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Report on the visit in May 2009 of Henk van Zijtveld to the orphanage in Battambong Cambodia.

After a tension filled journey caused by a 3.5 hour delay at Schiphol airport (and the possible risk of missing a connecting flight) I just managed to make make the connection and arrived at an extremely warm airport in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

Vireak Ann (our agent in Cambodia) and Arie Blood (the man who helped to set up the structure in Cambodia) are waiting for me by the exit. They will both accompany me during my visit.

After a warm welcome we go straight to work. Our first visit is to the office of CPCDO for a discussion with Mr. Meas Yuth, the general director of the orphanage in Phnom Penh and our branch in Battambong. During a tour of the building it strikes me that the facilities and the building in Phnom Penh are not as good as those in our own facility in Battambong. There is an essential difference with our house in that here very young children are included. We discuss the current situation and future plans. CPCDO will actively search for professional sponsors from Cambodia, so our home can eventually support itself enabling us to start up a new facility. Clearly this can't be realized in the short term but three years should be feasible. 

After our meeting we went by car to Battambong to visit our "own" home. We arrive after a journey of five hours.

It was very rewarding to see that the operation was proceeding as we had planned.

All the children are well-fed and looked after. They go to school to learn a number of subjects including English. Furthermore, also in the context of education, a small project has been started in the field next to the house to grow rice and vegetables. In the first place it's good for the children to learn these skills and in the second place it saves the orphange money which can be used for other things. The manager of the house informed us about the entire running of the orphanage. It's good to see how things are going and how we have been able to give these children a chance for the future. TREMENDOUS! 

There was a question from one of our donors asking if all the children are actual orphans and how we check this. From the 50 children 3 are orphans, 19 have a mother and 22 have a father but in both cases either the mother or father can't be found or they refuse to care for their children. For 6 of the children the status is not clear but they have been taken in as street children. Monitoring takes place through direct research carried out by the house manager.

With a good feeling we take our leave of the house.

We then visit the school where the children are taught. There used to be no clean water supply but using gifts that we had received in 2008 this has now been changed. They have connected a pump to a clean water supply from a well. The pump is hidden (for security reasons). Another interesting detail, we heard about this problem through our agent Vireak because the director of the school can't speak English! The teachers who give English lessons can speak English of course.

Again it's good to note that our funds are also contributing to the welfare and hygiene of the children.

We then leave for our last appointment of the day with David McAuley. He is manager of the "Hope for Cambodian Children Foundation" which is based in Battambong itself (our house is about 20km outside of town). Using Australian government and private funds they have established a home made up of eight stone houses and a main building. Standing there we remarked how luxurious the accomodation was compared with our house. They have a different philosophy and formula. In each of the buildings live two foster parents having normal jobs but also taking daily care of 15 children in a kind of family. The foster parents can only live in the houses if they fulfil the above conditions.

The advantage of this relatively rich NGO Foundation is that they employ their own doctor and nurse. In both cases they have plenty of time over to do other work and the plan is to provide (free) medical support to our own house. David will submit this plan for the approval of their management and come back shortly with their reply. He has already indicated that he expects a positive outcome more particularly because the costs of the doctor and nurse have already been met. This would be a great step forwards in the medical care of the children in our house. In short a very successful meeting!

After a long day of flying, meetings, and travelling we went for a meal with the three of us to talk through the day. The outcome is mixed with less positive feelings concerning the visit to the house in Phnom Penh and good feelings concerning our own house and the collaboration with David McAuley. All in all a very good first day. A few beers and a warm shower later and I'm ready for bed.

The next day we travel back to Phnom Penh (yes, again 5 hours) and we have a final discussion on our agenda. We have an appointment with Billy Barnaart, a dutchman established in Cambodia 16 years ago.

He set-up the JBCF Foundation which raises funds in the Netherlands and Cambodia for foster parents to look after orphans. These foster parents are usually uncles and aunts who receive compensation for taking their nephews and nieces into their families. They do extensive research into the backgrounds of the prospective foster parents and meet regularly with both parents and children. In short, a comprehensive system designed to prevent abuse. Typical of the way of working of this NGO is that it interacts with the Dutch government. If they have any questions about origins and welfare of children covered by Dutch responsibility (adoption etc.) they contact this NGO for background information. JBCF is currently only active in Phnom Penh but wish to set-up a similar project in the north (read Battambong). This could be an opportunity to allow a number of orphans in our house to get back to a family situation which in the long term would be benificial. We agreed to investigate the possibilities and devise a possible structure.

Billy has set-up a second project to employ HIV infected women. They can earn money making fabric bags. A plan could be to sell these bags in the Netherlands (complete with company logo and design) whereby 50% of the profit would go to the foster program of Billy and 50% to our orphanage. This could create a situation that the house in Battambong would become less dependent on contributions from our foundation.

We will elaborate this idea further but at first glance it seems a good plan to create structural funding for "our" house.

This brought my trip to an end with good feelings and plenty of new thoughts and ideas. I took a tuk-tuk to the airport for the 12 hour flight to the Netherlands. We hope that we have made a number of steps to provide an even better future for the children and the orphanage and that the trust that the children far away in Cambodia in us has been justified.  


Nijkerk 25 May 2009

Henk van Zijtveld