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Report on the visit of Henk van Zijtveld to the orphanage in Battambong in Cambodia, March/April 2011. He is accompanied by Arie Blood who found this project for our organisation.

After a long flight  with a stop in Kuala Lumpur we finally landed in Phnom Penh. Our agent in Cambodia (Vireak ANN) picked us up from the airport and we went through our busy agenda for the coming days.

We start by meeting the management of the organization "Happy Tree" Dr. Jerry Wong (from the head office in China) and Noel Tao (local director). Happy Tree is the main sponsor of the orphanage in Phnom Penh to which our orphanage in Battambong is associated. The core of our discussion is that we want to come to a clear alignment of criteria to be used for the inflow and outflow of the children. We also want to achieve a joint approach to the outflow of children so as to ensure that they either end up in further study or in a good working place. It was decided to cooperate in these areas. Happy Tree has set up a new house outside Phnom Penh which we will visit before the end of the trip.

After this we had a meeting with Mr Meas Yuth the director of the orphanage in Phnom Penh. The orphanage in Phnom Penh is moving to a new brick house location, a real improvement on the previous house, and it was obvious that the children (65) were very happy with the conditions. We discuss the general affairs with particular reference to our house. We also refer to our discussions with the directors of Happy Treen. Mr Yuth will have a clear say in the implementation of the proposals. Our agent Vireak will monitor the progress.

The next day we leave early for Battambong to visit the orphanage. A clean water source has been found in the ground under the orphanage. In collaboration with a private company they have started pumping up clean water to be sold. The water is sold in the immediate area and user for drinking water or to prepare food. Until November 2011 the income from the water is for the private company to enable them to earn back their investment, after that the profits will be shared to provide an extra income for the orphanage. A very good initiative!

Together with the management we go through the affairs of the house. We believe that creative activities should be added to the normal school activities. Painting lessons will be set up, outside our normal budget, funded by a private individual. The directors will, for their part, set up other initiatives.

In addition we discussed the situation of the first child in the house reaching the age of 18 and therefore leaving the house. We agreed to discuss this with the Australian orphanage (HFCC) also based in Battambong and the next step on our visit. As this is a child that would be eligible for further study we would like to develop a joint plan with the Australians. In 2013 another 9 children will be reaching the age of 18 and therefore leaving the house so we need a policy in this area.

In the past year a new shower installation has been provided for the orphanage jointly with the American travel organization Rustic Pathway. A real improvement except that the pump is not working correctly and in Cambodia this means that many months go by before something is done about it. It was agreed that the repairs would be carried out as soon as possible and we understand that this has now taken place.

After a game of football with the boys and volleyball with the girls (we had taken balls with us as a present) and running around in a temperature of 37 c we made a sweaty departure.

Our next visit was to HFCC. The last time we met our Australian friends it was agreed that they would provide monthly medical check-ups in our orphanage as they had their own doctor and nurse.  HFCC has had a change of management in their house and we meet the new director. She is Cambodian and that makes communication over specific local problems a lot easier.  During the conversation we noted that the agreed health project had been somewhat delayed due to the change in management. We agreed to jointly address this problem. Further we discussed the problems involved with the outflow of 18 year old children. We decided to investigate whether it would be possible to rent a house near the university for children going to college. Sharing a house per child comes to a total cost of $ 1500.00 per year for 3 years housing and cost of living. The Australians have an agreement with the university that children from their house don't have to pay tuition fees. We can also benefit from this agreement. We agree to make a joint effort to find sponsors for this traject.

Our next appointment was with the newly set up Rotary in Battambong. This group has only recently become operational and we had asked if they were willing to help with sponsorship of our orphanage. If this would be possible this would provide a strong local link for the orphanage.  They are working hard to put their organization together but have agreed to come back on this point in 2012. At least the first contacts have been made and you never know where this will lead.

The next day we travelled back to Phnom Penh to visit the new Happy Tree house. It is in a somewhat secluded location but it looks very promising. At the moment they are housing 40 children, when the building is completed they will have room for an additional 40 children.

Good to see that there are initiatives on many fronts to help the most disadvantaged children.

Finally had a meal with Vireak and Arie Blood to review our visit and make plans for the future. The emphasis will be on organization, 18+ children and housing. After this pleasant ending to my trip, back on the plane again for the long trip to Holland (with a 12 hour layover in Kuala Lumpur).

It was good to see that 50 children are receiving home and shelter, care and education through our foundation. Very tired but satisfied with the results I'm on my way home.

May 2011

Henk van Zijtveld