I spent more than a month in Australia banging the drum and shaking the tin. With the fall of the Australian dollar I am having to bang and shake twice as much!
When I returned it was lovely to see so many kids from the community running around Sunrise.
Sunrise has recently invited almost 300 children from the neighbouring villages and communities to take part in English, Khmer, dance, sport, art and computer classes free of charge. Our plan is to work with the local communities – teachers, principals and parents – to provide training and help increase the standard of education for as many Cambodian children as possible.
Last month we also welcomed three new boys to Sunrise – Sovannareth, Khem and Sovannaroy. As you can see from the photo on the right, Sovannareth wasn’t too sure about me when we first met, but after a few hugs and kisses he is now right at home.
At the end of last year seven of our children graduated high school and have gone on to complete vocational training. Between them they are completing Bachelor Degrees and Associate Graduate Diplomas in marketing, agronomy, banking and finance, international relations and English literature. They join 16 other Sunrise graduates who are also completing tertiary education at universities and trade centres across Cambodia.
And we are all so proud of Soknoeun Soeun. Soknoeun Soeun studied Year 11 and 12 at Seymour College in Adelaide. She achieved 85 per cent in her HSC exams which placed her among the top 15 per cent of students, Australia wide. You simply cannot ask for more than that. She is now in her first year of a degree in social work at the South Australian University in Adelaide. Go, girl!
To keep in contact with all our Sunrise children who are over the age of 18 and living at our Outreach Houses, I have started taking them out for dinner, six at a time, every Monday night.
This gives me a chance to enhance my relationships with them and see what is happening with their studies and personal lives.
Good news for me – My five year cancer treatment is over and it is great not to be on so many drugs!
As well as Sunrise celebrating its 21st anniversary this year, plans are also underway for my 70th birthday which I will celebrate in Phnom Penh, Adelaide and Sydney.
Finally, many of you will be familiar with Sopheak – one of my older Sunrise boys, who studied agriculture, and now works at Sunrise. Sopheak and his wife welcomed a healthy baby girl named Menear. The first time I met her she was 2 hours old and was wrapped in an Australian flag!
As always I am indebted to all our sponsors, old and new, who are the backbone of Sunrise and without whom we would simply not exist.