Thursday, November 26, 2009

An ambassador for Cambodian orphans

26 Nov, 2009

Tanya Jaw, who grew up in Trayning and finished high school in Wyalkatchem, says coming from the country has helped her see the world in a different way.

She has achieved many things throughout her life so far and is currently helping to provide a library and accommodation for orphans in Cambodia as part of a Self Expression and Leadership Program.

Mrs Jaw is the youngest daughter of Trayning post master Valda Knott.

Mrs Jaw has written the following account of her experience with the Chres Orphanage in Cambodia.

Growing up and gaining an education in the country doesn’t limit your possibilities. In fact, it enhances them.

Since leaving the Wheatbelt and studying communications at university, I have been a web publisher, assisting WA business development and as an employment co-ordinator for people with disability.

Today I work in the aged care industry, looking at creative ways to stimulate people with dementia, and how the organisation can improve its internal communication.

I have an active interest in people, so in March 2009 I traveled to Cambodia to learn more about the war and its people there.

Cambodia is 95 per cent rural. Poverty, disease and landmines are an everyday reality for many if its farmers.

My own rural background and sense of community resonated with the Cambodian people.

Although Cambodian farmers have a different set of troubles - land mines rather than drought, I recognised the same level of richness in their communities that I had experienced growing up in the Wheatbelt.

I came upon the Chres Village orphanage and school during a motorbike tour.

Touched by how grateful the children were to visitors and volunteers, I decided to become a registered fundraiser for Sustainable Organisation for Community Peasants, Labourers, Students Development and Orphans.

The position was approved by the Ministry of Interior and Siem Reap Governor, Cambodia, on May 23 this year.

Pong Sena, a former soldier, moved by the Chres Village’s plight during the Pol Pot regime, set up the orphanage in 2006.

Today it has become a school offering free English and health education to 500 local village children.

The orphanage and school is non-government funded, surviving off donations and the work and good will of volunteers.

The orphanage caters for 49 orphans ranging from eight to 21 years of age and is located 30 minutes out of town, so awareness of its existence is minimal, making it difficult to generate donations and funding. Without education, the children are destined to a life of poverty.

In August I approached local schools and libraries around Perth to donate unwanted books to start an English language library at the orphanage, as learning English is a vital part of the children’s education for gaining future employment in retail and tourism.

Many libraries were glad to recycle the books, which are usually discarded, and the State Library donated the rest.

A shipping agent and box manufacturer also donated their goods and services, and students from Hamilton High School packed the books for transport.

Currently the orphanage also requires urgent funding to build accommodation for 18 orphan girls, who currently use the library building as sleeping quarters.

The accommodation building will be a traditional design and will use local materials, and building it will employ up to 10 local laborers.

It will take 75 days to build, and the total amount for building including electrics will be about $30,000 Australian.

The Midland Rotary Club has offered assistance with obtaining a Charity License to enable me to pursue corporate funding and donations.

I am always looking for opportunities for the orphanage. In addition to the accommodation, funds are needed for desks and chairs.

If anyone is interested in making donations or fundraising, they may contact me on 0438 908 428 or via email at

The orphanage also welcomes tourists who are interested in teaching English or just visiting, and I certainly found a visit to Cambodia to be a wonderful and eye-opening experience.

More information about the orphanage can be found at

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