Monday, December 20, 2010
As you may know, our NGO (non-governmental organization) is the only all-Khmer demining NGO in Cambodia completely funded by volunteer donations. When we began this journey, in 2008, we wondered if we could have the impact we wanted.
We are. And it has happened only because YOU have made it so.
■we cleared 7 villages
■we built and support 2 village schools and pay the teacher monthly
■we removed 153 mines and UXOs
■we put 4,695 people back on land that had been killing them
We began the year with 15 deminers.
We ended the year with a team of 25. Twenty-five dedicated men and women who work 25days of every month making Cambodia safe for its people. Khmers working for Khmers.
We work in what we define as 'low priority' villages. These are villages with mine fields 1 - 10 hectares in size, who have suffered death and dismemberment from these fields for years. But because they are small fields, they have not yet reached 'the top of the list'.
These are the places we work. These are the people you are saving.
We judge our success not on how many mines we can clear, but on how many people we can effect, how many lives we can change, and how many villages are now more self sufficient than they were before CSHD arrived.
If villagers are afraid to use a field because it is killing them, it matters not if that field has 1 mine left, or is infested with 1,000 mines. That land is not being used. Most of this country is rural. Most of the population are farmers. Without usable land, they cannot feed their families, and must rely on the charity of other nations to survive.
CSHD, through YOU, is changing this nation!
Our budget runs around $9,000 per month. We pay our deminers $150 - $250 per month. The average income in Cambodia is just over $40 per month. Our second largest expense is fuel. Third is food and fourth is medical expense. If someone gets ill, they are cared for, and the cost is absorbed by CSHD. Malaria, dengue fever, and snakes are some of the every day threats we face. All our deminers are provided with anti-malarial medication daily. Later this month all will receive flu shots. We have a full time medic on site at all times.
Equipment, replacement costs for obsolete and broken equipment, and maintenance vary by month depending on what breaks and how bad the access roads to the villages we clear.
Your donations have kept us in the field. Without you - people die, and that is NO exaggeration.
Earlier this year Aki Ra was chosen by CNN as one of the 10 CNN Heroes of 2010. 10,000 were nominated from over 100 countries. This honor has helped greatly in raising our profile. Many of you receiving this email heard about Aki Ra's work from CNN. If you didn't see the show, it will be re-broadcast on Christmas Day in the US and Europe and Christmas Eve in Asia. Check your local listings for the time.
As the end of the year is approaching, our friends in America can make a final tax free donation to our sister charity in the US, the Landmine Relief Fund. Just click on the PayPal button.
Many of our friends have made donations to our work in lieu of Holiday gifts this year. If you would like to make a donation in some ones honor, let us know and we will acknowledge it to your friends.
And please...NO donation is too small. Together, we can all make a difference. You can be part of the solution to a huge problem. And all you have to do is take that 'one small step'.
Thank you all for your continuing support.
'No man is an island...any man's death diminishes me for I am involved in mankind. Therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls...It tolls for thee.' John Donne
Sunday, November 28, 2010
Debra Gruszecki •
The Desert Sun • November
America is thankful for its heroes.
And tonight when CNN televises its “Top 10
Heroes,” Debby Alexander, proprietor of Peabody's
Café & Bar, will quietly celebrate the good works of
Aki Ra and the role the Palm Springs restaurant
played to help his cause.
Ra, a former child soldier for the Khmer Rouge, has
dedicated his life to detonating and dismantling the
landmines he once placed in Cambodia.
For Alexander's part, Peabody's held three separate
fundraising events — at which Cambodian art and
donated items from Palm Springs businesses and
small hotels were sold — with longtime customer
Bill Morse to raise $22,000 for the landmine relief
When CNN taped its all-star annual tribute in the
Shrine Auditorium in Los Angeles, Alexander was
one of 13 people to get an invitation from Ra and
Morse to attend the red carpet event featuring
Jessica Alba, Renee Zellweger, Marisa Tormei, Aaron
Eckhart, Demi Moore and Halle Berry as presenters.
“It was a real thrill,'' she said.
“When Renee Zellweger came out and introduced
Aki, he spoke before this big crowd with limited
English,'' Alexander said.
“He spoke about his wife dying last year, and how
much she had helped him. It got emotional.”
Alexander was able to see Morse for a few minutes
He and his wife, Jill, moved to Siem Reap, Cambodia,
last year to help Ra get international certification
and a license from the Cambodian government to
legally remove landmines that once were deactivated
with a stick.
Morse also helped Ra get a $100,000 grant to buy a
truck and assemble a rapid response team that can
respond to villagers who find mines.
Ra, who sometimes placed up to 1,000 landmines a
day in the 1980s, has not only cleared more than
50,000 of the estimated 6 million explosives the war
left behind. Ra has also cared for dozens of children
who have been maimed by mines.
“I got to see Bill for a minute before he and Aki Ra
flew back to Cambodia,'' Alexander said.
“I got to meet other people who have helped the
landmine relief fund. While at the taping, I also got
to meet Richard Fatoussi, who is making a film
Alexander said that film, “The Perfect Soldier,'' has
just been presented to judges of the Palm Springs
International Film Festival.
The CNN show will be televised at 5 p.m. today.
Peabody's Cafe, 134 S. Palm Canyon Drive, will be
closed tonight for the holiday and this simple
reason: Alexander has a date with the TV.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
Showbiz Tonight @ CNN Heroes (Pre-Show)
(CNN & HLN)
7pm ET / 4pm PT
12am ET (Sat) / 9pm PT
“CNN HEROES: AN ALL-STAR TRIBUTE”
(CNN ONLY - All Airings)
8pm ET / 5pm PT
10pm ET / 7pm PT
1am ET (Sat.) / 10 pm PT
Showbiz Tonight @ CNN Heroes (Pre-Show)
(CNN & HLN)
3am ET / 12 am PT
“CNN HEROES: AN ALL-STAR TRIBUTE”
4am ET / 1 am PT
“CNN HEROES: AN ALL-STAR TRIBUTE”
8pm ET / 5pm PT
11pm ET / 8 pm PT
2am ET (Sat) / 11pm PT
“CNN HEROES: AN ALL-STAR TRIBUTE”
8pm ET / 5pm PT
11pm ET / 8 pm PT
2am ET (Mon) / 11pm PT
(Initial Global Broadcast)
ET Buenos Aires GMT & London Europe/Africa
8pm 10pm Fri 1am Fri 2am
Abu Dhabi New Delhi Hong Kong
Fri 5 am i 630am Fri 9am
(CNNI Exclusive airings)
ET Buenos Aires GMT & London Europe/Africa
5am /4pm 7am/6pm 10am/9pm 11am/10pm
Abu Dhabi New Delhi Hong Kong (PT)_____
2pm/Sat 1am 330pm/ Sat 230am 6pm/Sat 5am 2am/1pm
(Initial Global Broadcast)
“CNN HEROES: AN ALL-STAR TRIBUTE”
“CNN HEROES: AN ALL-STAR TRIBUTE”
Friday, November 19, 2010
Wednesday we went shopping and Aki Ra bought some things he couldn't get in Cambodia....mainly a good pair of jungle boots. He's breaking them in now for the taping thursday nite..
This evening CNN had a private party for the 10 Heroes and a few of us 'extras'. What an amazing group of people CNN chose. With a very small staff, they started reading the nominations the day after last year's show ended. From over 10,000 they chose 25. A Blue ribbon Panel chose the Top 10. I refuse to say finalists because this not a competition.
Tomorrow is rehearsal and Saturday the big day.
Aki Ra is having fun. But he does miss the kids. I had my wife, Jill, gather Amatak, Mine and Metta together and call Papa this evening from the Museum. When he left and told Metta (almost 3) he was going to America, she said...'the mine field'?
Well, outa the mouth of babes..............
Gonna try and get some sleep.....
Babu from the jungle.
Tuesday, November 16, 2010
Gonna be a lloonngg trip:
5 hours from Siem Reap to Seoul
9 hour layover in Seoul
11 hours from Seoul to LA
We get in Wednesday morning. CNN was good enough to get us there a bit early so we could recoup some.
Aki Ra doesn't know it yet, but the kids from the Museum are coming to the airport to see him off. They spent the day making a big sign that says
Tuesday, October 19, 2010
At 9:45 he called me. While eating dinner one of the waitresses had collapsed on the floor. She couldn’t move or speak. The owner simply picked her up and tossed her out the door, telling her if she couldn’t work, she couldn’t stay.
Aki Ra went outside, picked her up, got a taxi and took her to a clinic down the street. When I got there she’d been there 30 minutes. Seems she had been working long, long hours and had collapsed from exhaustion. The doctor had treated her, given her some medication and she was recovering. When I got there she sat up, crying, and thanked Aki Ra for his help.
Aki Ra had called one of her friends, who came to the clinic to be with her. She got her prescription filled, we paid the $7 bill and Aki Ra was taking her home to rest.
He’d had a serious conversation with the restaurant owner also.
He was bewildered that anyone would toss a human being into the street like a bag of garbage. He’s going to check on her the next couple of days while he waits for his visa to be prepared.
He'd never met her before in his life.
Makes me even happier I nominated him as a CNN Hero.
Saturday, October 9, 2010
CNN arrives next week to do some more filming. We'll be working at the Museum, in the mine field and around Siem Reap.
Then on the 16th of November Aki Ra and I travel to Los Angeles for the taping of the Tribute Show for 2010. It will be taped at the Shrine Auditorium and broadcast on Thanksgiving night at 8pm EST/PST on CNN.
This has been a real labor of love for me. I nominated Aki Ra, not really expecting him to be recognized. We've struggled for so long to get the Museum up and running, to get the demining team in the field, and to get people to recognize the problems that still exist...I just figured that my little submition would get shunted aside.
Then when he was chosen as one of the 25 to be featured on the website and promoted on TV I was just amazed.
At that point I really thought maybe we had a chance to tell the world about the work this guy and his friends are doing. When he made the 25, I felt confident he could make the 10.
Now it's up to you.
The 'winner' ( a really bad term) will be chosen by on-line voting. The winner last year got 2,500,000 votes.
You can vote for Aki Ra at: http://heroes.cnn.com/vote.aspx
And you can vote more than once.
Thank you CNN for recognizing my hero as one of your heroes.
Monday, September 27, 2010
Sunday, September 19, 2010
On the other hand it's hard to believe we were ever gone.
We got back on the 3rd. Sophary got back on the 5th since she flew through Phnom Penh...we've seen her twice.
Last week it rained most of the week. We think we have the leaks in the house plugged. We're still waiting for the landlord to fix one.....we've been waiting since May, so I don't know when that will get done. I'm gonna duct tape it today.
I saw on the internet that CNN Heroes is announcing the Top 10 in their CNN Heroes program on Thursday, September 23, 2010 at 1pm ET (US). That'll be midnite here. We'll all be up watching to see if Aki Ra makes the final 10. IF he does, you'll be able to vote on line for your hero of the year.
We were pretty excited when Aki Ra got picked. I don't know how many were nominated this year. Something like 9,000 were nominated last year. This year CNN chose about 25 to feature on TV and the website.
When I nominated him, I certainly thought he deserved it, but never really thought we'd make the cut to TV, and really had doubts about making the Top 10. I, personally, thought he should be number one, but to make the TV cut was such a long shot, and we are so far away.......
We'll be watching on Thursday with a lot of our friends. If you're in town (Siem Reap), come by the Warehouse at midnite and watch Anderson Cooper announce the Top 10.
Also, the artist Blake will be exhibiting his work at the Hotel de la Paix from 23 September to 3 November. His show, entilted 'Fragment', has been exhibited across the globe. Part of the proceeds will go to support Aki Ra's demining NGO, Cambodian Self Help Demining. Aki Ra will make some brief comments at the opening.
More from the jungle as we uncover it.....
Sunday, September 5, 2010
We got home on Friday after a 30 hour sojourn. We left Palm Springs on Wednesday afternoon and drove into LAX. Jill and Sophary helped pack the car. We said goodbye to my mom and dad for perhaps a year, locked up the house, put Mikki in the backseat and headed off.
We met friends at LAX, checked ourselves in and then had a tense 1 hours wait to check Sophary into her flight. Checking ourselves in is easy, but getting Mikki (our dog) into her kennel, and through the check-in routine is always heart wrenching. She just sits in her 'box' (a little stoned) and looks at you like 'What are you doing to me?' Really hard to do.
We also wound up taking a whole lot of extra stuff back. So much that we had an extra bag. Luckily, Thai Airways was very accomodating. When we explained what we did, they turned a blind eye to the extra bag, but asked us not to do it again. Ot ai tai (hakuna matata).
Then we went to check Sophary in............a VERY long line, and only an hour before we boarded. China Air let us use the 1st class line, and we were off.
Now ... have you ever had to check 6 computers through security? Not a pleasant experience. But eventually we got everyone and everything cleared and to the proper gates.
It's a 16+ hour flight to Bangkok. The flight attendants told us when Mikki was on board and as we were about to land told us she was fine. They could hear here barking in First Class. I bet those were some 'pleasent' conversations....
The last time we came through BKK we told them we were immediately going overland to Cambodia. That was not good; it cost us $170 to get Mikki out of the airport. This time we told them we were staying in Thailand. Cost us $31.
2 1/2 hours to the border, half an hour to cross, and another 2 hours later we were home. Sau and the family had all come into town to greet us, and it was great to be back home again.
It's monsoon season over here and we've been told everything leaks. Well, our house sure does. The master bedroom has 2 major leaks and we've had to move out. The master bath has a crack in the ceiling. The kitchen floods (but we knew that) and the living room windows aren't tight and leak.
I brought back a BIG roll, bought some plastic sheeting and showed the Khmers how a fat old barrang (foreignor) takes care of leaks. They WERE suitably impressed. I then explained my house in California also has a flat roof and I learned these tricks over there. They were even MORE impressed.
I've asked a friend to send 2 more rolls of ductape. Cannot get it here. Proof that Cambodia still needs to progress.
So we are now sitting in a dry house getting ready to go out and have a quiet Sunday meal before starting work again tomorrow.
The repairmen came this morning and are going to go about fixing the leaks that happen on the roof patio. Then when everything dries they''ll do the fix ups in the rooms. $40........ I love it here.........
Good to be home.
Hell of a lot better than playing golf.
Ps: The radiator in the car blew at dinner. Ductape it?
Saturday, August 14, 2010
Monday, August 2, 2010
I was sitting in my guest house in Siem Reap after returning from a mine field with Aki Ra. I thought "Shoot, Aki Ra should be on that show!".
In June I sat down at my computer and Googled 'CNN Heroes' and spent about 15 minutes nominating Aki Ra.
I read about the process. Last year over 9,000 people were nominated as CNN Heroes. The CNN staff read every application and 28 were selected as CNN Heroes. Their stories were aired on CNN and its partner networks between February and September. A panel advanced 10 names to the final list. The final decision was made by viewers such as ourselves who had the chance to vote online.
A month ago I received a call from CNN telling me that Aki Ra had been chosen as a CNN Hero. CNN sent a film crfew to Siem Reap to film Aki Ra, Cambodian Self Help Demining and the Landmine Museum.
I was in the United States!!!
Jill and I had scheduled our annual return to the US for the week CNN arrived. When I bought the tickets the agent told me, in no uncertain terms, that I could change the return portion of the ticket, but under no circumstances could I change the outgoing portion. Oh well. Sophary, Gerry, Bomber, and Sao took the CNN crew all over the province to do the filming and seeing the results, they did a phenominal job.
It is a wonderful tribute to Aki Ra and the people who work with him.
Watch CNN Heroes - Aki Ra, on line at: http://www.cnn.com/SPECIALS/cnn.heroes/index.html
There are 2 videos to watch. One is marked 'video', and its about demining. The other is marked 'extra' and it is about the Museum and the kids. Be sure and see both.
Sophary and Naret are here visiting. They were unfamiliar with 'jetglag'. NOT ANY MORE!
Babu in California
Thursday, July 8, 2010
Deja vu.....all over again.
But before I get to that, let's talk about World Cup. I rooted for the US, they got beat. I rooted for England, they got beat. I rooted for Brazil and a friend is not talking to me any more because they got beat. Then I rooted for Germany, and they lost.
So Sunday for the final I will root for NetherEspagne. Probably be the first game decided by a coin toss after the shoot outs.
We left Siem Reap on Sunday headed overland to Bangkok. Upon arrival at 1pm we walked the dog and got her ready to check in for out 7pm flight to LA. But when we got to the counter they asked us for our "export license" for the dog.
Export License? I booked through Thai Airways, confirming with them, and they with me what paperwork I had, never mentioning an "Export License". Well we got bumped. We had to go to the cargo terminal on Monday and get our license for Mikki. Took 2 hours and cost us $1.50. Much better than the $150 they hosed us for when we arrived.
We eventually found a hotel that allowed dogs and had a good nite's sleep.
We arrived in LA on Monday evening and were home by Tuesday morning at 2am. Only additional was the car from LA. Arriving on July 4, the cost was $80. Arriving on July 5 it was $125.
Thank you Thai Airlines.
So yesterday we had a very quiet, get rested day. Today we started getting some things done. Jill has lost 20 pounds and none of her clothes fit, so she had to go shopping. I had to take the computer in, pay the gardener, see the rental company, get some emails done, and clean up around the house.
So I was sitting in front of the TV watching "Law and Order" about 5pm when we got hit by a 5.4 earthquake, centered in Borego Springs about 28 miles from us.
Woke me up.
Scared the heck out of the dog.
Jill laughed and said, "Yep, we are back in California".
Tomorrow start working on my taxes.......yuck.
But good to be back in California. And we can't wait to be home again....in Siem Reap.
Sunday, June 6, 2010
Before I tell you about her, a bit of 'backstory' on how we wound up over here:
My name is Bill Morse. In 2009 my wife and I moved to Cambodia to help 2 Cambodian NGOs (non-governmental organizatons). One cares for injured, orphaned and poor children, the other clears landmines in low priority villages.
In 2003 I heard about a young man in Camobdia, an ex-child soldier of the Khmer Rouge who was going around the country clearing landmines with his bare hands. I went to Cambodia in 2004 to find him, and ultimately my wife and I moved here to help him in his work.
He was indeed clearing landmines by hand. He and his wife had also 'adopted' over a dozen children to raise as their own. Some were landmine victims, some were born without limbs, others contracted polio as children, some were orphans and some had parents who could simply not care for them. Today we care for 27 of these kids at the Cambodian Landmine Museum and Relief Center. My wife runs the volunteer program there and teaches English.
The man who started all this is named Aki Ra. He was orphaned at 5 and a soldier at 10. He fought for 3 different armies before he reched 21. The UN hired him to help clear landmines and he found he was quite adept at this unique profession. He went out on his own, clearing mines and unexploded ordinance wherever he could find them. In 2007 he was, for a number of reasons, ordered to cease all his activities in this regard, or lose his Museum.
In 2004 I had established the Landmine Relief Fund to help raise money to support his mine clearing work. In 2007 I closed my business in Palm Springs to spend all my time getting Aki Ra back into the mine fields. In 2008, with the help of a lot of people inside and outside Cambodia, we were able to establish a new NGO, Cambodian Self Help Demining (CSHD). CSHD is Aki Ra's de-mining NGO. We clear landmines in low-priority villages throughout the kingdom of Cambodia. It is run BY Cambodian, FOR Cambodians. In our first year we cleared over 163,000 square meters of land and returned over 2,400 people to fields that had killled them in the past. And we did it for $4,313 a month. Many of our deminers are ex-Khmer Rouge soldiers working to help repair the damage done in over 30 years of warfare.
Enough of that....let me tell you about Sophary:
Our Ops Manager, Sophin Sophary graduates from university in July with a degree in accounting. She has worked with us since 2008. She first worked at the Cambodian Landmine Museum and Relief Center helping us care for the children who live there. When Aki Ra started CSHD, she moved over there as the Office Secretary. She soon became our Office Manager and now holds the job of Operations Manager. She coordiantes all the activities of our NGO with the government officials who monitor mine clearing in the Kingdom. Without her we could not function.
She also goes to school full time, puts 2 siblings through school and supports her parents. In her spare time she has a volunteer job. Sophary has decided that rather than go on to graduate school she will start an 'all-ladies 'demining team. She has already secured approval from the government to clear some minefields near her home village. Fields she walked past daily as a child.
Sophary is 23 years old.
Sophary is an amazing woman, and an inspiration to all who know her. She will be visiting California from August 3rd through the 31st this year. Her purpose in coming is to meet current supporters, and tell her story. To establish her 'all-ladies' team she needs assistance wherever we can find it. Her story is amazing, and her dedication to her country and its terrible legacy is one that is difficult to grasp.
There will a free "Meet Sophary" night in Palm Springs in August. If you are in the desert, come and meet her. Be inspired and learn that one person with a vision can indeed make a difference. If you're not in the desert, or if you want more information about Sophary's work and how you can help, let me hear from you. Either on Facebook or by email firstname.lastname@example.org.
She is one of our heroes, and when you meet her, she will be one of yours.
Landmine Relief Fund
Cambodian Self Help Demining
Wednesday, June 2, 2010
I've been in Cambodia now the better part of two and a half years. Considerably longer than I would have been in Vietnam had I been able to stay in the army. But alas, that is another story altogether.
Jill came here with me in October last year, and has really settled into the rhythm of the work.
Cambodia is a difficult country to come to grips with. People here are dragging themselves into the 21st century. Most of the country doesn't have electricity, running water, garbage collection, or schools. So the people run their one flourescent light off a car battery, walk 5 km (in the dry season) to get water they have to boil, and build grass shack schools to teach themselves how to read and write Khmer.
Our demining NGO is paying for 2 teachers in villages we've cleared. We pay them $40 a month. I think one has a 12th grade education and the other a 10th grade. We're not trying to get the villagers into college. We just want them to have the basic 3Rs.
The kids stand in line to come to the school. In Chrung our youngerst student was maybe 6. Our oldest perhaps 60; and they sweep the school out every day with tree branches, so they have a clean area to learn.
Last year they couldn't play outside because the landmines hadn't been cleared. Now they have, and they have a yard to play football. and when the ball goes out of bounds, they don't die.
PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder) is a problem here....a BIG problem. I was told by a health worker that perhaps 40% of the country suffers from it in some degree or another. It can be treated with drugs and therapy. It's best to treat it with both if you use drugs. The psychiatrist can evaluate moods, etc. and modify and manage the drug regimen.
Sounds reasonable enough except there are only about 12 Cambodian psychiatrists in the entire country. And talking to a foreign doctor is pointless. One - they don't speak the language. Two - they don't understand the culture. Three - they are only here for short periods of time.
It's scary to see children curled into a ball wimpering and delusional as they relive the horrors of the past....often times landmine accidents. I've seen it more than once. And I am sure to see it again.
I have friend, the operations manager at CSHD, our demining NGO, who graduates from university next month. She could go on for a graduate degree on a full scholarship. Instead, she's going to start an all-ladies demining team and clear landmines and UXOs in small villages.
We had promised Aki Ra we'd be here for 2 years. ..... I think it will be longer.
Babu in the Jungle
Thursday, May 13, 2010
I lived with my parents until I was 5 years old.
Then I went to school. I finished grade 5 and quit school to move back home and help my father farm. One day when he was plowing he found a landmine, and we had to stay far away from it. Sometimes we could not farm for days because of the fighting near our village.
When I was 21 I got married. My husband died in 2008. I left my home and Aki Ra gave me a job working at the Landmine Museum. I did that until CSHD started. Now I work as a deminer.
I want to clear landmines because I want to see them gone from Cambodia. I want my country to be safe and be able to develop. We cannot use a lot of the land because of landmines. We cannot farm the land. We cannot build schools for the children. We cannot build roads. Landmines are part of the problem and I want to help get rid of them.
Wednesday, April 28, 2010
In English that means it is freakin HOT over here.
The weather report for this week says that the last 3 days have been the hottest of the year.
Today the temperature is about 95, but feels well into the 100s. And the humidity is runing in the 80% range. Our house is dark inside with high ceilings and ceiling fans, so it feels a bit better. BUT the a/c in the bedroom is on the fritz and working only at about 50% efficiency. I have the repairman coming out today at 2 to take a look at it. Money is no problem in getting that thing fixed!
Today is the Buddha's birthday and a holiday in Cambodia. Buddhist monks from throughout Asia are meeting at Angkor Wat this week. This morning Jill and 3 others went to Bayon Temple at 7:30 to give gifts of food to the monks. I was a bit under the weather and stayed home (and slept). There were thousands of people there today, many arriving as early as 3am to be able to feed the visiting monks. Jill and I bought 100 packets of noodles (like Top Raman - for $10) and she distributed them along with a bit of money.
Mikki, our dog, is dealing as well as can be expected with the heat. We thought we'd have to cut her coat (she's a border collie) but she's shed most of her undercoat and has found the coolest places in the house.
We got real decadent over the weekend and bought a vacuum cleaner. We're running out of tape to pick up the dog hair, and there are just places we can't clean well with a broom. My car also needs to be vacuumed pretty regularly. I brought a Dust Devil back with me from the states earlier this month, but the motor burned up in the 220v system here. Ah well......
More holidays are coming this next week, including the planting festival where King Sihimoni plants a field to open the planting season. It happens at the Elephant Terrace at Angkor Wat. We will be there for that.
We've pretty much had visitors since the first of the year. Most recently Pierre Odier, a buddy from the Adventurers Club of LA was here for 2 weeks. We're not expecting anyone else til fall, but if you want to visit, let us know.
Babu in the Jungle
Wednesday, April 7, 2010
The 3rd Annual Landmine Relief Fund Auction and Fundraiser was a roaring success.
The turnout, in person and online, was outstanding and we raised $6,775 to help clear landmines and unexploded bombs in Cambodia. That will clear nearly 22,000 square meters of land, and change countless lives.
On behalf of Cambodian Self Help Demining and all the people who are served by their work I want to thank you from the bottom of my heart.
I'll be returning to Cambodia later this week to continue our work and this money will be put to use immediately to help people who are unable to help themselves.
The selflessness of all who support us, especially in these difficult times, is deeply appreciated.
I carry a notebook with me so I can remember what I talk about in meetings. On the first page I have quotation from John Donne:
"Every man's death deminshes me for I am involved in mankind. And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee."
I am proud to have all you as friends and on behalf of all of us.....thank you agian.
Sunday, February 28, 2010
- Cleared 4 'low priority' villages in Cambodia
- Cleared over 163,000 square meters of land
- Put over 2,400 people back on land that was killing them last year
AND WE DID IT FOR $4,313 PER MONTH.
That paid for 15 deminers, a support staff (cook, guards, etc) of 3 and an amazing office manager who attends school full time, works for us 6 days a week, is paying for her siblings to attend school and does some volunteer work in her free time.
All of this work is funded by private donation.
Peabody's Cafe, a wonderful place to meet and eat, in downtown Palm Springs, CA, helps with a fund raiser every year.
Come help us clear more of the 5,000,000 mines left in Cambodia.
This year our fundraiser is:
Tuesday 6 April, 2010
Where: Peabody's Cafe, 134 S. Palm canyon Drive, Palm Springs, CA
If you cannot attend, you can still support Aki Ra and the team by donating at our website:
CLICK ON THE PAYPAL BUTTON
Every dollar changes a life.
MINH MUI - CHEEVIT MUI
(one mine - one life)
Saturday, February 20, 2010
- We cleared over 163,000 square meters of land.
- We cleared 75 landmines
- We put over 2,400 people back on land that was killing them
- We did it for $4,313 per month!
Now maybe 75 landmines doesn't seem like a lot. It cleared land in 4 villages. It freed the population from the fear of death and dismemberment. It changed the lives of over 2,400 people. It is a huge accomplishment.
How much did that cost us? $26 to change a life!
That is what you have accomplished. That is what your donations do. They put 'Boots on the Ground'. And those boots are changing lives.
This year we intend to add a second team. It'll be run by Sophary, who graduates from university in July with a degree in accounting. She wants start an all woman team, to work alongside our current demining team.
You can help Sophary make this happen.
Watch a new video on CSHD. Here is the link: http://www.blip.tv/file/3071875
Wednesday, January 20, 2010
Well Aki Ra and I went to Phnom Penh yesterday looking for a truck for CSHD, our demining NGO. We’d been told about a couple of Russian troop carriers that had been used to carry the Prime Ministers body guards.
We looked at the first one. It was in several different locations. The engine was on the ground, the body was in the back of the lot, and the cab….well we never did see the cab. We looked at it, then we looked at the man who wanted to sell it to us, then we looked at each other, then we left to go see the 2nd truck.
The second truck. Well when we opened the door the cab was full of cob webs. The engine hadn’t been started in a year, but it WAS all in one piece. I asked the guy to start it and he kinda did a double take. Then they put water in the radiator, added a little bit of diesel, hooked up a battery and it actually started.
He told us it was made in the 80’s. I found the production sticker on the door, but since I don’t read Cyrillic, I’m not sure when it was made.
Barrangs. A barrang is a foreignor. It actually means French. They were the first westerners to get over here, and as they tell me, we all look alike. So everyone is a Frenchman, or barrang.
When Aki Ra first found the truck, or actually heard about it, they told him the price was $14,000. When I showed up, it jumped to $16,000. So while Aki Ra went on looking at trucks, the barrang flew home.
I spoke with him tonite and he thinks we need to keep looking. The seller offered to make the truck as good as new and drive it here. And that’s a 6 hour drive. But none of us are too sure we want to spend that kind of money on something this old.
And our budget is $20k anyway.
So the hunt goes on.
Saturday, January 9, 2010
Before we left California - in October - we collected a lot of donated office supplies and school books to be used here in Cambodia at the school. We bought a ‘steamer’ trunk, packed everything up tight and shipped it over here from Los Angeles. ‘
We thought that since the case weighed in at about 100 pounds it would be cheaper, albeit longer, to ship it by boat than pay the excess baggage and bring it by air.
Well, I won’t make that mistake again………..
The ‘box of books’ finally arrived in Phnom Penh, via Sihanoukville, Singapore and God knows where else, on 15 December. We have been trying to get it out of customs ever since.
We’ve provided the freight forwarder with
- copies of our passports,
- copies of our visas,
- letters stating that we work at the Cambodia Landmine Museum,
- copies of the NGO certificate from the Cambodian government,
- copies of the Museum’s certification from the Cambodian Mine Action Authority,
- copies of the bills of lading for the shipment,
- copies of the commercial invoice declaring the value of the goods at $75 (they are all used stuff remember),
- an inventory of everything in the box,
We are still waiting to receive the goods. Every time we have provided one piece of paper, it generates more paper.
HOWEVER – we have received a bill for clearing our donated school and office supplies - $814.45.
Here’s how it broke down:
- Camcontrol permit: $60
- Customs Permit: $210
- Customs Clearence $250
- Trucking fee $65
- Insurance $30 (remember – the stuff is worth $50)
- Camcontrol duty $10
- Warehouse fee $15 (because we didn’t clear it fast enough)
- VAT $65
- THC (?) Charge $6
- CFS Charge $5
- Scanning Fee $4.50
- Toll Fee $4
- Delivery Order $5
- Doc Fee $15
- CO-Load Fee $30
- Agency Fee $30
- Tax $9.95
We could have eliminated the VAT if we gotten a letter from a VERY senior government official stating that our NGO exists. Now this official works for the same agency that certifies us and from whom we provided copies of the certificate. We had to have a letter, I am sure in both Khmer and English stamped by his office with his thumb print on it. I am quite sure he would have very pleased to have gotten THAT request.
Sheesh…next time I’ll pay the excess baggage. My whole plane ticket only cost $350.
Messed up my budget for the month.
Babu in the freakin’ jungle…….
Thursday, January 7, 2010
Well, it’s still holiday time in Cambodia.
2 Weeks ago we had Christmas.
Last week we had New Years.
Today (Thursday) is Victory over Genocide Day. Its the day the Vietnamese liberated Phnom Penh from the grips of the Khmer Rouge. Siem Reap was liberated on 10 January. The high school here is named 10 January 1979 after the date of liberation.
There won’t be a lot of holidays here for a while after this. The next major one is in April. Khmer New Years.
I’m actually sitting here watching the GMAC Bowl. Who would have thought that Troy and Central Michigan would have been the best bowl game.
After this the Clipps/Lakers are on.
Back to work tomorrow.