Dhamma Aid Cambodia

February 2011 Update

Dear friends of Dhamma Aid Cambodia,

Happy Magha Puja! This year, the holy day is celebrated on the Full Moon night of February (together with the Chinese Chap Goh Meh) and commemorates the day when 1,250 arahants spontaneously congregated around the Buddha. I happened to be in Cambodia on this date and joined in the celebrations at a village Wat sited among the padi fields in the district of Santuk near Kampong Thom.

The trip was primarily to meet up with 2 NGOs, which we have worked with in the past; Buddhism and Society Development Association ("BSDA") in Kampong Cham and Child and Youth Education Organisation ("CYEO"), a new organisation based in Phnom Penh but working among the communities around Kampong Thom.

Visiting the printer of our books in Phnom Penh

I also took this opportunity to meet up with a local printer in Phnom Penh who has agreed to give us a special price for the printing of Dhamma books.   When I was at the shop, they were in the process of binding our latest book.

Buddhism and the Problems of the Modern Age
This book was initially published by Buddhist Missionary Society in Malaysia. It was translated into Khmer by Ven Suy Sovann for DAC. The cover of the book features the beautiful artwork of Christopher Beikmann, proprietor of Artizen. Incidentally when I contacted Christopher for permission to use his artwork, I discovered he had studied in Sunway College, Malaysia and has also visited Cambodia.  With the sponsorship arranged by DAC's Indonesian supporter, Yanti and her friends, 5,000 copies of the Khmer/English bilingual edition of the book "Buddhism and the Problems of the Modern Age" was printed for free distribution.  The list of donors furnished by Yanti is attached here. (Donor List). Thank you for your Dhamma-dana. Heart-felt Anumodana. 

I had the opportunity to assist in the distribution of some of these books in Kg Thom during the Magha Puja celebrations.

Buddhism and Society Development Association ("BSDA")
Kg Cham is the 2nd largest town in Cambodia. Situated by the Mekong, it is also the home of BSDA. I am particularly impressed with the level of professionalism of this NGO and the dedication and sincerity of its director, Ven Thorn Vandong. Just 5 years old, the organisation has already gained the support of many international sponsors and Ven Vandong often makes the international news. BSDA runs a variety of projects to assist and uplift the poorest among the communities around Kg Cham. I believe BSDA will continue to grow and expect it to achieve new heights of success. You can read about their many activities from their website from the link above. Here are some pictures taken during my visit.

BSDA has its headquarters at the historical Wat Nokor Batchey, 3 km outside Kg Cham. This temple is unique as it features a relatively new 200 year old temple, built into and interlacing a 1,000 year old ruined Khmer prasat.

Orphanage set up by BSDA. Most of the children's parents are victims of the AIDS scourge in the country or street kids.

Cooking class run at the orphanage. It also runs a variety of other classes such as languages, sewing, farming and traditional dance.

BSDA set up this restaurant called "Smiles" overlooking the Mekong, to provide real-world experience for its students before they leave to seek employment. It is running at a profit and is popular with visiting NGO workers and expats. I took this picture during my first dinner there, admiring the sunset over the Mekong.

Child and Youth Education Organisation ("CYEO")
A relatively young NGO, CYEO focuses on education with its first project among the schools and communities around Kg Thom. It has started literacy projects incorporating morality and Dhamma elements in its programs. While I was there we discussed how DAC could work better with CYEO.  We also discussed plans for the distribution of our books.  One idea suggested by CYEO which I think is excellent, is to place our books in the seat pockets of all the long distance buses traveling out of Phnom Penh.  I took one such bus to Kg Cham on a weekday and found it to be full of locals across a broad age spectrum.

As I mentioned above, I had the opportunity to participate in the many activities and Magha Puja celebrations at Wat Svaykal near Kg Thom. It was a wonderful day as the entire village community turned up.  Some cooked for dana, using large vats placed in the shade of the temple trees. Others decorated the pagoda grounds and tuk-tuks which was used for a procession around the district in the evening. Scores of school children turned up to sing Dhamma songs in the Wat as the Buddhist flag was raised and candles were lit against the backdrop of a full moon over the padi fields. And I had the opportunity to address the locals during the evening Dhamma talk. The night finally ended with singing and dancing way into the early hours of the morning. It was a magical experience for which I will always treasure!

While in Kg Thom, I gave a brief talk during the Magha Puja celebrations. The locals here have little contact with foreigners and were curious to learn about Buddhism outside Cambodia.

CYEO also runs English language classes for the local village children. Many are keen to learn the language as they are acutely aware English is a passport out of poverty.

Calling for monastic sponsorships - 2011
For the last several years we have worked with Dr Peter-Gyallay Pap, director of the US based Khmer-Buddhist Educational Assistance Project to raise funds to sponsor scholarships for monastic students of the Phra Sihanouk Raja University.  Last year we sponsored 7 such scholarships which was greatly appreciated by KEAP.  To read more about our successful cooperation with KEAP in 2010, please see this newsletter prepared by KEAP.

We are now inviting scholarships donations for the current year at the amount of RM 860 per scholarship. If you wish to donate towards this purpose, please email me to inform and so I can keep track of any amounts banked in. Bank account details and email addresses are on our main page.

Our books available for download online
All the books that we have printed in the past are now available for free download in pdf format.  Please go to this page. Khmer books download.

Thank you once again for your support. Do not doubt that you are making a difference. Please remember to check our website regularly for updates.
If you wish to be informed of our periodical updates, send a blank email to "da-cambodia-subscribe@yahoogroups.com" or just click on this LINK, and then click send.

Have a great year ahead...

With peace in the BuddhaDhamma,
Yu Ban
Feb 2011

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