Current News

From Siem Reap: December 2012 to January 2013

Another busy two months as the new community projects are starting taking shape!

In Angkor Chum district where Neary Khmer is implementing the CSR project, the 7 village representatives are now setting up Child Care Units. The Child Care Units will enable children to be looked after whilst their mothers work outside of the village. Neary Khmer continues to focus on these 7 ladies’ development through assisting them to create monthly plans and find solutions to challenges.

READA’s project in Chikreng district is also starting to take shape – the first Demonstration Farm is now in place and looking great! READA has been assisting a selected villager to implement the Farm through providing part of the equipment as well as training – the Farm, which is located in the village, is a great way for villagers to transfer knowledge to other villagers.

Another great piece of news is the implementation of a canal in Tra Peng Veng village (Chikren district) through a cash for work initiative.This canal will assist approximately 200 families to further develop their agriculture e.g. by being able to grow a second rice harvest during the dry season. Members of two Rotary Clubs in Hamburg (who have made this canal possible by gathering the funds) also came to visit Tra Peang Veng village on 27th January to speak to the villagers and see the construction taking place.

September - November 2012

New community development projects:

A busy 3 months as READA, Neary Khmer and Lotus have been working together on designing the new 3 year phases for our 13 target villages! There has been a tremendous amount of collaboration between the 3 organisations and we are all very excited about the start of these new projects!  More information on the new projects soon.

Rice distribution:

A total of 20, 270 kgs of paddy rice was distributed in 9 villages as part of the “top up” component of the Rice Bank project. This top up is proving especialy useful in assisting communities who have been affected by last year’s floods. During the rice distribution, we witnessed a good spirit of co-operation amongst community members who have been allocating the extra rice for the most vulnerable families. Many farmers are now busy harvesting, the harvest is expected to be good this year!

August 2012

Water project kick off - First water filter distribution!

63 Water Filters were distributed on 24th August in Tra Peang Veng Village. READA’s Project Manager, Sineng Yoeun, provided the community members with training on water hygiene and water filters maintenance. A saving scheme was also set up to in order to enable families to maintain their filters as well as to promote ownership.

Click on the photo album which will be updated through the coming year as Tra Peang Veng’s water journey continues.

TLC’s vocational training center opening ceremony

This Life Cambodia inaugurated their vocational training center in Banteay Mancheay prison on 2nd August. The center will offer motor mechanics or electronic training, personal development classes to approximately 20 minors before they re-integrate society.

 

Vocational training building - Banteay Mancheay prison

Community development project design

This month, we have all been very busy working on the design of the next three year phase of READA and Neary Khmer’s community development projects. NGO team members as well as community members and Lotus Trustees have all been involved in this process … more information on the new projects will be added to the website very soon!

July 2012

Evaluation AWCLI Project

In July, The READA team members and myself (Lotus Co-ordinator) conducted a three years evaluation of the Appropriate Ways for Community Livelihood Improvement project which is implemented in 6 villages and benefits 327 families. Discussions were conducted with 59 beneficiaries as well as non beneficiaries, village chiefs and commune council members.

The feedbacks from community members were very impressive: 98% respondents expressed better food security, 92% better income, 80% reduced borrowing, 61% better knowledge. Furthermore, non beneficiaries were also interviewed as part of this evaluation: 92% of non beneficiaries interviewed had witnessed improvements in the lives of people involved in the project and were as a result interested in joining the project. Click here for full report

We are very proud of the work the READA team is doing and looking forward to witnessing further improvements in the lives of the villagers through the next 3 years!

 

Chicken distribution

50 families who had lost their chicken during last year's floods received 4 chickens each. In order to help prevent against future risks, READA's staff also worked with the villagers on the following:

- Provide vaccination through a village representative trained by the staff.
- Ensure families receiving chicken have built chicken cages (with a second floor to protect from floods). Chicken cages greatly contribute to decreasing death rate related to diseases or floods.

Villagers were delighted especially as the chicken were already grown and could start producing eggs very soon! We were also told that many families have just started growing a second vegetable harvest in their small garden with the reminder of the seeds distributed early this year!

June 2012

Evaluation of the nutrition project

In June, myself (Lotus Co-ordinator) and Neary Khmer's project team conducted a three year’s project evaluation. Approximately 70 mothers over 7 villages were interviewed through group and one to one discussions. The results were really positive as mothers expressed their happiness with the project and its impacts. Amongst some of the recurring feedback:

-          Reduced sickness in family and children

-          Increased knowledge in how to take care of their family

-          Increased income due to health cost saving and agriculture training.

The 3 days were a great opportunity to get direct feedback from a large amount of families whose lives are impacted by the project. We are extremely proud of the fantastic work the Neary Khmer team and the village volunteers are doing! Click here for full report.

Rice Banks (May & June)

4 new villages are now benefiting from Rice Banks as a result of the generous donations of the Rotary Club Altona and Toby and Gina Wyles Trust.

Increasing access to water

We at Lotus have been working with the NGOs on finalizing all the information we need to start our new fundraising campaign through which we are hoping to increase access to water (especially safe water) in the villages.

May 2012

Agriculture Training

This month READA has been conducting agriculture training sessions in Ka Ngan Pong & Rom Deing villages (the two newest villages of the AWCLI project). A 2 days training covering theory and practice was conducted in each village on:

 

  • Organic fertilizers: compost and IMO (Natural Farming with Indigenous Microorganisms) etc.
  • Chicken raising: vaccination, nutrition, chicken cages, general care etc.

 

Unfortunately, we had to finish the training early to allow the villagers to go and collect enough water to meet their daily needs. One of the villagers we spoke to explained that it took him about 6 hours a day to collect water during this time of the year.

Neary Khmer delivered refresher sessions on vegetable/fruit trees cultivation and distributed 8 type of vegetable seeds to 60 mothers (across the 7 villages).

March/April 2012

Tabitha’s exposure visit

 

READA, Neary Khmer and Tabitha's staff during the exposure visit


In March, Lotus organized an exposure day for READA and Neary Khmer’s staff to learn about Tabitha Cambodia (http://www.tabitha.ca/cambodia.html)’s Savings Program. This very successful program assists thousands of poor Cambodian families in exiting poverty through saving.

Tabitha’s staff met the team in Kampong Thom Province to visit some of the project’s beneficiaries and explain how the program was implemented. One particular area of interest for the READA & NK staff was how to engage the poorest members of the community. Our Tabitha colleagues explained that the program was open to everyone in the village and that whereas the more “well off” members of the community would be more inclined to take the “risk” of joining a new project to start with; the poor and poorest families would very quickly witness the tangible impacts and would also start joining the scheme.

This was such an interesting day filled with questions and debates. It was great to witness the team’s enthusiasm for the program and its potential. Both NGOs have been looking at incorporating this model into their own projects.

For more information on Tabitha’s Savings Program, go to Tabitha’s website (http://www.tabitha.ca/community-development.html) or click here to access the "Past Projects" section on this website.

Ivy Christou’s visit & This Life Cambodia

 

Ivy Christou visiting the social protection project: the ladies brought her some thank you gifts


In March, Lotus Trustee Ivy Christou, came on a three weeks’ adventure to Cambodia! Those delightful 3 weeks were a great opportunity for us to connect and collaborate “face to face”, a luxury we seldom have! During the three weeks we worked on moving forward on a number of items such as current fundraising material, design of the next phase of the community projects, discussions on future marketing plans for both NGOs etc. We also had several meetings with This Life Cambodia (http://www.thislifecambodia.org/) in order to assess on a potential future collaboration.

This Life Cambodia (TLC) is an Australian registered NGO which operates in rural areas around Siem Reap. Their main focus is education within the villages but they also implement a program with minors in prisons as well as children of adults in prison. Their work and their approach are very inspiring and Lotus has been considering supporting them through assisting to increase visibility and funds. The results of the meetings and onsite visits were very positive. We really enjoyed our time with TLC and were impressed with the team’s knowledge and professionalism. As part of the project’s visits, we also attended the vocation training sessions organized in Siem Reap prisons and were really enthusiastic to witness the level of engagement and focus with which the minors were undertaking their learning activities.

February 2012

 

 


Donor visit

This month, we were delighted to welcome 17 guests from Germany! Members of the Rotary Club in Hamburg who have generously donated Rice Banks to three Cambodian villages took the opportunity of a holiday through South East Asia to meet with one the community they are assisting. The villagers proudly showed how they were managing the rice repayment process; the event also turned into a delightful cultural exchange with traditional snacks, food, songs as well as a dancing demonstration!

 

 

Vegetable gardens

As part of READA’s livelihood and Neary Khmer’s nutrition projects, beneficiaries receive technical training on vegetable cultivation which is enabling them to diversify food and income source. This year, 106 families have also received food security assistance from Mrs. Silvija Stewart in the form of vegetable seeds.

We are now in the best season for vegetables as the mild weather is allowing for crops to grow. Silvija’s donated seeds have grown into beautiful vegetable gardens full of corn, long bean, green mustard, curly cabbage, pe-tsai, pak choy and water convolvulus. We all share the villagers’ happiness and pride as they explain that their vegetables are helping feed their family and generate extra income.

 

Rice Bank update

The rice repayment process is going very smoothly. The initiative’s impact went beyond what we had previously anticipated as members also decided to each save an agreed amount of rice on top of the interest. Given that community members are subsistence farmers with traditionally limited resources and inclination to save, this outcome is a direct indicator of an important change in mindset and we are terribly excited about it!

3 more Rice Banks are on their way in the Neary Khmer communities!

 

Nutrition project

During a visit to the 7 villages where Neary Khmer implements the Lotus funded nutrition project, the village Health Volunteers shared some of the joys and challenges of their role:

They expressed their happiness to witness the changes in their community; especially through mothers’ improved understanding and behavior towards nutrition and house hygiene resulting in children reduced sickness rate. They also shared some of the challenges they encounter as a small amount of mothers are still reluctant to embracing new ideas, this often as a result of low education level. Mindset change is indeed a challenging task even in places where people have access to education and information; we can only praise the resilience and hard work of these 7 ladies!

The visit ended with Neary Khmer Field Officer’s Vanndy driving a very excited little girl and her mother to Siem Reap. Little Sinou is part of the child growth monitoring programme. Her growth has been stagnating these last few months, as a result the team decided to bring her to Siem Reap’s children hospital for a check up. (The tests have not shown abnormality)

 

January 2012


Trustees visit

The annual visit of two of our Trustees, Ivy Christou and Ross Badger, was a great start to this New Year!! The busy week’s schedule included visits of the projects implemented by READA and Neary Khmer with a strong focus on the communities benefiting from the Rice Bank initiative. We also met with mothers of potential target villages for the next nutrition project and visited the communities which had benefited from the Emergency Assistance provided during last year’s floods. Following the field visits, meetings with both local partners were held in order to discuss topics such as current projects, challenges, funding status as well as both NGOs sustainability strategies etc.

The Trustees were especially delighted to visit the Rice Bank communities and experience at first hand the villagers’ enthusiasm for the initiative.  Rice Bank members explained that they had all agreed to save an extra amount of rice (on top of the Rice Bank interest) which is an unexpected and very positive impact!

This week also gave the Trustees an opportunity to meet with several interesting Siem Reap based NGOs working in the fields of education, vocational training and women empowerment. Finally, we also managed to squeeze in a quick visit to ABC & Rice (http://abcsandrice.webs.com/) and brought with us rice, stationary, books and sweets for the children. This small NGO, which is close to the Trustees’ heart, provides access to education and food to underprivileged children.

 

Lotus' Trustee Ross Badger inspecting the Rice Bank recording books

General updates

Rice Bank communities are currently going through the repayment process (January/February) which is so far going very well with 100% repayment.

December 2011

General updates

Farmers have been busy harvesting their rice with many losses being reported as a result of the floods. Thanks to a generous donation from Silvija Stewart, vegetable seeds have been distributed to 106 families in order to assist with food security over the next few months. We are very much looking forward to seeing the seeds turn into green vegetable gardens. As part of the donation, chickens will also be distributed in February.

As we visited villages where Rice Banks have already been implemented, we received many positive feedback from the villagers. Mr. So Ti who lives in Otrach village and is the head of a family of 14 said that he will never forget the help provided in times of need.

This month, READA has just welcomed a new staff member into its team: Sey El has joined the Lotus project team and will assist the current Field Officer Sineng in implementing the livelihood, Rice Bank and Water projects in the villages.

As the year comes to an end and we reflect on achievements, we are very proud to have received your interest and support and wish to thank you for contributing to the improvement of the lives of poor Cambodian communities. We are looking forward to many more achievements in 2012 and are delighted to start the New Year with two of our Trustees', Ivy Christou and Ross Badger, visit to Siem Reap. The week is anticipated to be hectic but also lots of fun.

We wish you a happy and meaningful New Year !

November 2011

Updates on the flood situation

Kampong Khleang commune: The Tonle Sap lake has been overflowing into surrounding areas resulting in flood water continuing to rise through October and November (update as of 23rd Nov- water level is now going down) and more families having to move out of their homes. Dan Run commune, another area where Neary Khmer works and which is located next to Kampong Khleang was also badly affected by the rising water.   On 4th November, I went with the Neary Khmer team to distribute emergency food packs to a further 138 families (88 families from Kampong Khleang and 50 families from Dan Run) who had lost their homes. Each family received 20 kilograms of rice, 30 packages of noodle and 1 liter of cooking oil to assist them in these difficult times.

Chikreng district: Floods have almost completely receded, enabling people to assess the scale of the damage on their livelihood. As most famers are currently harvesting their annual rice harvest, many are reporting varied degrees of loss (often above 50% and at times reaching 100%). Furthermore, many farmers we speak to have lost most of their chicken.  Unfortunately there is not much we can do about the harvest loss as farmers in this area only have one rice harvest a year. Our local partner READA received financial assistance from Lotus and is currently planning distributions of vegetable seeds and chicken to assist with food security over the next few months. We anticipate a sharp increase in food vulnerability (and related issues such as debt, migration etc.) and will continue monitoring the situation through next year.

Khmer Rouge Trial

On Monday 21st November, the UN-backed tribunal opened the much anticipated case 002 against the Khmer Rouge regime’s three most senior leaders (Nuon Chea, the chief ideologue of the regime; Khieu Samphan, its nominal leader; and Ieng Sary, its foreign minister). The trial which took years to establish is expected to be long and complicated. An estimated two million Cambodians died of starvation, overwork and execution during the four years of Khmer Rouge rule which was regarded as one of the 20th Century’s worst atrocities.

September/October 2011

News from Lotus' Coordinator, Sandra Berard on the ongoing floods:

 

Floods

A waterlogged animals' pen

 

Cambodia is currently experiencing the worst floods since 2000. The floods which are affecting several countries in South East Asia are having dramatic short term and long term consequences on people’s lives. It is estimated (as per 11th October) that across Cambodia 183 people have died since August, furthermore almost 100,000 hectares of paddy fields have been damaged or destroyed, 21,000 people have been displaced.  A scondary consequence of the floods is the impact it has on the health of affectedcommunities with increased rissk of malaria, dengue fever and waterborne diseases. In addition, schools have closed and in some areas people have been evacuated as their homes and livelihood have been damaged or destroyed etc.

 

Rice fields submerged in water

Lotus’ local partner Neary Khmer works in 10 villages in Kampong Khleang commune which is situated close to the Tonle Sap lake. The villagers are used to adapting to water fluctuations, houses are built on high pillars (sometimes as much as 12 meters high above ground) and many people own small boats.  Neary Khmer and I conducted an assessment of the situation in early October; many houses were flooded with water levels sometimes reaching the roofs of the houses. Villagers have built second temporary floors in their homes but are worried that water levels will increase further. The most badly affected households have had to relocate to pagodas. The communities have boats but many are afraid to travel far because of stormy weather, therefore reducing their ability to access food and goods. The emergency fund which Lotus donated to Neary Khmer has enabled distribution of emergency food kits (2260 kilos of rice, 3390 noodle packets and 113 liters of cooking oil ) to 113 of the most affected families on 11th October. The Vice District Governor and Commune chief attended the distribution ceremony which was broadcasted on national television.

Lotus’ other local partner, READA, works in 4 communities In Banteay Srey and Chikreng districts. On 11th October, I went with READA’s field officers, Sineng, to assess the situation in these villages.  The impact of the floods on the population was extremely different with these communities. The floods which occurred twice since August went up to half a meter and each time lasted between 4-7 days. The flood level did not affect houses which are built on pillars and had receded by the time we visited the villages. But in these communities people depend heavily on farming and animal raising for their livelihoods, a high number of animals have died and rice fields have been affected. Although we cannot estimate now, we anticipate that next year’s rice yield will be low. Given that farmers only grow rice once a year; this is alarming especially for poor subsistence famers.  Furthermore, in one community, the road has been washed away and the only other access to the village is in bad condition as well. The road will be repaired by the local authorities at the end of the rainy season. In the meantime, we could not get to the village to assess the situation. Since the rainy season ends between end October and mid November, the situation in the next few weeks is still uncertain. We will keep monitoring. The emergency aid donated to READA by Lotus will be used once we are able to access the communities when the rainy season ends and we are able to assess the impact of the damage and the needs of the communities.

 

News on the CCC Good Practice Project certification ceremony at which both, READA and Neary Khmer, the Siem Reap based NGOs Lotus works with, obtained the certificates.

 

(GPP) Good Practice Project Certification Ceremony:

On 23rd September, I was very proud to represent Lotus and attend the GPP certification ceremony in Phnom Penh with our two local partners Neary Khmer and READA.


Chan Tean, Neary Khmer Executive Director and Lok Sokthea, READA Executive Director receiving their certificates.

The certification day was such a great day! I felt really proud to represent Lotus as both READA and Neary Khmer obtained their certification especially as they are amongst the 32 first NGOs in Cambodia to be certified! This is a great achievement, the GPP certification is a difficult and long process which demands substantial work and efforts from the whole organization; especially from an already stretched support staff and it takes a real and genuine commitment to organisational development, governance, accountability and transparency to successfully complete the process!

Chan Tean (Neary Khmer) insisted on the full team attending the day since the certification was a team achievement.  At READA, they only received the certification very close to the day which meant that most team members already had commitment they could not change.

The day in brief:

About 150/200 participants attended the NGO Certification Forum, among which:

  • NGOs certified this year
  • NGOs renewing  certifications (after 3 years)
  • NGO donors, development partners and a few members of the government

The day involved the certification ceremony, followed by group discussions and Q&As. The main conversation topics I picked up on were:

Certification should remain voluntary as an advantage for certified NGOs demonstrating they are taking governance seriously.

From 2012, NGOs will have to contribute a fee towards the certification cost- Fees were discussed amongst local NGOs in group discussions (results of discussions is that fees should be lower but the vibes we picked up from the team after the discussions, were that people felt that even smaller fees were not realistic since Local NGOs have no budget for this).


My group discussion was about how donors can support NGOs through the process. The overriding message was about how to assist already stretched support staff (admin, coordination, finance) in going through the certification and assist with future certification fees. There were also broader discussions on the relationship between local NGOs and International NGOs and practical thoughts on improving communication, and downward accountability etc.

32 NGOs are now certified in Cambodia. 103 other NGOs are currently undergoing the certification process. The low number of NGOs currently certified was a subject of debate during the day.  Answers such as lack of commitment/ interest, lack of internal resources and lack of capacity (skills) were given. There was also mention on more work to be undertaken to boost the certification profile nationally.

Neary Khmer team at ceremony                         Some of the READA team with Lotus' Coordinator