October Update

What a few months we have had, both in Cambodia and Australia. Highlights included welcoming 13 new students
into Taksenkangbloung Community Centre’s fully supported program, several new enrolments in the centre’s free
English classes and a visit from 12 Warrnambool College students for four fun-filled days.

Put simply, the centre would cease to exist without its wonderful, hardworking, generous supporters. The past few
months have been fruitful in terms of several new monthly sponsors signing up. Thank you to these people – your
contributions are invaluable.
There have also been several successful fundraisers recently. Once again the crew in South Australia, led by past
volunteers Penny, Vicki and Jeanette (with lots of help from their husbands and children), hosted a Cambodian feast
fundraising dinner in July. The event was well and truly at capacity, with 32 guests and eight “staff” in attendance.
Everyone raved about this pop-up restaurant, which raised well over $3000 for Taksen’s programs. Thank you and
well done to these wonderful people! Just try not to drool looking at the pictures of the food!
Taksen’s inaugural golf day at Woodlands Golf Club was a success, with thanks to organisers Alex Strauch and John
Mann, with support from Mark Dwyer. While the August event didn’t attract quite as many players as the boys had
hoped, those who took part in the event raved about it and have requested it be an annual event. And the $500 that
was raised was certainly not to be scoffed at! Over breakfast before the players teed off, important messages were
delivered about Taksen’s projects and responsible development agenda.
Students from Warrnambool College held a cinema night in early September, raising more than $1200 for repair
works on buildings at Taksen. “Gifted” lured in quite a crowd and the students put on a great spread of pre-movie
nibbles. Thanks to all who supported this event.

The fully supported program has increased its numbers to 20 after several students dropped out in recent months
for various reasons (see previous newsletter). Six existing participants have continued to study at the centre for the
duration of their long school holiday period and Visna will return next week after the loss of his father last month.
Thirteen other students will commence next week to coincide with the start of the new public school year at Mook
Neak School. As a first, four of the new students are six years old and will be going into grade one (the equivalent of
prep/foundation in Australia). It is hoped the fact these students are starting school supported at the right age will
lead to greater engagement throughout their school years. We are very excited, as are they!
Before the school holiday period commenced, exams were held at the end of July at Mook Neak School. While we
are proud of everyone’s achievements, two of our students, Sreoun and Sokna, received outstanding academic
results. As a result, the school decided they should both skip grade six and start secondary school after the holidays.

This is a real credit to the girls, who have taken every opportunity they have been given through their involvement
with the centre and ran with it.

Repairs were made to the dirt road into the village, with the help of a donation from the centre. The wet season
takes its toll on the road every year and the centre’s vehicle contributes significantly to the many pot holes that form
on its frequent school drop-offs.

The duck/chicken and mushroom projects continue to have their ups and downs. The number of centre-bred ducks
(which are sold for $8 each) was as high as 80 at one point. The majority of them were sold, contributing valuable
funds to the centre. However, there were several casualties as the wet season arrived. No one is entirely sure what
happened to them. We continue to learn. At present, there are about 30 ducklings at the centre and a few adult
ducks. There are also a few adult chickens and about a dozen ducklings.
In terms of mushrooms, we’re nearing the end of the three cycles of mushrooms that were funded by the Lion’s Club
of Warrnambool. While the profits were well down on the projected income, we’re still happy with the various
outcomes that have been achieved through this project and plan to continue. As with the poultry project, lessons
have been learnt and each crop has been more successful. The training organisation, Trailblazer, has decided to
cease educating people on mushrooms in favour of other crops, which may lead to more demand for our product at
market. After great consideration, we’ve decided to trudge on. Watch this space!

In a centre first, a group of students from Warrnambool College visited Siem Reap and Taksenkangbloung Village in
late September. They spend four days at the centre, playing sport, using computers together, dancing, singing,
laughing, sharing stories and teaching each other Khmer and English. It was a mutually beneficial cross-cultural
experience that will no doubt be life changing for the Australian students and the Cambodian students.
The focus of the 11-day trip was on responsible volunteering. As part of this, the group learnt about ancient and
modern Cambodian history, experienced local life on a bike ride, in tuk-tuks and by eating and cooking Khmer food,
and participated in a workshop ran by Concert Cambodia. They also learnt about how various inspiring charities are
addressing issues affecting Cambodia today. They met some landmine-detection rats, weaved bracelets and
necklaces to sell out of old plastic bags and watched Phare circus, an acrobatic spectacle that empowers
disadvantaged people and should not be missed! Some students also met with staff from Women’s Resource Centre,
Cambodia, to learn about the invaluable work that organisation is doing with Cambodian women.
The centre is thankful for the financial support it receives from Warrnambool College through its philanthropic
partnership with Merri House and for the responsible volunteering message that the college is keen to spread
among its community. We are hopeful this successful trip can continue to run in the years to come.
Two lots of classroom assistants will visit the centre from mid-November in their school holidays after graduating
from year 12 at south-west Victorian schools. We’re grateful to these four girls for giving up their festive seasons in
Australia to work with the students at Taksen. They will mostly be working with the new intake of six-year- olds while
at the centre to support teacher Sokhean as he integrates these children into his very diverse classroom.
Elaine’s sewing and knitting skills were much appreciated last week, as several sets of hand-made boys and girls
clothes were handed out to some of the younger residents of Taksenkangbloung Village. These children were also
delighted to receive hand-knitted teddy bears, thanks to Elaine. A large number of Days for Girls feminine hygiene
kits were also taken to Siem Reap a few weeks ago and passed on to charity partner Women’s Resource Centre for
distribution. Elaine put in countless hours preparing and creating these items, which were gratefully received. Thank

As always, thanks again for your interest and support. Please let us know if you would like more information about
any aspect of Taksenkangbloung Community Centre. We’d also love to hear about any new fundraising ideas you
may have.

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