Inspecting our First Project

We have been so busy! Last week we lived through Friday twice! We walked into the service center here where we have a small office with computer and files of our projects and a large set of files of previous projects. We have been clearing out old files and reorganizing so we can move forward with a leaner file cabinet. As we walked in we thought it odd that no one was in the office. Hours later we looked out the door and still, no one was there. At one o’clock, we realized it was Saturday, Not Friday! We were in disbelief for another hour or so…we determined that we had to watch our calendar more closely!

A new school director in Kampong Cham showing us his school and the needs that he has for a well to replace the Rabbit Filters

As Humanitarian missionaries, we have several responsibilities. We look for projects such as digging wells for communes that have no fresh water, We look for schools that may need fresh water, and or latrines and handwash stations for the schools. Usually the need for these kinds of services are out in the provinces away from the city. We live in Phnom Penh, so we travel sometimes many hours on narrow highways to get to the villages.

If we find a project, it will require getting committments from the villages that they will help to build the project as we fund it. We get bids from professional well drillers, we secure contracts with the driller, and agreements with the land owners and the government, to insure that there is no missunderstandings about the scope and the responsibilities of all involved.

In case we didn’t share this picture before, we stopped for a bio break while traveling, and the urnals are outside the building, people are coming and going at the gas stop, this is just a little different here. One needs to be careful to zip up immediately.

After the project starts, we follow up to insure that the quality and workmanship is satisfactory. We verify that the project is on schedule, and then do the paperwork to get the scheduled payments released as milestones are achieved. As the project nears completion, a hand off ceremony is scheduled, a final inspection is made and final payments and paperwork to close the project is completed.

We are reaching the conclusion of several projects that were started earlier this year by our predesesors, so this Monday we are off to Svey Reng province to inspect 20 community wells for final payment. Last week we traveled to Kampong Cham and inspected a well that was completed there. We were delighted to meet some of the children and to get an up close look at a small country school here.

These children were practicing the alphabet, and agreed to take a break for a picture. They leave their shoes outside. The Khmer alphabet is the largest in the world with 33 consonants, 23 vowels and 12 independent vowels.

There are some areas we visit where wells are not possible. Drilling does not yield water. In these cases, they collect water from the pond and place it in a terra-cotta pot that has no drainage hole in the bottom, the water seeps through the pot and collects in a bucket, yielding fresh drinkable water. These pots are referred to as Rabbit Filters. The process is slow and requires much effort, but it helps on a hot day.

The classroom, in the back are rabbit filters, the fresh water for the classroom. The windows allow the air to circulate on a 90 degree day.

We plan to travel north next week to 3 different provinces, to look at a potential project, and inspect 30 wells in the Battambang area.

Finishing homework before class

This past Sunday, we enjoyed going to the SenYok Branch and enjoyed a wonderful morning meeting. It is one of the smaller branches here, the people are so kind and friendly. We sat right behind a young man of 13 who came with his grandfather. This boy had an unusual sense of awareness. he was watching us and being of help with anything that he percieved we might need. This branch is in a very poor area. There were several little children playing in the dirt road as we left. There was a small child riding a bike, with 3 smaller children on the bike with her. The kids are so sturdy and confident.

A typical school

We often see young children driving a moto that is pulling a trailer of crops or tools down a crowded, busy, narrow highway. Often on top of the load are more small children riding along to help with the work.

A boy driving a delivery on a busy narrow highway.

We also work in the North Stake here and are assigned to help strengthen the Young men and Young Womens program. There is a challenge here to hold an activity night mid week. The kids come home from school and get right to work on homework. It always gets dark here around 5:30, and when it gets dark, the members are very hesitant to be on the roads. The roads are not well lit, the motos often have no lights, and people are walking down the road often in the middle of the road. It is very risky to drive after dark. The adults often work until 7:00 or later to provide a living. This all makes for a near impossible task to hold Activity night.

The District President in Kampong Cham with his wife, daughter and grandson at their home. It sits in the middle of a bamboo forest. He sews clothing for a living out of his very humble home. They are so kind and beautiful. In spite of having so little, they are so happy.
Bamboo growing around their home

The stake YM and YW leaders held a goal setting fireside last week, as they kick off the new YM/YW program here. We are helping them get the message out that it is a good thing to set goals and to work toward them. It is a new concept here and the kids are trying to get it. We are hopeful that we can encourage them to discover their dreams and work toward achieving them.

A stake YM/YW fireside. Cambodians love to pose for a picture!

Sunday was a busy day. 3 Sacrament meetings, 2 stake meetings, and we were home early! Every night we find our way to the bedroom and drop into bed. We are exhausted every day. We love the work. The people are so wonderful. We love and appreciate our children more than ever. It is wonderful to get your Marco Polos, and notes, For you young men that might be thinking about serving a mission. Please work hard in seminary, serve in your quorums, take assignments and prepare. It is a wonderful experience to serve. The missionaries here are from various areas of the United States, Cambodia, Australia, and New Zealand. You will love the people, it will bless your life. We are loving this beautiful land. The culture is amazing to experience. The Lord manifests his power here in so many ways. It is humbling for us to be here. More next week!

Elder & Sister Stone