THEY WILL ASK thee as to what they should spend on others. Say: "Whatever of your wealth you spend shall [first] be for your parents, and for the near of kin, and the orphans, and the needy, and the wayfarer; and whatever good you do, verily, God has full knowledge thereof." - Al-Baqarah (2:215)

Friday, 31 January 2014

Phnom Penh: Day 3

For day 3, we decided to visit the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Rescue Centre. As we were budget travellers, and as recommended by the owner of our guesthouse, we decided to take the tuk tuk. From what I’ve been reading online, a tuk tuk would usually take about 1 1/2 hours to get to Phnom Tamao. But ours were rather slow, it took slightly over an hour to get there.

But got there we finally did, bought our tickets, paid for a guide (thank God we did, otherwise we wouldn’t know where to head as the place covered a HUGE area).

We spent about 2 hours at Phnom Tamao, and then another 2 hours on the tuk tuk heading back to Phnom Penh and had late lunch at D’Nyonya. As we were leaving Phnom Penh the next day, after lunch we had a quick souvenir shopping spree at the Central Market.

Later that night, we decided to watch a Cambodian Cultural Show held at the National Museum area.

Immediately after the show, we had dinner at a halal restaurant nearest to the museum, Warung Bali (an Indonesian restaurant).

And that, ended day 3 of our visit to Phnom Penh.

Phnom Penh: Day 2

Day 2 started off with ATV/Quad bike activity…

Done with our ATV ride, we went to visit the nearby Killing Fields. A depressing place, but I would still recommend to tourists heading to Phnom Penh.

After lunch at D’Nyonya (street 126 near the Central Market) and prayers back at the guesthouse, we took the tuk tuk to the next destination, the Royal Palace.

Going back to the guesthouse after the visit, we decided to walk slowly along the riverside.

For dinner, this time we decided to try out Mamak’s Corner at Street 114.

And that, ended day 2.

Phnom Penh: Day 1

Remember I managed to grab one of AA’s RM0 seats for my trip to HCMC in 2011? (Of course I still had to pay for the airport and whatever other taxes.) Well, I continue to wait for such offers to come and grab them whenever I can. I do need a break from time to time from work, be it income-generating or voluntary work.

So yes, I managed to grab another one last year, this time to Phnom Penh, Cambodia, and the trip was just recently from 20th to 23rd January 2014.

I will let the pictures tell most of the story…

We arrived Phnom Penh airport in the morning, and a tuk tuk driver was already waiting outside the airport for us. I had already earlier arranged with the owner of our accommodation to arrange for a tuk tuk to transport us direct to the guesthouse, so we didn’t have to worry about getting lost.

We arrived the guesthouse before 9am…

Since it was still too early for us to check in, we just left our luggage at the guesthouse and off we went on foot to nearby attractions. First up was the National Museum…

…followed by a visit to Wat Phnom…

Lunch was at the nearest halal restaurant to our guesthouse, ie Malaysia Restaurant.

We then checked in to our guesthouse, freshened up, performed our prayers, and then out we went again, this time for a pre-arranged cycling tour of the villages around Silk Islands. We had to board the ferry first to get across the river.

Then we started cycling…

The half way stop was a place where we were shown the process involved in silk weaving.

Before cycling back to the pier, we visited a nearby temple.

We boarded the ferry just in time for sunset. So the cycling package was sort of inclusive of a sunset cruise…

For dinner, we decided to try out D’Nyonya Restaurant.

That ended day 1 in Phnom Penh.

Tuesday, 28 January 2014

We’re only here to assist…

It’s almost end of January 2014. How time flies. By right I should have already settled all matters pertaining to the children’s back-to-school expenses, but as it is, I am still getting messages from my clients about various expenses that need to be paid by the children.

A few clients however, especially first time recipients of our education assistance, seem to get a bit “over”, treating us as though their children’s education matters have become our responsibility. We give them a certain amount, they complain it’s not enough. Some complain how come they didn’t get any of the monthly amount last December. Duh! The monthly pocket money and bus fares are meant for schooling. They don’t expect us to give them the same amount even during year-end school holidays, do they?

Making things worse, a few of the volunteers told their clients to contact me direct when it came to questions regarding schooling matters, or for any matters pertaining to financial assistance. Wow! If I have to personally answer to all the queries by the clients, regardless of who the assigned buddies are, I might as well become the buddy to those clients as well!

So what do I do? Usually, when I get clients who tend to get a bit too demanding, I have no choice but to remind them that we are just an NGO doing VOLUNTARY work… that we are not paid to do the job… that we ourselves need to work (other than our voluntary work) to support ourselves… that we are there to give them ASSISTANCE, not to take over responsibility of their financial needs.

My older clients know that too well by now. Hopefully the newer clients will understand that they too will have to make an effort to overcome their financial problems instead of totally depending on assistance from others.

Our main objective after all, is to help the clients become independent, not dependent on others all their lives.

Thankfully, a few families have come a long way and have become not only independent, but also successful in their own way. The satisfaction of seeing such cases? Priceless!

Saturday, 4 January 2014

House Visits to Start The Year

With December being my “back-to-school” shopping month, now that school has reopened for the new year, it’s time for me to start sorting out the children’s various fees and workbooks.

For those I had brought out shopping last month, I told them to inform me via sms once they got the details of whatever amount that needed to be paid to the various schools. For those who had to use their money first to buy the children’s schooling necessities, I try my level best to visit them at home to get the receipts and to reimburse them.

While I did go to Lin’s house in December, it was for her daughter’s wedding. And so it definitely wasn’t the right time to discuss her youngest daughter’s schooling needs. Because of the kenduri, they couldn’t join the other families during the shopping either. And so I just told Lin to buy whatever necessities first, and I’d reimburse her later. Knowing Lin, I didn’t have to worry about her going over the budget.

So yesterday I went to visit Lin. It being a Friday, her youngest daughter was at school and so I didn’t get to see her. But I did get to meet Lin’s 2nd daughter, the one who just recently came back from overseas with a medical degree. She’s still waiting for her housemanship posting though, and so for the moment she’s still at home. A very responsible girl, I must say, and I am pretty sure Lin’s life will be much easier once this daughter starts working. Hopefully soon enough.

It was good to know that although both Lin’s sons didn’t do too well academically, with the older boy (who’s also Lin’s 4th) jumping from one job to another, the boy has finally settled down with a job he is happy with, and this time he’s sticking to the job long enough to get a promotion. Maybe not a “big” job, but the promotion is a start at least.

Lin’s youngest daughter is in form 5 this year, meaning this will be the last year the girl is eligible for sponsorship. I am pretty sure the girl’s older siblings will be able to help out if she intends to further her studies after SPM.

Another person I needed to visit was Laila, the orphan. If you recall my earlier postings, Laila is the daughter of the late Shila, who passed away almost 2 years ago. I couldn’t bring Laila shopping in December because the girl would usually be at her paternal grandparent’s house in another state during year-end school holidays.

So after checking with her aunt to make sure that all the details for Laila’s schooling needs were ready, I told them I’d be visiting this morning. It seemed rather quiet when I arrived, but Laila herself opened the door when she heard my car outside. Her grandma, who sells kuih in the mornings to earn some income for the family, wasn’t back from her stall yet, but Laila’s aunt was home.

Laila was just smiling all the time. However, being shy and quiet, Laila didn’t talk much. She’d just nod or shake her head every time I asked her any questions. She showed me a copy of her report card for last year’s exams. She didn’t do too well, especially in English. I asked if she needed tuition, she just smiled. According to the aunt, Laila wasn’t too keen on tuition. Laila however agreed when I suggested to her that maybe she should start tuition next year if she still couldn’t improve on her weaker subjects.

Next week there’s one more family I need to visit. Zainab’s kids were at their grandma’s kampong during the school holidays and so they too couldn’t join last month’s back-to-school shopping.