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Monday, March 05, 2012

Dinner to help Cambodian children


RESIDENTS of Frankston and the Mornington Peninsula are invited to a dinner of spiritual awakening at which they can help raise money to provide food, education and support to needy Cambodian children.

Inspirational guess: Venerable Somnieng Hoeurn
The evening is being organised by local group Rice for Cambodia Australia. The organisation was formed in 2004, after its founders visited Cambodia.

They visited an orphanage in Angkor Wat and saw a need to help orphans and vulnerable children.

They began providing a tonne of rice per month to one orphanage and have since expanded to support three non-government organisations in Cambodia.

Guest of honour at the dinner will be Cambodia spiritual leader and the founder of the Life and Hope Association, Venerable Somnieng Hoeurn.
The event will be held on Thursday at the Kon Thai Restaurant, 481 Nepean Highway, Frankston. The dinner is $45 per person, which includes a Thai banquet and a glass of wine or soft drink.

Details: Call Sharon on 0408 404 633 or email
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Unsung Hero: Rich Cromwell, connecting with Cambodian kids

Hope and help

Their children are a drug like no other. The tykes poured out of their huts, running to road’s edge with their scruffy, smiling faces and ragged clothes, hollering “Hello” and “Bye-Bye” and waving until I thought they’d break a wrist. I often had big alligator tears of joy smudging my sunglasses.

BRUNSWICK — Rich Cromwell wrote these words in 2010 after a long bike ride through the remote corners of Southeast Asia.

Along the way his encounter with children in a Cambodian orphanage forever changed his life.

Cromwell did not make the trip to Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia to have his life transformed. An adventurous sort, he had taken many bike trips since his retirement in 2005, including a ride down the Continental Divide from Canada to Mexico and a 1,000-mile ride across southern Spain.

During his ride through a floating village on Tonle Sap Lake in Cambodia, a group of excited kids in yellow T-shirts rushed up to greet him. They invited him inside the orphanage where they lived.

“I spent three or four days there,” Cromwell said. “I couldn’t speak their language, but they were kind and patient people. The little they have is offered generously to strangers.”

A few days after Cromwell left the orphanage, he met Martin and Janet, a couple from Holland. He told them about the orphanage and the needs of the children. For example, although the orphanage had 26 kids, the kids had to take turns going to school because they had only eight sets of clothes and flip-flops.

Martin pulled out $60 and gave it to Cromwell, saying “Maybe this will help.” Cromwell urged the couple to return to the orphanage with him, which they did.

“We had such a joyful time buying clothes and wooden bowls for the kids," he recalled. "There wasn’t a dry eye when we left.”

After returning home to Brunswick, Cromwell kept in touch with the people at the orphanage and with his Dutch friends. He knew he would return to that village, even though it takes a grueling 40 hours to get there, using planes, trains, buses and boats.

Last October, Cromwell mentioned to some friends that he would be returning to Cambodia to help out an orphanage he had visited in 2010 as well as a satellite orphanage. In just two weeks, he received $3,000 in contributions for what he terms his “Cambodian Kids.” Stunned by the generosity, Cromwell wrote, “There is a lot of darkness in the world, but the sun was shining from Brunswick to Cambodia.”

In November, Cromwell went back to Cambodia with a buddy who had just returned from a tour of duty in Afghanistan. They accomplished a lot in just three weeks, everything from providing basic necessities (like installing a new water filter system, a new floor in the common area, new mosquito nets, and buying shoes, socks and uniforms) to contributing items to enhance the kids lives (coloring books, paints, soccer balls and Frisbees).

They even took the kids and staff on a day trip to a karaoke club in Siem Reap, a remarkable experience for kids who had seldom if ever left their village, one of the poorest in the country.

Cromwell was blown away yet again by his second visit to Cambodia. As he wrote in his follow-up report to friends and supporters: “I appreciate your kind words and I love the attention (at my age I get excited if a stray dog sniffs my leg), so your continued interest is really welcomed.

“But think it through. My friends entrust me with their hard-earned cash to help less fortunate little tykes in a far away land. Then I get to travel to this far away land to work with the wonderful and cooperative Cambodian people to help the cutest, most affectionate kids on the planet. What a life!

“The kids now have a source of clean water to drink and less mosquito-infested standing water, more sanitary kitchens and, most importantly, a volleyball court. My scruffy little buddies have a better life! I thank you on your behalf for making this wonderful trip possible.

“What we do for ourselves dies with us, but what we do for others lives on.”

Cromwell proves: Good things happen when a man with a big heart on a bike in a far off land meets kids with big smiles.
To learn more about Cromwell’s work with kids in Cambodian orphanages, contact him at

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India Starts to Build Replica of Cambodia's Angkor Wat

A Hindu trust in India on Monday started a 10--year project to build a replica of Cambodia’s Angkor Wat temple on the banks of the Ganges.

A foundation-laying ceremony was held at the 40-acre site in the eastern state of Bihar where the trust plans to recreate the temple’s huge structure and elaborate stone carvings.

Organizers say they intend the new building to be the tallest Hindu temple in the world.

The UNESCO-listed site in Cambodia contains the remains of various capitals from the Khmer empire and is a major international tourist destination.

The main temple was first dedicated to the Hindu god Vishnu when it was built in the 12th century before later being used for Buddhist worship.

“It will be a replica of Angkor Wat but the temple will be slightly taller than the original,” Kishore Kunal, secretary of the Bihar Mahavir Mandir Trust, told AFP by telephone.

Kunal said the plan was to “recreate Angkor Wat’s grandeur and splendor” near the town of Hajipur, 16 miles from the Bihar state capital of Patna.

The trust, which has constructed a number of temples and hospitals in Bihar, is mainly funded by donations and has put an estimated budget of $20 million on the project.

“We cannot match the original in terms of the size of the entire temple complex. But we will try what we can with the land and the means that we have,” said Kunal.

Agence France-Presse
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Cambodia promotes gems and jewelry industry to boost tourism

PHNOM PENH, March 5 (Xinhua)-- Cambodia is promoting gems and jewelry industry to boost foreign tourists arrival in the Asian nation, an official said Monday. "Gems and Jewelry sector is an industry playing an important role for tourist attractions, which complements tourist activities, "said Minister of Commerce Cham Prasidh.

However, he said, it is important that "tourists are well protected from the substandard and fake products." "There is a need for having in place quality assurances program product testing, inspection and certification to ensure that all jewelry products sold in Cambodia are of specified quality and standard."

The minister made the remarks while opening the country's first gem laboratory, invested by the London-based checker of rare gems and jewelry Intertek.

Khut Sothy, country manager of Intertek Cambodia, said that to date, Cambodia had been lacking in assurances in proper quality of gems that concerns some buyers. "In Cambodian market, almost no one checks the quality when they buy gems and they usually just believe in the sellers. If the sellers say the gem is good, then just believe them."

According to Khut Sothy, there have been cases of complaints by foreign buyers.

The laboratory is established to strengthen the quality of gems and jewelry products in Cambodia, to comply with international standards and to build the trust of consumers as well as to prevent fraud of qualities.

Tourist industry provides approximately 2.5 million international tourists arrivals every year, especially at the Angkor Wat heritage temples and gems and jewelry sector plays an important role in attracting tourists in the country, he added.
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