Posts Tagged ‘kids’


Why kids in SE Asia need your support

Tuesday, January 17th, 2012

Why we are supporting Child’s Dream…

We both care about children – Chris works with vulnerable young people and children in crisis, Liz volunteered for a charity called Home Start which supports families with children under 5.  So we are both passionate about supporting children and their families, to give them the confidence, knowledge and belief that they can improve their situation or make changes in their lives.

Sustainability

We both want to work with a charity whose projects are sustainable… ‘give a man a fish and he can feed his family for a day, teach a man to fish and he can feed his family for a lifetime’. Child’s Dream goes one step further than that and works with the communities to find out what they need…is fishing the best option? Do you even want to fish? The projects provide infrastructure, community development and resources, building both sustainable school structures and lasting relationships with the villagers. The communities are actively involved and ultimately have ownership of the projects, with a vested interest in their survival.

Risks to children in Southeast Asia

In the UK we are very aware of the suffering of children in Africa and it’s easy to forget that there are other children in the world who live in equal poverty. South East Asia is one of the poorest places for a child to grow up. The risks children face include child trafficking, being force into the sex industry, forced resettlement or displacement, as well as a lack of basic healthcare and clean water, often living in families surviving on just a few dollars a day.

Despite the vast array of 24hr news channels and newspapers online, there is very limited coverage or reportage about this region and the lives of the people who live here. No one hears much about the lives of children living in Thailand, Loas, Cambodia, Burma or Vietnam. No one tells their stories.

Globalisation – cheap goods and cheap labour

Here in the UK we enjoy buying cheap products from linen shirts to DVD players that cost just £30, we expect to eat a wide variety of food all year round from king prawns to mangos.  What we forget or don’t know is that many of the foods and products that we want, come from South East Asia and the people who grow, produce and manufacture these things for the west, live in poverty. There is a human cost, if not a retail cost!

Whilst globalisation has benefited some, it has also led to a change in the way of life for many. With increased urbanisation and industrial development, people are under pressure to go to the cities to earn more money, moving away from their families and working and living under harsh conditions. As few are very well educated, the only option open to them is factory work, manufacturing items or processing food mostly for export. Even the governments in this region focus on the development of natural resources for export, not on the development of communities.

Surely we can’t just keep taking? Surely it’s time to give something back?

Education and a future

Education is key to the children in this region. Whilst some may consider the idea of Europeans arriving in countries and prescribing education as the answer, as arrogant or may argue that it undermines their way of life – subsistence farming and agriculture – we don’t believe this to be true or fair. Their way of life has already been undermined and changed forever by the impact of globalisation and urbanisation, by our demand for cheap goods and cheap labour, and their governments’ policies on trade and export. If farming is no longer a long term option, then education will give children a chance to learn skills and equip them with knowledge to understand the world they are growing up in. Education gives people choices, the children may have little in terms money, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have aspirations to grow up and do something interesting with their lives, or at the very least earn enough money to be able to support their families.

Education and a school environment also provides stability, where perhaps there is little elsewhere in their lives. It gives children self-esteem and self-belief, empowering them to learn and grow with confidence. School isn’t just about learning, it is a place to find  out who you are and what you can do, you may be musical or artistic, or good at sport, good with other children; a place where people listen to you and share with you.  Why should we deny any child access to education, everyone deserves the choice and the chance to become who they really are.

Child’s Dream are giving children and their families that choice.

To make a donation please visit:  http://childsdream.org/donate/ and let us know too so we can add you to our grand total.  We really value your support, thanks!

Why we are supporting Child’s Dream…

We both care about children – Chris works with vulnerable young people and children in crisis, Liz volunteers for a charity called Home Start which supports families with children under 5. So we are both passionate about supporting children and their families, to give them the confidence, knowledge and belief that they can improve their situation or make changes in their lives.

Sustainability

We both want to work with a charity whose projects are sustainable… ‘give a man a fish and he can feed his family for a day, teach a man to fish and he can feed his family for a lifetime’. Child’s Dream goes one step further than that and works with the communities to find out what they need…is fishing the best option? Do you even want to fish? The projects provide infrastructure, community development and resources, building both sustainable school structures and lasting relationships with the villagers. The communities are actively involved and ultimately have ownership of the projects, with a vested interest in their survival.

Risks to children in Southeast Asia

In the UK we are very aware of the suffering of children in Africa and it’s easy to forget that there are other children in the world who live in equal poverty. South East Asia is one of the poorest places for a child to grow up. The risks children face include child trafficking, being force into the sex industry, forced resettlement or displacement, as well as a lack of basic healthcare and clean water, often living in families surviving on just a few dollars a day.

Despite the vast array of 24hr news channels and newspapers online, there is very limited coverage or reportage about this region and the lives of the people who live here. No one hears much about the lives of children living in Thailand, Loas, Cambodia, Burma or Vietnam. No one tells their stories.

Globalisation – cheap goods and cheap labour

Here in the UK we enjoy buying cheap products from linen shirts to DVD players that cost just £30, we expect to eat a wide variety of food all year round from king prawns to mangos.  What we forget or don’t know is that many of the foods and products that we want, come from South East Asia and the people who grow, produce and manufacture these things for the west, live in poverty. There is a human cost, if not a retail cost!

Whilst globalisation has benefited some, it has also led to a change in the way of life for many. With increased urbanisation and industrial development, people are under pressure to go to the cities to earn more money, moving away from their families and working and living under harsh conditions. As few are very well educated, the only option open to them is factory work, manufacturing items or processing food mostly for export. Even the governments in this region focus on the development of natural resources for export, not on the development of communities.

Surely we can’t just keep taking? Surely it’s time to give something back?

Education and a future

Education is key to the children in this region. Whilst some may consider the idea of Europeans arriving in countries and prescribing education as the answer, as arrogant or may argue that it undermines their way of life – subsistence farming and agriculture – we don’t believe this to be true or fair. Their way of life has already been undermined and changed forever by the impact of globalisation and urbanisation, by our demand for cheap goods and cheap labour, and their governments’ policies on trade and export. If farming is no longer a long term option, then education will give children a chance to learn skills and equip them with knowledge to understand the world they are growing up in. Education gives people choices, the children may have little in terms money, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t have aspirations to grow up and do something interesting with their lives, or at the very least earn enough money to be able to support their families.

Education and a school environment also provides stability, where perhaps there is little elsewhere in their lives. It gives children self-esteem and self-belief, empowering them to learn and grow with confidence. School isn’t just about learning, it is a place to find  out who you are and what you can do, you may be musical or artistic, or good at sport, good with other children; a place where people listen to you and share with you.  Why should we deny any child access to education, everyone deserves the choice and the chance to become who they really are.

Child’s Dream are giving children and their families that choice.

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Cheeky kids and Khorgo Ger Camp

Friday, September 23rd, 2011

We left Tunga’s and cycled to the lake where we planned to stay at one of the ger camps. They are expensive but they have hot showers and I was in need of a shower, as the last one had been in Tsetserleg, a week ago.

We went up and over the hill, near the volcano and met some boys on their bikes on the way up, who were friendly but cheeky. One asked for the mirror on Chris’s bike, Chris said no, then asked if he could have mine. We tried to explain that we needed them to see the cars. They followed us on their bikes for a while. We had just bought food supplies of the next leg of our journey and i had the bag strapped to the back of my bike. One of the boys spotted a bottle of coke and a bag of crisps. They wanted the coke and were asking us to give it to them. We carried on cycling and tried to ignore them, but they started trying to pull the coke and bag off my bike as we were cycling.  I stopped and told them to leave it alone, but they kept trying. We weren’t trying to be mean, but we didn’t feel it was right for them to demand that we give them stuff or try to take it after we had said no. They obviously had no appreciation for the fact that we were carrying everything we needed for our journey and the food was needed in order for us to cycle for the next few days. Admittedly the coke was not a necessity but still…

Chris and I often discuss this and don’t fully agree.  I sometimes give  sweets to the little children we meet, particularly in the countryside when they come running over to see us, waving and surprised to see us. Chris doesn’t think I should do this as he feels that it encourages kids to see westerners/tourists as ‘people who will give them stuff’, and that they will come to expect it or even demand it (as happens in parts of Africa). I’m not so sure, as some of the places we cycle through are not exactly on the tourist trail and some of the children probably have have little or no contact with tourists. So unless there are cyclists coming through regularly, giving out  sweeties, then I’m not convinced that giving one kid a couple of sweets is a huge issue.

That said, the boys were very persistent in this case and annoying, so I could see Chris’s point of view.  We ignored them completely and eventually they stopped and we cycled off without them.

We came to Khorgo camp after about 8km. It is a really nice camp set up in the hills and mountains, quite a distance from the lake but beautiful.

Our ger is a 4 sided ger, very cosy with nice beds and towels. Bagi, the man running the camp was very welcoming and helped us with our bikes and bags, and had already lit a fire inside for us. These little luxury gers are great and I enjoyed a lovely shower, although it was pretty cold getting undressed in the shower  and toilet block!  Bagi had asked us what we would like for dinner and we asked if they had goulash – we have been asking for goulash at every place we’ve eaten but then never have it -  he said yes and said it would be made with fresh yaks meat and potatoes. Dinner was great, with a lovely salad, montou – steamed bread rolls, goulash with mash potato and yoghurt for pudding, really delicious and very friendly staff. This camp is one of the best places we have stayed.

Khorgo camp

Mid September 2011 – $35 per person including 3 meals, hot showers and ger with towels, bedding, fire wood and hot water. Hot showers  after 6pm. 8km from Tariat village. +976 9916 2847

So we relaxed here, writing blogs and doing jobs. You’re probably wondering what jobs 2 cyclists have to do, well there are always running repairs to do… one pannier has a hole in it, they are meant to be waterproof so holes need to be fixed. Our ceramic water filters have had a lot of use recently, filtering river water, so these need to be scrubbed clean and boiled. There is always some sewing to do, mending things that have ripped and our clothes. Hand washing clothes. Oiling the bikes and fixing things that have come loose or got bumped. Mending inner tubes. Charging up phones, batteries, ipods, laptop etc There is plenty to keep us busy!

From here we will cycle 170km up to Tosontsengel, the coldest place in Mongolia, via Jargalant. We are hoping to film some of this trip and will post some of our videos for you to watch.

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So much for the winter thermals!

Monday, June 13th, 2011

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Having left the friendly people in the yurt, we cycled on to the town, crossing the railway and passing a stop sign that looked like it was from Middle Earth! (Lord of the Rings reference there, Orcs??)

Anyway as we cycled into town, I couldn’t help feeling as if we were in Africa, the makeshift houses and colourful roof tops reminded me of the shanty towns.  The wreck of an old car greeted us as we cycled in.

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However as we got to the centre of the small town, it was quite nice and stopping outside a shop in the shade we quickly gathered quite a crowd. It was baking hot so Chris went off to find coke and ice-creams for us. Whilst he was gone a group of young lads gathered round and fired questions at me, some of which I answered. They were keen to have a go on my bike, so I let 2 of them have a go. The bike is about the right size for them, but with 30kg of weight on it, balancing can be a bit tricky, especially if you are not used to it. The first boy was fine and looked liked he’d been riding my bike all his life. The second one was a bit younger and found it pretty hard, coming off twice. So I rescued him and my bike and decided that it would be best to end that game. Not so worried about the bike, more about their limbs and skulls, last thing we need is Mongolian mums chasing us out of town!

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After doing some food shopping, including going into a room where big slabs of meat are just laid out on a table and you choose what you want, we found a small cafe to eat in. Once we realised that, despite there being 20 items listed on the menu, they only had one dish available, we ordered that and sat back to relax. The two young girls serving, about 10 or 11 years old, were really excited about us being there. I guess not main foreigners pass through their town. When the food arrived i was very happy, hot mutton ribs, a bit like lamb chops, mash potato, rice, cabbage and salad, and it all tasted pretty good.

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We plugged our laptop into the powerpoint in the restaurant to charge it up. However when we opened it up the screen was flickering and wouldn’t display. Hmmn, not good. So we abandoned that idea and packed up, ready to leave town and camp for the night. We found somewhere just a few kms out of town, still close enough to the mobile phone mast, so that we had full reception on our mobile phone. That night, determined to get a blog post up on the website, I had a go at fixing the laptop.

As we’ve been in such a sandy environment and on very bumpy terrain, it’s hardly surprising the laptop wasn’t feeling too well, and I could sympathise completely! It appeared that the hinge between the screen and the keyboard was a bit loose and i decided this might be the problem. After removing the battery, I carefully removed the 13(!) screws on the back with our trusty penknife and revealed the inside of the computer.

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i was surpirsed and relieved at how clean it was. No dust or dirt in there. The wires all seemed to be ok and there were no obviously loose connections. So I put it all back together and clipped the hinge back together, and turned it back on. Nothing. Hmmn. I spent some time wiggling the screen back and forth, sometimes getting a stripey images. Finally frustrated at the situation I simply plonked the laptop down, ready to give up. It suddenly sprung into life and the picture was perfect. We were back in business!

Pleased with the lucky result, I tentatively began typing, trying not to move an inch or bump the computer in any way, in case the display should disappear! All was well and I began uploading the blog post. The internet connection was sooo slow and the images wouldn’t upload. Finally after a torturous 2 hours it finally published. Talk about a labour of  love!

Next morning Chris got up and got on his bike. The previous day he’d left his bike lock by the side of the road whilst fixing a puncture, he really wanted to go back (15km) for it. Having stayed up late wrestling with the computer, I was happy to have a lie in and do some jobs back at camp, then cycle in the afternoon.

It was an absolute stinker of a day, really really  hot. I was sweltering in the tent, yet it was too hot outside. Chris returned 3 hours later, very hot and empty handed, no luck, no lock. Oh well, at least he tried. After a 34km round trip in the heat, he was a little tired and hungry. We agreed that we would wait for the heat to subside before cycling anywhere. Lethargic and sweaty, we ate cheese sandwiches and kept out of the sun. With the tarp rigged up, we had some shade and Chris set about fixing some of his punctures.

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Our tyres are meant to be very tough and resistant to punctures, however some of the thorn bushes here have other ideas. Chris was not impressed when he found a whole cluster of thorns lodged in his tyre…  “Hmmn these tyres are meant to be tough…” I had to point out that these little thorn bushes have had to work really hard to survive out here in the desert and are pretty tough too – they’re really not going to let a couple of bicycles get in their way!

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At 4.30 pm we checked our thermometer and it said it was 37 degrees! No wonder we were hot. Phew, so much for all our thermal underwear, balaclavas, ski gloves and winter jackets! At 7pm it was 20 degrees and I felt cold. Crazy stuff.

You’ve probably worked out by now that we didn’t cycle anywhere today. I don’t think I can stress enough how much we are at the mercy of the elements out here; wind, hail, sand storms, now heat! So with some time on our hands I decided to cook up a really nice stew for us. I’d bought a big slab of meat in the town and set about cutting it up with our penknife, then threw in some onion, pepper, potato and carrot. After browning the meat and frying the veg, I covered it all with water and crumbled two oxo cubes into the pan. With a spoonful of tomato paste, some salt and pepper, i left it to cook…

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After half an hour it was looking good! One thing’s for sure, we may be in the desert but we’ve not done to badly on the food front and I think we’ve done well to cook up some really nice meals. It doesn’t all have to be hard on the road and i do believe that you should eat well, that way you have something to look forward to at the end of the day! With dusk arriving and some cooler air, we sat down to enjoy our stew, with some thick slices of bread to dip in the gravy, it tasted great!

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First week at Tomato Village School

Thursday, August 12th, 2010

(Written Monday 9th evening)

So we’ve just completed our first week at the Tomato Village School, time flies, can’t believe it’s been a week already! When we first arrived, albeit after a long journey, we both felt a bit jet lagged and as if we had landed in a new country. It is much cooler up here and you need to wear an extra layer in the evening. The village is situated in the mountainous area, north west of Mae Hong Son, about 2000+ meters up. The windy road up here climbs swiftly and is pretty steep – be great fun to cycle down, not so sure about the journey back up!

Benjamin

Benjamin

We are living with Benjamin and his family, and the two school classrooms are built on his land, along with the volunteers accommodation. We are on a hillside, so the bigger classroom is at the top, our hut in the middle, along side Ben’s house and then the smaller classroom is at the bottom. There is a path that runs up, but it is quite muddy and slippery. I managed to slip quite badly a few days ago, despite stepping carefully like a granny.

Benjamin runs the school with is son in law Ten, who is the assistant teacher. Benjamin is originally from Burma but left the country many years ago when ‘things got too bad’.

He has many stories to tell us about Burma and we are close to the largest refugee camp where more than 25,000 Burmese refugees live (there are 5 large camps a long the border with Thailand).

We will hopefully be able to share some of these stories with you and maybe even arrange a visit to the camp, although we need to speak with the UN first.

Our accommodation is comfortable, we have our own room/building with a bed and mattress, bedding and a mosquito net. There is electricity and we have a power socket in our room. There is also a good mobile phone (and therefore internet) signal, apart from when it is raining! There is a toilet across the path and we can use the shower in the family bathroom or have a bucket wash…big trough of water with scoop, you pour water over yourselves and wash. The water is pretty cold! We have blankets on our bed as it’s cold at night. Despite the cool temperature there are still plenty of mosquitoes up here, as well as moths, spiders, little beetles, cockroaches and various other visitors. We are both enjoying the cooler climate though – it’s a nice change after many many months of heat.

Our roomBenjamin is also providing all of our meals, cooking for us at lunch and dinner time. The food has been great and it’s interesting to see what people eat on an every day basis, even is if ours is a less spicy version! Rice features heavily of course, but we have had curry, sweet and sour stir-fry with pork and fresh pineapple, spicy pork meatballs, soups, fish, sweet honey sausage, bananas, jackfruit, pineapple, sticky rice, cakes biscuits, plus copious amount of sweet black tea and fresh coffee! So we are being looked after very well and Benjamin is a great host who takes a lot of care to make sure we are happy.

Chris and Ben ‘drive the train’ together (smoking cigars from Burma) over coffee and interesting chats.

The English lesson take place in the evening 6-8pm. The children go to school during the day and then come up to Ben’s place in the evening. Many arrive early, well before 6pm to play and eat snacks, greeting us with ‘Good evening teacher!’.

Class B

The youngest children are about 6 years old and the eldest 15 years old. There are 60 students, split into 3 classes, A, B and C. Early on Chris opted to teach Class A – advanced, which suited me fine as I prefer working with younger kids, so I take B class (mon, wed, fri) and C class (tues and thurs). After a couple of evening teaching with Benjamin and Ten, we began to teach on our own. Ben could se early on that Chris is a natural teacher, with plenty of patience, oodles of enthusiasm and good crowd control.

I chose to draw on my creative skills, making flash cards and wall charts, bringing out my colouring pencils and coloured chalk to brighten things up  a little. Ten was pleased with my first lesson and said that i seemed to know what i wad doing, had a good plan and it was if i had come form teacher training college! Delighted with such positive feedback I was happy to teach alone.

My classroom is quite small and i have limited room to manoeuvre – 4 desks, 4 benches, 22 kids and a blackboard. The electricity is good and we have lighting, however the electric cuts off occasionally  and we have car batteries for back up, and candles. So far it has cut out twice but only for a short period. The kids always cheer loudly when it comes back on.

Top Classroom at break time

Top Classroom at break time

Chris teaches in the top classroom up the hill, which is more spacious. He teaches Class A – 22 kids, older and more advanced.Many of the kids have to travel form their high schools, which are further away, so they often don’t arrive until after 6pm. It’s a long old day for them and they come every night to learn English!

The kids are great, very friendly, keen to learn, well behaved and polite with a good attitude. They seem pleased to have us here. Overall we are impressed with the level of English being taught here, considering the remote location and resources.

After our first couple of evenings teaching, we were both on a high, buzzing with the energy and fun of teaching. We sit with Ben and Ten and have tea or coffee, chatting until it’s time for bed.  The rain arrives in the evening and we snuggle under our blankets, both happy to be here, feeling settled in our peaceful surroundings. We both sleep well.

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