By Brandon Finstad and Ksenija Soster Olmer
Every January, between the Fall and Spring semester, St. Mary's College of California gives students an opportunity to explore topics outside of their academic majors, both on and off campus. This January, 18 St. Mary's students and 2 professors will take advantage of this great opportunity as they travel to remote villages of Cambodia visiting clinics, teaching in schools, delivering medical supplies, books, and clothes. We are cooperating with a US non profit organization Friends of Cambodian Child Dream's Organization ( www.friendsofccd.org).
Before the departure students attended lectures on campus to learn about the history and religion in Cambodia! Particularly the tragic recent past of the brutal Pol Pot regime, that exterminated 2 million of its own people.
The students also fundraiser to put in a water well in the name of St. Mary's college at one of the village compounds. Our goal was also to fundraise some money for school supplies that would help us teach English and hygiene.
A few months before the departure we found out that in addition to our own bag we could bring 1300 additional pounds of luggage on Korean Air, our air carrier. We knew that every pencil or piece of clothing would be gratefully and joyfully accepted by the children in our village schools. Now 26 extra duffel bags are going on that plane, full of used children's clothing, shoes, toiletries, books, games, puzzles and sports equipment, donated by our local community.
More ideas were shared to get donated items. Someone told us about Global Grins, an organization that will send any traveller going anyplace in the world a box of new toothbrushes to distribute to children. When we told them we will reach out to 2000 children in our village schools they promptly sent us 2000 toothbrushes.
Another coup was information about Med Share in San Leandro, a facility that distributes overflow of medical supplies and equipment to medical missions around the world. We got 100 pounds of brand new supplies for our Ampil clinic, everything from catheters and syringes to stethoscopes and surgical instruments. In addition we are bringing tons of baby clothing and blankets for our program encouraging pregnant women to deliver in the safety of our clinic.
The Orinda community soccer program donated leftover and used uniforms and 50 used soccer balls, enough for 8 teams and the college students are excited to teach Cambodian village children the rudiments of team sports.
Our enthusiastic students have organized themselves into 4 teams: English Teaching Team, Hygiene Team, Reading and Games Team and Sports Team.
Our fundraising efforts way surpassed our initial goal. We are now sponsoring 10 hand pump water wells at $220 each and are bringing an additional $1500 for our work on the ground.
Look forward to photos of shining faces of the school children and well as our American students as we embark on an adventure of a lifetime.
We've created an active blog at http://smccambodia.blogspot.com/ as well, this blog will be updated daily but I will also send updates every 3-4 days to the Lamorinda Patch. I invite everyone to follow us on this incredible experience. Thank you!