Tuesday, May 01, 2018
September 27, 2005
Hi, this is Marc Gold from the 100 Friends Project reporting from Thailand. I've been in Southeast Asia since early August and here is the first report of the project activities.
I'm taking things slower than in the past, simply because I have more time. It's so much better to really have the time to explore projects more thoroughly than before. I haven't actually donated very much money as yet, but I have laid the groundwork with a number of projects for that very purpose.
1. August 12, 2005. Khao Lak, Thailand. I met an American man named Reid Ridgeway who is running a project in Khao Lak, two hours North of Phuket in Southern Thailand. Khao Lak is where the most people in Thailand died (approximately 5,000), or were injured and suffered from the tsunami. The worst damage also occurred in Khao Lak.
The project is called: Ecotourism Training Center. It is part of a long term tsunami recovery effort that trains 24 young Thai men and women in three integrated areas of study: Computers, English and learning how to become diving instructors (as in scuba) so that these young people can get decent jobs in the tourist industry.—all part of a curriculum focused on environmental education and sustainable tourism. All of these students lost family members and their housing and employment. They don't want handouts — they want to work again and this program will allow them to do it.
I went there to learn more, and investigate his project. They now have the facility decked out with an Apple computer lab, a professional video editing suite, a class room with a projection screen, a dive gear maintenance lab, two long tail boats specially equipped for diving and research operations, and now the 24 students are funded and starting to learn. 100 Friends made a donation of 25,000 Baht ($610) to help them reach their goals. I'm more than satisfied that this project is really helping some young people to get back on their feet after suffering from the devastating tsunami.
Here's their website (Ecotourism Training Center):
I've also talked with many people who were here when the tsunami hit, learning a great deal about that whole tragedy. It's so frightening and tragic. Most people died or were injured by the debris in the water (tins roofs, cars, furniture, metal, etc.).
2. September 10th, 2005, Mae Sae, Thailand. I was lucky enough to meet with Sompop Jantakra, the director of the Development Education Program for Daughters and Communities (DEPDC). This is a photo of me and Sompop at his headquarters in Mae Sae:
DEPDC is a community-based organization offering education and full-time housing for children to prevent them from being trafficked into the sex industry or other exploitative child-labor situations. Most of these girls are hill-tribe children and they are truly stateless and often denied education and job opportunities. PBS did a program about Sompop Jantakra and DEPDC about 6 months ago. Sompop has helped to prevent hundreds of girls each year from being sold into Thailand's worst brothels.
With few resources, he and a network of volunteers identify children at risk. Then he persuades, pleads, begs or berates parents into allowing them to attend his school for free. Once there, the girls are taught vocational skills, then given help finding jobs or scholarships for higher education. If they are in danger, he will shelter them. The school, which depends on donations for survival, now also offers counseling services, a library and a legal aid center. "To see girls enslaved in brothels, it hurts," says Sompop. "If you can protect one child, you protect future generations."
Here's the link about that program:
I did not make a donation during this visit because I am going to return there and by then I will have learned a great deal more about the human trafficking problem. One example of how 100 Friends might help DEPDC is by supporting some of the girls in the program. Every year several hundred girls are referred to them, many times more than can be offered places. It costs about US $500 per year for every girl they support. This amount covers the costs of school uniforms, full-time accommodation, equipment and activities, lunch and school transport, as well as life development and health care programs. Here is their web site:
3.September 12, 2005. Bangkok, Thailand. I visited a program called Last Wishes. Chulalongkorn Hospital operates this program to help terminally ill children with cancer get their wishes fulfilled to give them some joyful moments during their last days. It is loosely modeled after the Make-A-Wish Foundation in the U.S.
I met with Dr. Issarang Nuchprayoon from the Department of Pediatrics, Faculty of Medicine at Chulalongkorn University and the project coordinator, Ms. Khun Ninbom. At Chulalongkorn University Hospital, they see around 80 new children with cancer a year. Fortunately most of them can be cured. Some of them are not so lucky, they suffer a cancer relapse and have a terminal disease. Here is one child they assisted who has cancer of the eye:
ne child requested to go the Chiang Mai Zoo (about 600 kilometers to the north of Bangkok) to see the pandas. They showed me many photos of the children and told me their stories. I will be meeting some of the kids and 100 Friends funds will be used to help some of them. They also asked me to teach counseling skills to Khun Ninbom, their coordinator, and I will do so. They are also telling other pediatric oncologists in Thailand about 100 Friends so I can help more young people in other hospitals in Thailand. This is a picture of one of the children with his mother in the program 100 Friends will be assisting:
After Thailand I went to Cambodia and visited numerous projects. Here is a brief summary of the places I went to visit and to help:
1. September 16, 2005. Phnom Penh, Cambodia. All Ears Cambodia is an organization that saves lives through curbing middle ear disease and its spread to the brain. There are about 1,300,000 people in Cambodia with (usually untreated) ear problems and several hundred thousand Khmer (Cambodians) with disabling hearing loss. Half of these are children. The majority of them live within rural areas, and to date, this NGO is the only organization in all of Cambodia that provides diagnostic and rehabilitative services for all age ranges, from newborns to the elderly. I met with the staff in Phnom Penh.
They need two rather important items of equipment. The first is an instrument that is used to remove discharge from infected ears and this device is essential if the job is to be done properly (cost=$190). The second item is an electronic device used for measuring compounds to within units less than one gram when making up ceruminolytic agents, and those used to curb active outer and middle ear disease (cost=$300). 100 Friends will pay for both machines.
2. September 16, 2005. Phnom Penh, Cambodia. Steung Meanchey Municipal Waste Dump is located in southern Phnom Penh. It is one of the saddest sights I have ever seen. It is the closest thing to hell that anyone is ever likely to see on this earth. It is nicknamed "Smoky Mountain" because of the miasma of smoke that the dump constantly gives off. It is literally on fire; the waste creates methane as it rots and the methane burns. In monsoon season and throughout much of the rest of the year, the surrounding area is swamped and the children live and play in fetid water. Roughly 2,200 people, about 600 of which are children, live and work there. Cambodia is not alone in allowing children to work as scavengers at dump sites. There are thousands of child laborers at such sites in Vietnam, the Philippines, India, Nigeria, Brazil, Argentina and the Dominican Republic. Here is a photo of some of the children at work in the municipal dump:
Many of the approximately 600 children who work at the dump have parents or relatives who also work on the dump and look after them. Some of them go to school, but most do not - at least not on a regular basis -, and it is safe to say that virtually none of them ever completes a primary school education. Many of the children here were born into impoverished families that moved to the area from the countryside after the end of Pol Pot's murderous rule. Instead of finding urban fortunes, many of them settled in a slum that was erected along the rim of Steung Meanchey, a dump infested with flies that gravitate to the leeching refuse, the dregs of a nation. About 10,000 people live in the slum that borders Steung Meanchey. Here is a photo of one of the children at the dump searching for items to recycle. The photo was taken by Jon Warren of the Photo Project:
Very few children go to school because the school fees are too high and their families need them to collect rubbish to contribute to the family income. A whole family working together can actually earn more money than they could in the rural village from which they originally came. I visited the dump and two of the Children's centers. I saw the children who have been rescued from the dump and they are incredibly sweet. They live in a wonderful children's center, go to school, have nice dormitories, take field trips and receive good medical care. They were hungry for affection and attention. What a difference between those kids who have been rescued and those who still work at the dump every day! For $600 you can rescue a child from this life of living hell. 100 Friends will donate a minimum of $3,000 to rescue at least six children so they can live at the children's center.
Many kids do not have proper footwear. For many it's only flip-flops; even worse, some go barefoot. Foot injuries are very common here as needles, glass, and metal all create hazards. For some of the youngest kids, the dump also serves as a playground. Here is a photo of a boy I interviewed at the dump. He said that his dream in life is to go to school (he never has gone) but he also said that he had no hope that would ever happen. I will try to find him and put him in one of the programs:
You can see the children's centers, look at photos of the kids and learn their unbelievable stories here:
These web sites have more about their story and even more amazing photos:
3. September 19, 2005. Siam Reap, Cambodia. I met a young Cambodian girl named Nawi. She works as a hotel clerk. Her salary is $65 per month. She has no hope of improving her station in life unless she can develop her ability to speak English and learn how to use a computer. But the cost for these courses is way beyond her reach. 100 Friends paid $170 for courses in English and computers for her. She was overjoyed and said that no one had ever helped her in this way before.
4. September 21, 2005. Phnom Penh, Cambodia. I went to a program called Magna: Hope for the Children. This is a program for Cambodian children with HIV/AIDS. When my sister and I entered the orphanage we discovered 30 small children between the ages of 3 and 12 years old (most of the looked to be about 5 years old).
They all have HIV and most of their parents are dead. It's run by Martin and Denisa Bandzak and Roman Meszaros from Slovakia. A few of the children looked like they were 3 or 4 years old but in fact they were 8 or 9 years old. To see a nine year old boy who weighs about 25 pounds and looks like he is 4 years old is truly heartbreaking. Only 25% of the children are receiving the life-saving ARV (antiretroviral) drugs so deparately needed. The only barrier is a lack of money to purchase the drugs. A little girl died just last week. I will try to find access to these drugs when I return to the US in January, 2006. 100 Friends donated $500 to the program.
I will be going back to Cambodia and I will also be spending time in Sri Lanka and possibly Bandeh Aceh, Indonesia helping tsunami survivors. Stay posted.
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