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Sunday, July 15, 2007

Students rally for students

By Jennifer Dyck
Morning Star Staff


For most local school children who enjoy spacious classrooms, computers and a wealth of supplies, it’s hard to imagine learning math or English kneeling on a straw mat on the cement, using an outhouse and drinking from a well.

But for many of the children and parents of Krang Thmey Village, Cambodia, these conditions make up one of the greatest experiences they have ever been afforded – the chance to receive a free education.

Thanks to the efforts of a young Cambodian couple providing a small house and former Mission Hill principal Anne Mackie helping to raise funds, the Krang Thmey English school was opened in October 2006.

Mackie went to Cambodia to teach at an international school, which she is still doing, but felt compelled to help this village and open the English school.

Support to keep the 150-student school running continues to be received from local elementary schools Mission Hill, East Vernon and Ellison.

Aside from their education, the students of Krang Thmey school are amazed by how much the students of the Vernon area care about them.

“What they can’t imagine at all is there are children who care enough, who think about them enough. They cannot believe they are so connected to you,” said Mackie, who was recently in Vernon visiting and thanking these schools for the support along with Chhourn Im who provided the school house.

“It’s incredible what you’ve raised,” said Mackie after receiving a $1,128 donation from Mission Hill students. “The commitment to the fundraising has been fantastic.”

Mackie says the funds will be used to purchase a generator and a TV so the children can have their first experience of colour television and watch educational DVDs to help them learn English.

There is no English spoken in the village but most parents want their children to learn the language because it can lead to better paying jobs (although the average annual income in the village is still less than $300 a year).

The students are eager to learn the language through the school, which also provides a small library where children can sign out books to take home.

“They are so excited by what they’ve learned,” said Im, who is also excited to be in Canada for his first time. “Right now they can say ‘hello, how are you?’ before they had no idea.”

Im also explained to the local school children that some children in Cambodia are still not afforded the opportunity to go to school due to the household needs.

“Some boys, they are your age, and their parents force them to quit school to farm.”

The village has also been granted other services thanks in part to the donations of Vernon residents.

Wells have been constructed to provide clean drinking water, families have been sponsored and homes have been re-enforced with tin roofs instead of palm leaves. All of these changes are gradually improving Im’s village, which he is grateful for.

“Thank you for helping our people, for helping our country, for helping our children.”

But this is just one village that has been helped and the poor situation in the war-devasted Cambodia continues. Issues of extreme poverty, limited access to education and health care are exacerbated by a corrupt political regime that has no social policy to address the living conditions of the majority of the people in Cambodia.

But, Mackie adds, “We can change the world – one village at a time.”

Anyone who would like to help support the school, sponsor a family or help out the overall situation can email Mackie at elizabeth_two@hotmail.com or Im at dj_chhourn@yahoo.com or his wife Srey Poev at chit_sreypoev@yahoo.com
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Arab group snaps up Raffles Cambodian hotels

THE hotel-investment company controlled by Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, the Saudi Arabian billionaire, has made its first foray into Cambodia as part of its quest to expand into emerging markets.

Kingdom Hotel Investments (KHI), which floated last year on the Dubai stock exchange and has a secondary listing in London, has made a double acquisition in the country.

As well as picking up Raffles Hotel Le Royal in the capital Phnom Penh, it has also bought the Raffles Grand Hotel d’Angkor in Siem Reap, close to the historic ruins at Angkor, for a total of $35m (£17.2m).

The company, which is headed by chief executive Sarmad Zok, regards Cambodia as a market where tourism is set to boom, as it has done in neighbouring countries such as Vietnam.

It is estimated that the number of tourists visiting Cambodia has already grown by around 22% over the past eight years.

After the deal, Raffles will continue to manage the hotels while the properties will be owned by KHI.

The group’s move follows the acquisition in April of its first hotel in China, a property in the city of Kunshan, outside Shanghai, for $58m.

With the Cambodian purchase, the group now has 36 hotels in 20 countries, including Kenya, Tanzania, Zam-bia and the Philippines.

The expansion of KHI reflects a wider appetite among investors for hotel real estate.

Last week, Cadbridge, an investment consortium, acquired Legacy Hotels, a hotel-property group listed in Toronto.

Earlier this month, buyout firm Black-stone acquired Hilton Hotels Corporation for $26 billion including debt, making it the world’s largest hotel owner.
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