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Saturday, September 27, 2008

A haven for children

'Grandma' connects Cambodian orphans and North American sponsors
GRAEME MORTON, Canwest News Service; Calgary Herald
Published: 2 hours ago
For Marie Ens, these truly are the golden years. "I praise God every day for my life," the eloquent 73-year-old says.

"I get to live in this beautiful place with palm trees, tropical flowers, my two golden retrievers and I have all these children who call me grandma."

A luxury retirement condo on a pristine Caribbean island? No, it's the Place of Rescue orphanage in rural Cambodia, which Ens founded five years ago and where she's still the driving force.

At this neat-as-a-pin community west of the Cambodian capital of Phnom Penh, more than 150 children, many orphaned by parents who died from AIDS, live in a safe, secure environment.

The centre is also a home to 17 "grannies," elderly women whose children have died of AIDS or were wiped out during the maniacal regime of Pol Pot during the 1970s.

"My job is to act as the go-between linking the kids in Cambodia and people in North America who have the heart to help them," Ens said. "This place was the Lord's dream."

The youngest of seven children from a Saskatchewan Mennonite family, Ens knew from an early age that she had a missionary's heart.

After marrying her husband, Norm, the couple applied to be missionaries. "We arrived in Cambodia in 1961," Ens said. Pol Pot's Khmer Rouge forces stormed into Phnom Penh in 1975. "It was a very tumultuous time, but I don't think anyone knew of the horrors that were to come."

In three years, Pol Pot and his minions are believed to have killed between 1 and 2 million Cambodians in his drive to create a socialist, agrarian utopia.

The Ens spent four years in France, where they ministered to many Cambodian refugees. After her husband's death in 1991, Ens felt like she needed to return to Cambodia. In 2000, when she turned 66, Ens had a spiritual epiphany in, of all places, an office supply store. "Despite my age, nothing had changed about the calling I still felt inside me. When I was in a Staples store, I heard the Billy Joel song My Life and that was it," she recalled with a smile.

Soon after, Ens was off to Cambodia again, ministering in military hospitals and caring for those stricken with AIDS. She saw firsthand the growing legions of children being left behind when their parents died. Substantial funding to launch her orphanage came from Samaritan's Purse supporters.

Each child is sponsored by a North American supporter to cover such daily necessities as food, clothing and education. The love, hugs and support come from Ens and her Cambodian staff. "Some of these kids come from horrible situations. My job is to be that caring grandma so that they know they are loved and valued."

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Everett church staffs clinic in Cambodia that aids 8,500

EVERETT -- More than 8,580 Cambodians trekked miles across their country to receive free medical care provided by a team of 31 volunteers from New Life Center Foursquare Church in Everett.

The volunteers recently returned from a two-week trip to Cambodia, where they and others from four states set up and ran a weeklong medical clinic near Pursat, a city in western Cambodia, said Rick Saw­czuk, New Life Center's missions pastor.

The team was comprised of students, adults, doctors and dentists who traveled to Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capitol, before making the five-hour trip to the medical clinic site west of Pursat. In Pursat, volunteers helped set up a temporary clinic including a pharmacy, an emergency room, an operating room and a wound care clinic.

During the week, volunteers treated medical conditions including skin infections, dehydration, malaria, dengue fever, stomach pain, bacterial infections, scabies and wounds. The team performed surgeries from dawn until dusk each day, including numerous tumor removals, and tended to a young man who had severed the fingers of his right hand, said Dr. Fred Hawley, a medical doctor in private practice in Arlington who was part of the New Life team.

One patient's fractured wrist was reset. More than 500 people were tested for tropical diseases and more than 400 were treated at the dental area. Volunteers gave out more than 1,000 pairs of reading glasses to people older than 50. In the wound care area, children were bathed with medicated shampoos and given new sets of clean clothes. Those with wounds received bandages and medicine to treat infections. The most serious cases were taken to the emergency or operating rooms for treatment, where Hawley performed a number of minor procedures.

Volunteers shared their faith with the patients as they entered and left the clinic. Ted Olbrich, a Foursquare missionary to Cambodia, said he hopes up to 30 village churches and at least one or two new orphan homes will be established as a result of the weeklong clinic, Sawczuk said.

New director at Prince of Peace preschool

Michelle Nilsen had big shoes to fill when she recently became director of Prince of Peace preschool in Everett.

Nilsen recently took the helm when Sue Baxter retired from the preschool after 30 years.

Nilsen's first day as director was in August and she was honored at an installation service in September. She has military, business and teaching experience.

Prince of Peace operates preschool ministries at various congregation sites in Snoho­mish County including Advent, Mill Creek; Christ the King, Snohomish; Holy Cross, Lake Stevens; Light of the Cross, Bothell and May's Pond and North Creek Presbyterian, Mill Creek.

Roughly 500 children ages 3 to 5 are served by the ministry that began in 1973 at Prince of Peace in the Eastmont neighborhood.

Herald staff reports
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TeliaSonera buys Asian operators for $488m

HELSINKI (Reuters) - Top Nordic telecom operator TeliaSonera AB aims to tap growth in Asian markets by buying controlling stakes in operators in Nepal and Cambodia for around 3.2 billion Swedish crowns ($488 million), it said on Friday.

TeliaSonera said it would buy a 51 percent stake in TeliaSonera Asia Holding BV from Kazakhstan’s Visor Group, which has an 80 percent stake in Nepalese operator Spice Nepal and 100 percent of Cambodia’s Applifone.

TeliaSonera said it expected to close the deal on Oct. 1.

Chief Executive Lars Nyberg said the purchases were an indication of where the company’s growth would increasingly come from in the future.

He said Eurasia offered rapid growth possibilities as economies are growing fast and mobile penetration levels low.

“You should see this as a sign of what our priority is when we look beyond the CIS markets,” Nyberg told a conference call.

One analyst who declined to be identified said Nepal was the more interesting acquisition of the two.

“There is a big population ... low mobile penetration and quite limited competition,” he said.

In Cambodia, competition is fiercer, he added.

Lena Osterberg, analyst at SEB said the price TeliaSonera was paying for the assets was too high, but Nyberg said the price was fair, given the good growth opportunities.

TeliaSonera shares were down 3 percent at 0950 GMT, against a 2 percent fall in the wider Stockholm market.

TeliaSonera has expanded rapidly in countries in the former Soviet Union in recent years as it diversifies away from its mature home markets in Scandinavia.

It has operations in Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan, Uzbekistan, Tajikistan, Georgia and Moldova as well as the Baltic states.

However, expansion has not come without headaches and TeliaSonera has been in a long-running dispute over control of Turkish operator Turkcell TCELL.IS and Russia's Megafon.

Nyberg said Eurasia was an increasingly important profit driver. He said the region had EBITDA margins over 50 percent against around 32 percent for the group as a whole.

“That’s why we should invest in this region,” Nyberg said.

TeliaSonera said Spice Nepal is the second-largest mobile operator in Nepal with around 1.6 million subscribers and an estimated market share of about 41 percent. It had sales of $41.1 million in 2007 and $34 million in the first half of 2008.

EBITDA, excluding non-recurring items, was $19 million in 2007 and $18.2 million in the first half of 2008. Nepal has a mobile penetration of around 13 percent, TeliaSonera said.

Applifone is the fourth-largest mobile operator in Cambodia, with some 97,500 subscribers and an estimated market share of 3 percent. Mobile penetration in the country is around 21 percent.

Tero Kivisaari, TeliaSonera’s Eurasia head, said he expected ARPUs (average revenues per user) in both countries to be stable or to decline slightly.
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Cambodian PM renews beauty pageant ban

PHNOM PENH (AFP) — Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen on Friday renewed his ban on beauty pageants in the Southeast Asian country, calling a previous beauty contest "bad luck."

Hun Sen said the Miss Cambodia pageant in 1993 was "bad luck," pointing to the fact the capital's historic Tonle Bassac theatre burned down the year after it hosted the contest.

"Don't spend (money) on a Miss Beauty contest. Don't hold it," he told officials during the first meeting of his government's new cabinet.

Hun Sen urged people instead to "please go ahead with boat racing."

The premier cancelled plans for a Miss Cambodia pageant in 2006, calling it a waste of funds that were better spent on farming. He also said he would not allow such a contest until poverty in Cambodia was reduced by more than half.

More than 30 percent of Cambodians live in grinding poverty in the tiny country of 13.4 million people.

There has not been a Miss Cambodia contest since the 1990s.
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