth year of operation serving the primary educational needs of the children living in and around the village of Ang Chagn Chass near Siem Reap.
Unfortunately, just as school was scheduled to begin all of Southeast Asia was struck by a devastating typhoon. On September 30 Typhoon Ketsana roared into Cambodia causing rivers to overflow their banks damaging roads and dams, thousands of acres of rice fields, and hundreds of houses. Among the victims of the horrible flooding was our special family. Sarin and Mary, along with 7-year-old Vita and 11-month old Vitee, had to flee their house as the roads and buildings of Siem Reap filled with water after the city’s river overflowed its banks. Their modest home, where Sarin and Mary have hosted us with their warm hospitality, filled with a meter of flood water, and after ten days they are still waiting for the last of the water to drain away from their home.
7-year-old Vita in front of her flooded home
Flooded road that leads into the school
We are still awaiting new reports, but it appears that the school survived the storm with little or no damage. We are now very grateful for our decisions to replace the wood and thatch buildings with our new, strongly constructed classrooms, as the older buildings might not have survived this storm, which is being called the worst storm to hit Cambodia in the past 50 years.
While the school seems to have survived in good shape we remain concerned for the families of our students, and we hope to learn soon how much damage was sustained by the homes around the school. We are concerned that the immense damage to Cambodia’s rice fields might lead to food shortages, and we know that our students will be exposed to disease from the polluted waters. Sarin reports that at least 20 of our students have been taken to the Angkor Children’s Hospital for treatment.
Damaged roads are making it difficult for villagers to get to their jobs in the city, and of course the flooding has resulted in the cancellation of tour groups, which adds more damage to the local economy. Another casualty of the storm was the day of medical exams scheduled for our students. Several months ago Sarin arranged to have a medical team from the Angkor Children’s Hospital visit the school and give our students medical exams, following up on exams performed almost two years ago in January 2008.
Unfortunately, the road conditions prevented the team from getting to the school, and with the large number of children entering the hospital with storm related health issues the medical team has not been able to reschedule their visit.
We will continue to look forward to Sarin’s reports as our thoughts and prayers go out to all of those affected by this horrific storm.
NOW ON TO HAPPIER NEWS
During the summer break Sarin, along with our sixth grade teacher Mr. Dy Samnang, visited the homes of almost all of the sixth grade students. It is our intent, during the school year, to learn what we can about each of our sixth grade students so that we can do our best to make sure they have the opportunity to continue their education next year at one of the government middle schools.
6th Grade teacher Dy Samnang visits with the family of his student
Mary Muy. Mary introduces her teacher to her mother, sister, and brothers.
Just prior to the opening of the school year Sarin suggested that we add some more beauty and protection to the school by putting up four large palm trees which could serve as a wind break. With the ferocity of Typhoon Ketsana this may have been a very good decision. While one of these trees would cost several hundred dollars in Arizona, Sarin secured four of the trees including delivery and planting for $165.
Two days after the storm had struck Sarin and the village commune leader celebrated the grand opening of the fifth school year at Spitler School. The school welcomed 458 students to start the new school year. There will be 60 new kindergarten students in Ms. Vagn Sokhien’s class, which will occupy the new Rae & Kay Spitler Kindergarten Classroom. Other classrooms will be filled with the following numbers: First Grade-120, Second Grade-104, Third Grade-54, Fourth Grade-49, Fifth Grade-42, and our new Sixth Grade will have 29 students who will make up the first graduating class and occupying the new Karsten Schroeder 6th grade classroom.
Pam and I wish to take this opportunity to honor my cousin, Carol Jean Schoenrock, who recently lost her long battle to cancer. We received five donations in memory of Carol’s extraordinary life, which was dedicated to helping others and healing broken lives.
We would also like to take this opportunity to again honor Sarin on the completion of his bachelor’s degree from Siem Reap University. Many of you have had the opportunity to meet Sarin on your travels to Cambodia, and you know first hand that he is a special young man with a good heart, an amazing work ethic, and extraordinary abilities. I am sure that all who have met him, or have learned about him and his family in our newsletters, will join us in congratulating him on this achievement.
On behalf of Sarin and his family, the teachers and children of Spitler School, and of course Pam and I and the Spitler family, we wish to thank and acknowledge those who have provided financial support for the children of Spitler School since our last newsletter in July. Your friendship and financial support are sincerely appreciated.
Joel Armstong, Joan Gilbert & Jake Stern
Les & Shirley Hoffman
Jerry & Barbara Shapiro
Lou & Claudine Hopper
The following families and individuals donated in memory of Carol Jean Schoenrock