Saturday, November 27, 2010

24 Rotary Wheels for Learning Bicycles for Children of Landmine Survivors

Click on photo to view a picasa web album of this Rotary Wheels for Learning Bicycle Distribution.

Thanks to generous donors for providing these 24 Rotary Bicycles for students from landmine-affected families living in remote villages in Koas Krala district, Battambang province, Cambodia.
On November 20th, 2010, 50 families from all corners of the district made their way to the Koas Krala District Office to receive educational and occupational support from the Canadian Landmine Foundation, the Rotary Club of Etobicoke, and Rotary Wheels for Learning (RWFL). This collaborative distribution was aptly named ‘Project Battambang’.
These 24 RWFL bicycles are part of our RWFL Phase Two Distribution Project to provide 75 bicycles to children from landmine-affected families in this targeted district.  Your donation of $50 per bicycle will help towards fulfilling this commitment.
Landmine families in need of help were identified by Cambodian Red Cross District Administrator Sopheany Chhoeun and staff Ben Sida and Loeung Deun. Sopheany is a dedicated young woman constantly visiting those in need throughout the district. She knows well the people in her community and their needs.
The bicycles were purchased in Phnom Penh and made their six-hour, 291km journey by truck to Koas Krala in the dark morning hours on Friday. Two drivers and local volunteer Un Vanthon accompanied the load of bikes.  They were followed by our vanload of volunteers including Pauline Johns, Vanthon’s family and Dr. Khom Pisal.  We spent Friday night at a guesthouse in Battambang city – the closest location to Koas Krala village.
On Saturday morning, the load of bikes followed by our van of volunteers made the 30km journey from Battambang to Koas Krala.
Landmine survivors arrived with families in tow soon after daybreak. Double-amputees arrived by platform tractor taxi – a tractor with a platform trailer on the back. Some came on the back of a motorcycle driven by neighbor or friend. Most of their transportation was arranged by the Koas Krala Red Cross.
Our volunteers were greeted with many smiles from landmine survivors and their families and friends.
The 30 minute distribution ceremony was officiated by the Battambang Provincal Chief and local officials, who thanked Rotary for providing bicycles for landmine-affected families. This was followed by an educational session of dental hygiene taught by Cambodian dentist, Dr. Khom Pisal, after which, hundreds of tubes of toothpaste and toothbrushes were distributed to all families.  
The distribution lasted well into the afternoon. Each bicycle recipient came to the front table, where our volunteer translators recorded their personal information and the child signed the form. They were then allocated a bicycle and proceeded to another area to have their photo taken with their Rotary Bike.
Part of the ‘Project Battambang’ distribution provided nine bicycle repair businesses to landmine survivors.  To our delight, these new ‘Bicycle Repairmen’ promptly opened up their kits and eagerly affixed the baskets and lamps onto the Rotary bikes with their shiny new tools. – a wonderful start to their new bicycle repair business!
It was a magnificent day and tremendously rewarding for all of us to be able to provide this help to 52 landmine-affected families who had never received support before.
As most of rural Cambodia, Koas Krala District’s main industry is agriculture, with rice farming the main source of income. Most people don’t own their own rice field, but work on fields owned by the wealthy. Rice fields are harvested two to three times a year resulting in families only making sporadic income.
According to Cambodia’s Ministry of Education, Youth and Sport, poverty rates are highest in the rural areas where 90.5% of the poor live. Over 40% live far below the poverty line. The average annual family income in rural areas is US$197.00.  The cost of a bicycle is out of the question for these families. 
Life is a constant struggle for landmine victims, as many are unable to do the strenuous labor required for most rural jobs. Providing food for their families is difficult. They are the poorest of the poor, relying on help from non-governmental organizations.
Koas Krala district in Battambang province has hectares and hectares of land still riddled by landmines. Battambang province is one of the three most heavily mined provinces. An identified 1.5% of the total population of 949,164 are people disabled by landmines.
It is for these families that a bicycle is a vital step out of poverty.  A child can attend school. A family member can go to a market to buy or sell goods. When illness befalls, a bicycle is transportation to a local clinic.
Please visit our Home Page for information on how to donate.  Help us raise funds to provide 51 more bicycles for poor and landmine-affected children in Koas Krala. RWFL team member, Lisa McCoy, will be in Cambodia another four months – ready to coordinate more Rotary Bicycle distributions!
Gravenhurst Students Raise over $100 for Bicycles for Cambodian Children!
Gravenhurst Beechgrove students, and avid bikers, Brennan Norman and Jack Lorenz held an amazing Bake Sale at Gravenhurst High School on December 3rd which raised over $100 for 2 Rotary Bikes for children here in rural Cambodia.  This was part of the 'Do Something' program where students raise money to help a friend, neighbor, community organization, etc.
A Big Applause for Brennan and Jack and their astounding efforts to help provide bicycles to students in need of this vital transportation.

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