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Monday, March 16, 2009

Couple with local ties pushes Cambodia school project

Courtesy Photo MIKE AND NOELLE Magluilo stand in front of one of sights in Cambodia where they are helping to build a school. Noelle Magluilo grew up and attended schools in Laconia says her educational experience was part of what inspired the couple to embrace this project.


By JOHN KOZIOL


Inspired during a recent trip abroad by her educational experiences years earlier as a student in Laconia, Noelle Magluilo and her husband Mike are helping build a school in rural Cambodia.

The daughter of Mary and the late Peter Bourgault, Magluilo graduated from Laconia High School in 1991 and in 1995 obtained her bachelor's degree in Health Management and Policy from the University of New Hampshire.

For the past seven years, she and her husband have lived in London where Magluilo helped hospitals implement and manage software systems and her husband worked for a branch of an American bank.

The coupe traveled extensively and in 2008, they planned a trip to Asia. A neighbor of theirs in the Battersea neighborhood of London who was Thai suggested they visit his homeland but advised that if at all possible, they should also make a side journey to Cambodia.

That advice has transformed Magluilo's life and as she and her husband get ready to resettle in the U.S., Magluilo has devoted herself full time to a project she and Mike have named "Classrooms for Cambodia."

Working through an "on-the-ground" charity called American Assistance for Cambodia (AAfC), Classrooms for Cambodia is working to raise $19,000, which will be matched by the Asian Development Fund and the World Bank to cover the full $50,000 construction cost of a school for 140 students.

The Magluilos have raised $4,000 so far and hope to have the balance by the end of the year. They are motivated by two philosophies: teach a many how to fish and you feed him for a lifetime, and with knowledge, comes responsibility.

The former, said Magluilo, she learned in Laconia's public schools and her husband acquired through his own experiences in higher education. Mike Magluilo earned a scholarship to attend the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign where he obtained his degree and had inculcated in him the values of hard work, team play and charity, said his wife.

The Magluilos learned the true meaning of the second philosophy following their January trip to Cambodia, when they visited the historic Angkor Wat temple complex but also got a behind-the-scenes look at how many Cambodians live.

"We were humbled to see firsthand the tragedy the country has suffered and the poverty that continues to hamper progress," said Magluilo, referring to the genocidal Khmer Rouge regime that between 1975 -1979 was responsible for the deaths of an estimated 20 percent of the population.

Intellectuals, especially teachers, were killed as the Khmer Rouge attempted to root out all foreign "capitalist" influences and to create a communist, agrarian society.

Thirty years later, Cambodia is still suffering from the policies of the Khmer Rouge, said Magluilo, but thanks to the efforts of the AAFC, 300 schools have been built and with Classrooms for Cambodia, at least one more is in the works.

"Despite all the poverty there, you have never seen people smile so much," Magluilo said of the Cambodian people. "They're very humble, very modest, very hard working and everything they do they do with a smile."

"It was very inspiring to us to be surrounded by these people who just had this great energy about them and I think in many places they don't understand the extent of the poverty themselves but they really just have a beautiful spirit and we were really touched by that. When we came back, we knew we wanted to help somehow and I knew it was within my means to help."

The Magluilos thought about starting their own charity to build schools but in researching the matter further, decided to work with the AAFC after learning that it already had years of experience building schools in Cambodia. The AAFC is also training many Khmer Rouge orphans to be teachers, added Magluilo, whose mother was a teacher in the Alton, Gilford and Plymouth school districts.

"The trip to Cambodia made me even more grateful for the education I had in Laconia. This is a way for me to pay that forward," said Magluilo, who was in Laconia last week and stopped by her alma mater where she made a point to say hello to Gary Liptak, who has taught chemistry and physics at LHS for 25 years.

"This is where a lot of it started for me. It was even more challenging than my university studies. I got a great education and had excellent teachers and in listening to Mr. Liptak it cemented for me the value of the education I received and of wanting other people to have an opportunity like I had."

Liptak remembered Magluilo as "an academic standout" and a "marvelous kid who came off as unafraid of challenges."

"It doesn't surprise me a bit that she ended up doing this sort of work in Cambodia," said Liptak, adding that "as an educator, I'm just thrilled when I see one of our kids do wonderful things in general but specifically great things in education."

When fundraising for Classrooms in Cambodia reaches the $5,000 mark, AAFC will announce exactly where in Cambodia the money will be used to build a new school.

"It's important to me and Mike that the impact of donations is transparent," said Magluilo, and as important to her and her husband is that the students who study there know that the money came from all over the world, including a far away place called Laconia, New Hampshire where an education is a cherished thing.

For more information about Classrooms for Cambodia or to make a tax-deductible contribution to it through American Assistance for Cambodia, visit www.classroomsforcambodia.com or call Noellef and Mike Magluilo at (970) 372-2209.


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Cambodia to ask UN to list 1,400-year-old temple as world heritage site

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia will ask UN to list the Sambo Prey Kuk temple, which was built from 615 A.D. to 650 A.D., located in the Kompong Thom province, as a world heritage site, Khmer-language daily newspaper the Rasmei Kampuchea reported on Monday.

"We are preparing the proposal for UN to register the temple, which was built during the rule of Khmer King Isanverman I, with the Committee of World Heritage," the newspaper quoted Som Sokhun, secretary of state at the Ministry of Culture and Fine Arts, as saying.

The government has to organize a master plan for development and conservation of the temple, he said.

It was even older than the world-renowned Angkor Wat in Siem Reap province, which has been the hottest sightseeing spot of the kingdom, he said.

It was built with clay, but not stones, with which the Angkor Wat was constructed, he said.

The Sambo Prey Kuk temple is expected to become a place for people to study and research Khmer culture, construction, arts and history, he added.

The UN Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) already listed the Angkor Wat and the Preah Vihear temple in Preah Vihear province as World Heritage Sites.
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Cambodian government rejects U.S. human rights report

PHNOM PENH, The Cambodian government has condemned that a human rights report recently issued by the U.S. State Department didn't reflect the reality of Cambodia, said official news agency AKP on Monday.

"The 2008 Country Report on Human Rights Practices on Cambodia issued by the U.S. State Department seems to be a routine that has nothing to do with human rights reality in Cambodia, and appears to be almost a carbon copy of the reports of the previous years with a few cosmetic changes here and there," the Agence Kampuchea Presse quoted a spokesman of the Cambodian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and International Cooperation as saying in a statement.

The report contains a number of unsubstantiated assertions which appear to rely on misleading information supplied by certain organizations, which are monitored and financially supported by certain foreign countries, said the spokesman.

He clarified that "it is very normal in democratic countries that political party which wins landslide victory in democratic elections has to lead the country, and there is nothing unusual about such democratic practice everywhere in the world."

"There is simply never 'extra-judicial killing' by security forces in Cambodia as mentioned in the report. This is only vulgarlie," he said.

"With regard to the freedom of speech and press in Cambodia, one only needs to read and see how the ubiquitous opposition newspapers attack the Royal Government of Cambodia. Even the newspapers written in foreign languages, financed and managed by foreigners do not have the slightest reservation or hesitation in criticizing the Royal Government of Cambodia," he added.

The spokesman also explained the so-called "unlawful forced eviction," saying that "one must ponder whether there is any country in the world which allows squatters to take over possession of or occupy permanently private properties or public areas such as public gardens, sidewalk and streets."

"Finally, if enforcing rules to maintain public order is construed as human rights violation, then what does one have to say in terms of human rights respect on the condition in the secret prisons of a certain country where torture of prisoners is practiced as reported in the media?" added the spokesman in the statement.
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