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Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Local woman raising funds for a school in Cambodia


Donna Martin loves being retired after teaching full-time for 34 years in the Chippewa Falls School District.

But while enjoying the more relaxed pace of retirement, she kept asking herself: “What are you doing to make a difference?”

Last summer, while on a trip to the Boundary Waters area in Minnesota, Martin found out.

She read an article in O, The Oprah Magazine, about how to help girls around the world. The article said a Web site,, builds an entire school in Cambodia, a country of 14 million, for a donation of $13,000. After the Asian Development Bank matches the donation (up to $30,000), a site is selected from a waiting list and a school is built by American Assistance for Cambodia. The group, which has built over 300 schools in the country, says $10,000 of the donation is used to build the school, and the other $3,000 for a general school account. (The contributions are tax-deductible).

“I thought $13,000 was nothing,” she said.

So Carol Martin, who retired in 2003, is setting aside money she earns by substitute teaching to build a school in Cambodia. She figures that it will take three years to raise the money.

Several people suggested speeding the process by taking her idea to community groups to see if they would be willing to donate. “That’s exactly what I’m doing,” she said.

She said she’s willing to speak to groups about the school project, and has a 10-minute DVD to show about building a Cambodian school.

She talked with the Chippewa Falls Senior High School staff on Thursday, Oct. 15, asking that the school’s service clubs keep the Cambodian school idea in mind for a project.

Martin said each school built by the group behind the Web site has three to six classrooms. The teachers are state certified, and each school has solar panels that give off enough power to run a couple of computers.

Each school is built in brick, because a wooden structure would not stand up to Cambodia’s monsoon season from May to November.

Martin said some people may remember Cambodia for “The Killing Fields” days, when murderous dictator Pol Pot killed thousands. Cambodia today is a democracy, and has been since 1991. “It is stable,” Martin said.

Many in the country live in villages of 100 to 400 people. Martin said 84 percent of the population lives in rural areas. “Half of the women can’t read or write,” she said.

So there are a lot of people in search of an education. “The classes are huge. The classes are 30 to 45 people in the class,” Martin said.

Martin said within 5-8 months of getting the money, the American Assistance for Cambodia will have the school built. “I could name the school. I could go visit it. And I could teach there,” Martin said.

The main thing, however, is to get the school built so students can begin learning.

“I’m hoping to do it in a year with contributions,” Martin said.
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Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his Wife, Rosalynn, Join Thousands of Volunteers in Asia for Annual Habitat for Humanity Build

Former U.S. President Jimmy Carter and his Wife, Rosalynn, Join Thousands of
Volunteers in Asia for Annual Habitat for Humanity Build 166 homes will be built or repaired in Thailand, Vietnam, China, Cambodia and Laos as part of Habitat for Humanity's Jimmy and Rosalynn Carter Work Project.

ATLANTA, Oct. 20 /PRNewswire/ -- Former U.S. President and Nobel Peace Prize
laureate Jimmy Carter and his wife, Rosalynn, will lead the annual Habitat for
Humanity build bearing their name in five Asian countries, Nov. 15-20.

The Carters and nearly 3,000 volunteers from around the world will build and
repair 166 homes in Thailand, Vietnam, China, Cambodia and Laos - all
countries along the Mekong River. In the Mekong River Basin, nearly one-fifth
of the population lives in poverty - many on less than the equivalent of one
US dollar per day, according to the CIA World Factbook.

"In an area of the world where many people live in deplorable conditions, we
have a chance to help families improve their housing," said former President
Jimmy Carter. "Over the years I have seen the lasting impact Habitat for
Humanity volunteers can have, and I have been personally touched by the work
they are doing around the world."

Country music stars Garth Brooks and Trisha Yearwood will volunteer alongside
the Carters during the Carter Work Project. Brooks and Yearwood have worked
on numerous Habitat build sites in recent years.

Habitat for Humanity of Thailand will anchor the five-country Carter Work
Project, where volunteers will build a community of 82 houses with families in
Chiang Mai province. The number 82 was chosen to honor the 82nd birthday of
the Thai king, His Majesty King Bhumibol Adulyadej, on Dec. 5, 2009.

Habitat volunteers in Cambodia will build 21 houses in Damnak Thom village
with families who will be relocating from a dumpsite near Phnom Penh.
Thirty-two houses will be built by Habitat homeowners and volunteers in
Vietnam's Dong Xa village near Hanoi.

In China Habitat is working with the local government in Qionglai city, in the
southwestern province of Sichuan, in a project to build a series of
multi-story, urban housing units that will eventually house hundreds of
families. Habitat volunteers will help construct 20 Habitat for Humanity units
during the Carter project.

Additionally, in Laos, Habitat volunteers and families will refurbish 11 homes
in Ban Chawang village, 30 minutes outside the capital city of Vientiane.

"With the help of President and Mrs. Carter and the thousands of devoted
Habitat volunteers, the Carter Work Project will result not only in better
housing for families who urgently need it in the Mekong region, but in
much-needed attention to the housing plight of so many families in this part
of the world," said Habitat for Humanity chief executive officer Jonathan
Reckford. "Decent shelter helps transform lives and entire communities, and
we're grateful for President and Mrs. Carter's servant leadership."

"Habitat for Humanity has a strong and growing presence in all the Mekong
countries through a wide range of housing solutions," said Richard Hathaway,
vice president for Habitat for Humanity International's Asia/Pacific region.
"We are thankful to President and Mrs. Carter and the thousands of volunteers
who will give programs in this area a major boost, allowing Habitat to serve
even more families in need of decent shelter."

Habitat's Carter Work Project is an annual, internationally-recognized week of
building that brings attention to the need for simple, decent and affordable
housing in partnership with low-income families. President and Mrs. Carter
have faithfully given one week of their time each year since 1984 to help
build Habitat homes and raise awareness about the need for simple, decent
housing. The Carter Work Project has been held in India, Korea, The
Philippines, Mexico, South Africa, Hungary and throughout the United States.

About Habitat for Humanity International
Habitat for Humanity International is an ecumenical Christian ministry that
welcomes to its work all people dedicated to the cause of eliminating poverty
housing. Since its founding in 1976, Habitat has built more than 300,000
houses worldwide, providing simple, decent and affordable shelter for more
than 1.5 million people. For more information, visit
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