Birthday Gathering

This morning the Phnom Penh staff of DDP got together for a little celebration of my birthday. Three of the staff put together a “cake” made of various Khmer foods arranged in a large cone. They were really good and much appreciated by all the staff!

Another departure

A couple weeks ago we celebrated a graduation for our education students and for a group of our job trainees. Today four of the job trainees finished their time at DDP and returned to their home provinces to set up their own barber shops.

The four barbers with the equipment supplied to them to set up their barber shops. They got barber chairs, the clippers and trimmers, and the hair washing chairs in the foreground.
This young man is packing up his supplies as the barber trainer and DDP staff speak with his mother.
Then it was time to load up vans and tuk-tuks for the ride home. We give the students bicycles to use while they are here and this man is taking that–and also an old barber chair we had thrown out (foreground).

Caritas Cambodia Retreat 2024 / Day 4b

After lunch, we started the roundabout return journey to Sihanoukville with a first stop at a huge statue of a man and a woman celebrating a marriage famous in Khmer mythology.
Not far from the statue is this bay which is the home of the Ream Naval Base, a military facility recently renovated by the Chinese. Western countries, particularly the United States, have expressed concern that the base is to be China’s outpost in the Gulf of Thailand to bolster their power and presence in the South China Sea. China denies any special role for China but the renovations created berths that accommodate aircraft carriers–and Cambodia doesn’t have an aircraft carrier.

Cambodian social media is also up in arms because the government is filling in the bay for development purposes and has despoiled the mountain hilltops on both sides of the bay, destroying the forest cover to get stone for the renovation.
Farther along the highway is this famous tree which has been left in the middle of a rebuilt highway. It is on a hilltop overlooking the sea and is known in popular lore as the place where wives and lovers waited for their seamen to return.

Caritas Cambodia Retreat 2024 / Day 4a

Today was a get-to-know-your-country day for the Caritas Cambodia staff. Most of the day was spent visiting several interesting sites around Sihanoukville.

It wasn’t on the schedule but we had a mass after breakfast before getting on the road.
The first stop was a mangrove restoration area where the staff planted mangrove seedlings to restore those trees that are so important in maintaining healthy coastal areas.

The seedlings could be planted anywhere in the water but were to be two meters apart from other seedlings.

After the planting we had a rice box lunch at this house isolated in a really remote area.
There is no electricity in this isolated marshlands area so the solar panels on the roof supply some lighting and phone charging.

Caritas Cambodia Retreat 2024 / Day 3

Today was the second of three full days of presentations and activities for the retreat.

A large amount of time was given to a panel discussion about social action as perceived and practiced by different religions. Buddhism and Islam speakers participated with our Catholic representatives.
Later in the afternoon, Soknym and I presented the vision and work of the now Caritas Deaf Development Programme. Here Soknym holds the microphone for me as I gave an introduction in English and sign language.
Then Soknym continued alone in Khmer, going through a presentation we had prepared to describe our work at DDP.
Some empty seats were visible at supper tonight. We had two hours between the end of the afternoon session and supper, and many people made a dash to the beach and were late for dinner.

Caritas Retreat 2024 / Day 2

Today was the first full day of content for this year’s retreat.

Probably 2/3 of the Caritas staff is not Catholic but they are extremely committed religious people, and they have a tradition of coming to receive a blessing while the Catholics receive communion. Here Fr. Will and I give blessings to the non-Catholics on either side of Bishop Ly giving out communion.
As is common in Cambodian culture, all 190 people sat on mats on the floor all day long for the mass and talks and presentations. That wouldn’t happen in the U.S.!
Each of the numerous Caritas projects had a half hour to present their goals, their target group, and to describe their operations. It was truly inspiring! Here the Caritas Center for Children and Adolescent Mental Health is presenting.
I took a photo with the staff of the Takeo Eye Hospital which was founded by Maryknoll Fr. John Barth and is where I had my cataract surgery. I was the first foreigner to have that surgery at the hospital with Cambodian doctors doing the surgery.
After lunch there was a team-building activity where objects were constructed using spaghetti and marshmallows.

Caritas Cambodia Retreat / Day 1

The Deaf Development Programme is now under Caritas Cambodia, and every year Caritas has a long retreat with all the staff to build community, share the vision of Caritas, and just allow the staff to enjoy being together outside of work. Today almost 200 project staff traveled to the Catholic center in Sihanoukville for the retreat.

Because there are so many staff attending the retreat, some of us are staying in a guesthouse across the street. This is a view from my fourth-floor room overlooking Cambodia’s only harbor.
There was nothing on the schedule today except arrival at the center and a dinner at 7:00 PM.
After eating, Soknym and Thea who drove us down to the coast took us out to one of Sihanoukville’s beaches. It was the first time I had seen the beach and town at night and it was quite impressive.

ANM 2024–#6

The last night of our meeting time, we had a dinner for all the Phnom Penh staff. Here Mano (standing) gives a little gift to Katarina Butera, the representative from the Finnish Association of the Deaf.

ANM 2024–#5

The Finnish Association of the Deaf has provided money for community development and also some money for our Education Project so today Katarina Butera visited the two DDP classrooms.

ANM 2024–#4

Today our representative and our advisor, both from the Finnish Association of the Deaf, were with us when the Deaf Development Programme met with the United Nations Development Program (UNDP). It was a really good meeting that confirmed UNDP’s commitment to working with us.