Opening our new horizon by being open to all
NHS wants everyone to know "how we are doing", what we say about our progress, and what others say, whether good or bad! We give, in reverse date order, information about the latest developments and comment.
19 September 2014
A meeting of representatives from Kampong Chhang and Kampong Thom met in Takhmau with supporters and staff to celebrate and mark the formal handover of the top management to their new joint Board of Directors and Governing Body.
Secretary-General John Lowrie had led NHS/NHU from 2009 when beneficiaries asked him to help to establish their organization and to raise funds for it. Unfortunately, due to unforeseen difficulties (described here), this process took much longer than he anticipated. Even now we have had to make changes required by the Ministry of Interior in order to have and to keep our own registration. Accordingly, the members are confident that they no longer need to retain John as an expatriate in the senior job. Instead, in due course, the new Board will appoint their own new Director. In the meantime, Mr Khat Bun Heng, who steered the new registration process, will take charge. He will work closely with the new Board made up of old and new members from the two provinces. John, along with Andy, Ming and Ray (right), will continue to serve as consultant advisers.
View the formal handover document here
NHU is very fortunate to have the services of Bun Heng. He has been a manager of international and local NGOs for many years, working with John at Ockenden international where he made an outstanding contribution in his project that helped pave the way for the localization as Ockenden-Cambodia. He has extensive ties in Kampong Thom and has worked in several provinces including Rattanakiri with indigenous people there. This knowledge will be valuable in the new work with Kuoy ethnic minority people and for NHU to partner more with John’s continuing role with the "Mondulkiri Indigenous People’s association for Development" (MRDC).
John suggested that new Board and first AGM should conduct an updated “SWOT” exercise. The strengths and opportunities are clear. They have been independently verified by external evaluations and audits. However, members must be wary of weaknesses and threats. They must keep up best practice and international standards. Indeed they have shown their willingness to do so with the handover documents.
The Board Members thanked John as well as Andy, Ming and Ray (right) for their support and work over many years. They also congratulated Kosal (far right on main picture) on his achievement of replicating the NHS computer and English classes with his own school, now with 150 boys and girls.
15 July 2014
NHS and John Lowrie in particular have been involved in vulnerable child issues for many years, and the dubious orphanage issue since 2007. He was asked by the travel industry to suggest safe, reliable options to tourists instead. Read his article here.
07 July 2014
Savoeung: An Inspiration to Poor Children with Disability and a Development Aid Success Story.
Congratulations to our Honorary Treasurer CHANN Savoeung and VisionFund on his appointment as Chief Executive Officer for Mongolia.
Who would have thought all those years ago in Prek Loung Pagoda, Battambang Province, that the ordinary lad in this old photograph would go so far in life? He demonstrates the best of what can be.
Savoeung was no ordinary lad. Despite being an orphan, disabled, and once a refugee, he overcame adversity and prejudice through sheer determination to complete his schooling, higher education and professional training. He worked as he studied to pay his way, starting in a print-shop for four years from 1996. Then he became an unpaid volunteer in a small credit organization to gain experience towards his degree specializing in accounting.
That enabled him to gain his first professional posting with Aphvat Strey Organization (a local Women’s Development Organization). He then moved on an up to Handicap International as Chronic Illness Project Manager/Deputy Country Admin Co-ordinator. Then he became Finance Manager for Ockenden International [now http://www.ockendenprizes.org] where he played a pivotal role in ensuring the financial viability as the organization converted to a local autonomous NGO. That safely accomplished, he entered VisionFund not long after it evolved from World Vision. He has not only achieved in Cambodia, but has now become an international country manager, a great advert for professionals emerging from within the developing world.
Savoeung’s story, like Visal’s and others who have worked their own way out-of-poverty for their families, makes our efforts worthwhile and the inevitable frustrations bearable. Unfortunately there are still many more children in similar need, especially remote rural girls who, unlike boys, do not have the chance to stay in pagodas to be able to attend education. This is why programs such us NHS’s here or World Vision’s are so important.
Best of luck to Savoeung, his family, and the team in Mongolia!
09 May 2014
Our General Secretary met Sir Alan Beith MP in the United Kingdom, who asked for and was given details of the case for further consideration by Sir Malcolm Bruce MP, Chairman of the Parliamentary Overseas Aid and Development Committee. Sir Alan expressed regret that no solution acceptable to NHS beneficiaries had yet been offered or found. More details can be read here).
10 February 2014
Congratulations to our longest and now most famous "beneficiary" Kosal - please see his update case study with features of him performing in public and in the media. He has now started his own social work project in Kampong Chhnang.
08 January 2014
Readers will be aware that our beneficiaries were shocked and disappointed when the Charities Commission declined to investigate fully their complaint.
They are not alone. The UK National Audit Office (NAO) examined the Charities Commission, reporting that it “was failing to investigate abuses properly, wasting taxpayers' money and putting the good name of the charity sector as a whole at risk”. See the 04 December 2013 comments from the NAO.
The Commission’s Chief Executive, Mr Sam Younger, attended a meeting of the UK Parliament’s Public Accounts Committee (PAC) on 16 December 2013. He responded “I recognise what the NAO report says about the need for improvement in registrations and our compliance and investigations work, and we have already made progress in implementing their recommendations. I agree that we must sharpen our approach to handling the most serious cases that involve deliberate abuse or mismanagement of a charity.”
The NAO has today notified us that there will be a further review of the Charities Commission's approach to investigation of charities before the next UK national election due by mid-2015. Our case papers are on file. We hope that the case will serve as a powerful example of why charities must be held to account by or on behalf of beneficiaries and donors, and why overseas development aid and resources must be used effectively.
We wish to thank the UK MPs who have taken a close interest in the case, from all three major political parties: – Mr Oliver Letwin (Conservative Minister for Government Policy in the Cabinet Office); Mr Andrew Mitchell (Conservative, former DfID Minister); Mr Nick Hurd (Conservative, currently the Civil Society Minister); Sir Alan Beith ( Liberal Democrat), and Ms Margaret Hodge (Labour, Chairman of the PAC).
We spent a long weekend in Kampong Chhnang finding out how the old computing students are getting on now that they have finished high school. Some were away in Phnom Penh doing scholarship exams for entry to university. This year the national examinations for high school leavers were delayed because of the national elections, so now that they have got their results they are anxious to find a university quickly as most classes start in October. A couple of students have started working, but we hope they will find better jobs soon.
Three students have been accepted by PNC for IT courses. One is offered a two year course on system and network administration or web developing. The other two will do a six month data entry course after which they will work for Digital Divide Data, a local social enterprise that provides jobs and careers in computing to disabled and disadvantaged young people. One of the two students had a bad motorbike accident a few months ago and had to have pins put into his shoulder and down his leg. He is still using crutches and it will be a few months more before he recovers properly and is ready to start his course at PNC in January.
We also taught the new group of students to see how they are doing in their computing class with Visal. We had two sessions with each group and taught them about tables in Microsoft Word. They did well and seem bright. We hope to see them again soon to teach them Logic and give them some career advice so they are prepared for their future when they finish high school next year.
We also bumped into Kosal, one of NHS's better known beneficiaries, who has also finished high school this year. He has a passion for music - both singing and writing songs - and we hope NHS can help him to fulfil his dreams.
Visal, an early beneficiaries of NHS, started his own IT business in his parents' front room in Kampong Chhnang after studying and working in Phnom Penh for a few years. We can see how his business has grown in these past two years. One customer was already waiting at his shop at 7 o'clock on Saturday morning before Visal could get his breakfast eaten! He never turns away any work and still has his "Can Do!" attitude. We were impressed how quick and how thorough he is in problem solving, always getting to the root cause of his customers' problems - no wonder they are queuing at his door! He still comes down to Phnom Penh to provide IT support to some NGOs and schools. He is now happily married and has a two month old baby boy.
The external audit is now underway, following on the external evaluation earlier this year.
Please look at this great clip of the programme in neighbouring Kampong Chhnang for disabled young women. This is one of the activities (for which we have funding) that we have not been allowed to arrange in Kampong Chhnang, so far!
NHS is of course strictly non-political and non-religious but we strongly support the rights of disabled people to be included and take part in public affairs. Our members are free to support any political party or religion of his or her choice.
Our singing celebrity Kosal, who often features in this website, supported the Opposition CNRP party in the 2013 Cambodian July National Elections. CNRP was noted for attracting the youth vote - with pop songs sung by Kosal.
Here he is pictured next to HE Mu Sochua during her successful campaign for a seat in Battambang. HE Sochua is a former Minister of Women's Affairs. To see and hear him sing, please go to his Facebook page.
On 19 April, nine NHS students sat entry examinations to apply to join our partner NGO "Passerelle Numerique" (PNC, formerly CIST) in the hope of emulating the students who graduated last November (please see below and "Human Stories").
PNC's mission is "to enable the largest number of youths in a precarious situation access to training and skilled employment in Information Technology."
Congratulations and good luck to our students who all passed the test and will go for interview on 6 May. If they get through the interview a home assessment will come next.
28 January 2013
As reported on the Home Page, the complaint of members is now to go to the Ombudsman in the UK. We understand that we will hear by May.
02 December 2012
Visal's wedding - another happy occasion for NHS staff to celebrate! Visal has been with us since he was a high school student and later as a university student; afterwards he started working in various companies and now he runs his own IT business. As a student he got help with his education and some living expenses. Now in return he is helping NHS to train students in computing.
Visal's wife, Sophy, a very sweet girl, is also from Kampong Chhnang. They were old school mates in Kampong Chhnang but only got together after meeting up again while working in Phnom Penh.
We wish Visal and Sophy a happy life together!
01 December 2012
A meeting of the Governing Council took place on 1 December. The minutes may be accessed here.
Please see latest update on developments in the UK as posted on our home page.
Regrettably another stone was thrown at our office on 20 Nov at 10.05pm (the same window as on 25 June) with our Executive Officer resident there. This cannot be coincidence. It follows increased observations by LMDS "vigilantes" whose presence prevented our members from arranging visits to Audiology Clinics. There were also other developments that week including Muslim Aid advertising for a Credit Officer to manage revolving funds in Kampong Tralach district.
As stated on our home page, the papers have now been submitted in the UK for the Independent Complaints Reviewer to examine the case. We have asked if there is any possibility of action being taken to stop LMDS from spoiling our services with poor disabled people.
03 November 2012
In early November we were invited for the graduation of the NHS students who studied IT in PNC (formerly CIST). They have worked very hard for the last two years and achieved good results, including a "top 10" student award for Man. PNC's courses are very practical and all students go out on internship with a company each year. They ensure that the students attend classes regularly, are on time and do a lot of self study. We saw them maturing into young adults capable of looking after themselves and adopting a good attitude towards their study and work.
Both Man and Kiv have now joined the company where they did their last internship - Man as web developer for Web Essentials and Kiv as IT support for Open Net. The other two girls should soon get a job in systems and networking administration.
This year, for the first time, PNC invited parents to attend the graduation ceremony, though not all could attend as most are from provinces and villages far away. However, Man's mum and sister, and Kiv's mum and aunt made it there. They were obviously very proud of their child and we were happy to take family photos. All the parents have been very supportive, giving their blessing for the students to stay away from home and concentrated on their studies.
This is the first group of NHS students to undertake the two-year IT course in PNC. Two other NHS students did a 6 months' data entry course with PNC earlier and both are working for Digital Divide Data. We hope that all these students will serve as role models for the NHS computing students coming through and that their success will serve as an encouragement for more students to apply to PNC. NHS has helped to supplement PNC's rather meagre living allowance and will continue to provide for any new students when needed. We will also continue to mentor the students when they come to study in Phnom Penh.
After the disappointment of our partners withdrawing their co-operation last month, we are pleased to advise that with a new partner and in new locations, 21 poor vulnerable students will be admitted to school after the Pchum Ben holiday. We are withholding details because of LMDS's ongoing intimidation.
We did manage, however, to assist one very poor family in Rolei'bier District whose children can now go to school. Please note that the light hair colour is a sign of malnutrition. (The Rolei'bier District Governor in April 2010 held a public meeting to establish the facts and truth, accepted by LMDS's representatives present but not acted upon.)
The project is undergoing both external evaluation and auditing this month.
The Governing Council and members are greatly encouraged to be informed that they have qualified for legal assistance in the UK and a Barrister has agreed to take on their case, following the Charities Commission's decision not to conduct a full investigation.
Four students supported last year for Grade 12 high school have successfully passed and are now hoping to be able to continue their studies beyond school or find work. We will feature at least one case study in our "Human Stories" section if we can meet them safely. Last year in all 53 poor students, 26 girls, were supported to go to or stay on in primary or junior/senior high school.
Sadly our partners "Bright Hope Institute" and "Support Rural Children Organisation" have withdrawn from the plan to assist 52 poor vulnerable students to enrol this new school year starting this month. They are acceding to the claim by LMDS that this would constitute "unlawful activity" as specified in the June 2010 order issued by the Ministry of Interior. Hopefully the UK and AUSAID investigations, as mentioned on our homepage, will lead to a resolution whereby these young people are not deprived permanently of these life-changing opportunities.
Fourteen children have been enrolled and assisted to go to the Vaddanhak Nursery School for the new school year. The school caters only for poor and vulnerable families. Community Facilitator Soth Sovanda carried out eligibility assessments and Governing Council member Mr Kuon presented the children with their kits.
Mr John Vijghen on behalf of SKN kindly presented the certificates to the 12 students graduating from Visal's first class, as well as giving an encouraging talk to the new batch of 12 students. Already two students have obtained good jobs as a result of the skills learned, one in Korea and another with Beeline Mobile Telephone Company. The students asked Mr Vijghen to convey their thanks to the Dutch children who every year sold stamps to raise funds for development projects with children. They said that without this kindness, they would not be able to acquire IT skills. A special tribute was paid to their teacher Visal who 7 years ago was a poor student just like them, but today was a computer expert; a teacher and the owner of his own business.
The scond intake for the computer classes operated by Visal commenced on 2 July with the 8 students braving the first torrential rains of the wet season. Sovanda is giving them a briefing before they get down to serious work.
The NHS office within the Vaddanhak building was attacked on the 25th June while our Executive Officer was resident. The incident has been reported to the Police and extra security measures taken. The stone (circled) has been kept and is shown on the window-pane next to the office desk of the Executive Officer.
NHS has reminded both the Civil Society Minister and the Chief Executive of the Charities Commission that their promised replies are still eagerly awaited. (See January below.)
NHS was able this year to join other organisations in Kampong Chhnang to celebrate International Children's Day. We provided the illustrated theme. The image is based on a well-known Khmer saying that likens children to bamboo shoots growing. Nurture them well and they grow up big and strong!
NHS is pleased to announce that in conjunction with longtime partner CNVLD, a women's wheelchair basketball team will be formed, for 16 players. They will in due course join a new national league. This will complement the volleyball players who are males. If you want to know more, please read about the project that started in Battambang last year.
NHS has also joined CNVLD in international advocacy over the disappointing news that only one Cambodian athlete can go to the London Paralympics. Please see article in the Cambodia Daily. The Uk's Channel 4 News covered a story on it.
We are also pleased to announce and welcome the appointments of Ms Soth Sovavnda and Ms Sary Rattana as Community Faciliator and Administration/Finance Manager.
"Au revoir" and good luck to Andy and Ming, our Computing Consultant Advisors who are off to Tanzania for a new volunteer placement. We will try to keep things up to standard until you return!
16 February 2012
When we ask students why they don't go to the optician the answer is usually "Because it's expensive". Eye tests are free but the frames and lenses are not, and private opticians may prescribe glasses regardless of whether they are really needed. Poor people often go to a market stall and pick up a pair of cheap non-prescription spectacles instead, which probably does their vision more harm than good.
With this in mind, a party of poor school students was taken to the International Centre for Eye-Care Education Clinic (ICEE) in Phnom Penh on 16 February 2012 for eye-checks. ICEE clinic is manned by three dedicated Cambodians and provides low cost eye care to the general public. Three students were prescribed with spectacles, as was their accompanying teacher. Seila, the optometrist, also advised the others on how to look after their vision. This is the second group kindly assisted by ICEE with support from SKN.
19 January 2012
UK Civil Society Minister, Rt Hon Nick Hurd MP, has agreed to take up with the Charities Commission the NHS's beneficiaries complaint against LMDS - the Commission promised a new investigation in August last year but there has been no communication from them since.
16 January 2012
Congratulations to Visal who has now successfully established his own computer business in Kampong Chhnang. He has come a long way, as his personal story tells, as a poor boy who thought computing skills were beyond him because of disability. Visal's achievement is the ultimate success story of organizations such as NHS, where personal poverty and social exclusion are made a thing of the past. Here, not only is there a genuine self-sufficient private solution for Visal and his family, but because he is now training more poor disabled young people in computing, these students too may well follow him with their own successful careers and businesses. We wish them and Visal well as they meet future challenges.
Pictured on the left of Visal is Stephen Pfeiffer of Stepsafe, with his partner Eva from the Australian/US NGO that was the first organization to help NHS when it became independent.
Congratulations also to our Trustee, Mr Roger Biggs, on his award of an OBE in the UK New Years Honours, for his services to health in Asia. Roger of course was the original designer and fundraiser of the project for disabled people in Kampong Chhnang.
11 November 2011
The Child Advocacy Group was invited to the opening ceremony of the Pannakhmer Academy on 11 November 2011 in Kandal Province. This was because of their previously well-received performances about disaster-preparedness based on Hurricane Katrina.