Dated on 10 February 2001, Phnom Penh

/Grass root fund supports to high flooring school/

Once rainy season comes, Stung Chuveing village in Kampong Cham Province is completely flooded by the water surging from Mekong River. Especially, in these two or three years, the rainfall was very heavy. When I went there I observed the village under 2 meters depth flooding. I narrowly escaped slipping down, during I walked on unreliable footboards crossing from house to house. Three classrooms, which were built by Social Fund, have been sunken in water and desks and chairs were floating here and there in the classrooms.

Flood is not always disaster for the people who are living with this River. The rain is welcome blessing originally. After water goes away, people plant rice in fertilized soil. The rain comes again, they are living by fishing. However aside of adults' life, if children loose their school in the water, they will fallen behind education definitely. So we drew up a plan to build high flooring schoolhouse which is set up piles. This plan is going realized by the Grant Assistance for the Grass Root Project of the Ministry of Foreign Affaires Japan.

On 9 Feb. we received Ambassador Ogawa who was newly appointed at the end of last year, and signatory ceremony was held. In order to start construction immediately, a villagers meeting was scheduled on 13 Feb. But flood went away and water level already dropped down more than 10 meters. The possibility of material water transport is limited. Besides there is no road can be used to access the village. Probably we have to ask assistance and cooperation to villagers for setting up temporary transportation road in the muddy area first. Our distention is still a long away.

/No. 1 school of ASAC/

A round visit to all our school is getting harder job. A total number of existing schools are nearly 50. In addition, schools in the stage of future planning or applying ones also should be investigated. On the way of such tour, my fatigue immediately vanished when I saw well-maintained schools.

No. 1 ASAC school is Namkin primary school in Kampong Cham Province, funded in collaboration with Volunteer Deposit fund of the Ministry of Post and Telecommunication, Urayasu Rotary Club and ASAC. Trees were planted in the school garden one after another, and flowerbed is full of flowers. The classrooms improved one by one. A lot of delegations visited this school for inspection. The Mayor of Phnom Penh City, Chea Sophara was one of them. The school received his praise. On the contrary, Social fund building which is in the same yard was already damaged a lot. I heard that the teachers in this school request to the director to get ASAC building classroom more than Social Fund one's. Even though the quality of the building may have a lot of part to improve, but it has been my dearest wish to build such durable buildings as many as possible.

/Sound of Music in schools/

The primary art education support program, which started last year, is now progressing its follow-up stage. This program is targeting to train teachers in the leading schools in Kampot and Kampong Bay Districts in Kampot Province. 20 teachers are expected to be art education teachers in future . But to tell the truth, they are absolutely beginners who have never learnt painting or "do re mi." before. Although program went on, but we had to judge that under present situations, the follow-up course is indispensable to bring up teachers' level. Then the instructors began to go around schools. Singing voices and musical performances are sounded in the schools. The corridor is full of children who were peeping at the painting lesson in the room. Necessary instruments are presented by JHP, and teaching material are supplied by ASAC. Our schools become worthy of the name more and more. How I wish I could organize Brass Band come day! (Mariko-san used to be a member of brass band)

/Working bees on front line of library project/

The activity of the library in Komatsu Prey Tom primary school deeply delighted school children and villagers. According to this experience, the total number of libraries increased to six this year. New books are coming from ASIA Foundation, and personal or group members ASAC. Miss Seila takes the lead, Mrs. Sivatha, young Chea and Sokha, in all four persons are working hard. Mr. Boramy manages all.
Please give us aid for collecting books.

/Collaboration with the Government, a new school is born/

Every donation given to us brought a precious power to spread the ring of our activities. However, to my regret, I unwillingly decline your visit in our awfully isolated school sites where any proper convenience can't be expected. Usually ASAC's school is apt to be built in such an out-of-the way area. This time we are construct Dem Snay primary school and Ton Hong primary school. The construction site is located in Ka‚¨pong Trac District, east end of Kampot Province, where is close to the Vietnam border. In old days of World War II, there was a Japanese army air base for Singapore invention and battle between Japanese and French was fought here. During Vietnam War, American bombers hit this area. And in the Pol Pot times, it became invention route of Vietnam Army.

Now school construction of Dem Snay primary school is going to be realized. This is the great pleasure to the people who had been suffered from scare left by war for long time. The school capacity exceeds 1000 students. ASAC and the Ministry of Education allocated 5 classrooms building each and performed joint work. Furthermore the main school and Ton Hong primary school as a branch, we expect some decentralization of the students. Temporary young volunteer Mr. Sakakibara, who returned observation trip to the sites, said, "It was the longest day of my life!"

But in old days before the Civil War, regular buses left for Phnom Penh each 30 minutes here!

/SOMNAN's surgical operation succeeded/

I reported news last year about a little boy who was suffering from swollen belly by constipation and was fitted artificial anus after operation. He was nicknamed "SOMNAN"(means lucky) because his life was saved by fateful encounter with ASAC. He changed his original name and became Mr. Som Nan officially.

After about a half of a year, I visited his village to see him. His grotesque belly shrank completely and looked in better health. He is 10 years old now, and decided to go to school. Unfortunately, his artificial anus couldn't control discharge of bodily wastes. So the classroom was full of bad smell. Therefore new operation was prepared to cut off malfunctioned part of intestines and put sound part connects to anus, and stitch up the artificial anus.

Khantha Bopha pediatric hospital in Phnom Penh offers free medical service to children. Eight o'clock in the morning, we went to the hospital to apply for treatment and barely got a reception number of 1300 mark. More than 3000 children rush to the hospital a day.

10 days later his turn came. The operation went on safely. He had to make doing without eating and drinking for three days. After hard period he could walk around the hospital with a drip transfusion apparatus with childish curiosity. 10 more days after operation he left the hospital and was already able to take porridge. Somnan asked to see Wat Phnom. Miss Seila guided him getting on "Cyclo" together. Wearing white shirt and blue pants, to all appearance, he is none other than a shining first grader! Nobody can blame him for his bad smell any more. He was in high sprite and vent back to the home village where his grandpa was waiting.

/True character of firefly's glow/

The national road number 33 goes from Kampot passing close to Kep beach and leads to Kampong Trac District where Dem Snay primary school is located. The outskirts of Kampot were in total darkness of pitch black. I strained my eyes, and then I could see the villagers gathering beside National road n twos and threes having chatting as if they were taking back the time they passed idly in the hot daylight. Some flickering fires, which seemed as cooking use, were seen here and there in the village under cover of darkness.

Under these environments, I made night observation of literacy class in secret. The trees spread their branches over the national road changing its color into dark shadowy gray at night. But the security of the area is kept well in this moment, so the nighttime travel is no problem. I nearly overlooked a dim light twinkling under the floor of a farmer's house that was about 200 meters away from the national road. A simple fluorescent lamp, just like a grow of firefly, indicated the spot of literacy classes.

The teacher Neap Chim surrounded by villagers was full of dignity and tension at an unexpected appearance of Mariko-san. Students were also nervous in front of him. I wondered "Is this dim light which could hardly flash the page of the text book sufficient or not?" Don't worry about it. A glow of firefly in the pitch-black is a symbol of their coming peace and hope.

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