In December 2014, I was brought by Fr Tumlorp Sophal to visit the kindergarten in Knach Romeaus during our mission trip there. We were planning to run a medical mission the next year. I was brought to the dining hall where the children ate but was told that it may not be safe for out participants to eat there as the building had split in two and was supported by makeshift wooden beams.
Horrified, I made a mental note of this and spoke to Bishop Kike Figaredo about raising funds for repairing the kindergarten. He agreed and I enlisted my hands on cousin Kelvin Wee and our architect friend Jeremy Aloysius, who were veterans of ACTS Phnom Penh, to help and we made a recce trip in April 2015 there where Jeremy came out with the architectural plan to rebuild a new four room kindergarten with a new dining room and attached kitchen so that the Knach Romeaus kids could study and eat there safely.
The funds were raised at our private Gala Dinner via a reserve auction where we raised slightly more than we planned for. This was put to good use as a part of Gods plan as we had not budgeted for furnishing the kindergarten and the amount came to exactly USD 2000 as requested. The contractors were engaged in October 2015 and construction started in April 2016 and was completed in October 2016.
We had the opening of the new Divine Parish Kindergarten in Knach Romeaus on the 8th October 2016. It was a grand affair graced by the presence of the District Chief, Village Chief and Head of Education Department of Battambang and Fr Totet Banaynal representing the Apostolic Prefecture of Battambang, as Bishop Kike was away and myself representing ACTS. The whole parish was there with their families and proceedings started with the Cambodian National Anthem, opening prayer by Father Totet and speeches by the Government Officials and Fr Sophal espousing the value of education to the parents of the children. This was interspersed by musical items from the kids incorporating themes with Going Green, Avoiding Drugs and Not Skipping School. A favorite with the parents not unlike the graduation events in Singapore.
Then there was the passing on of the keys of the school from the contractor to me as the sponsor, then to Fr Totet representing the Apostolic Prefecture of Battambang who then passed it to the teachers of the kindergarten. We then proceeded to cut the official ribbon with each representative cutting a small section and finally completed by Fr Sophal with all the kids joining in. Then it was off to fixing the plaque acknowledging the donation from ACTS Singapore.
It was such a joy for me to see the joy of the kids when they first entered the classrooms and the joy on the faces of the parents and teachers who now have a proper and safe place for the kids to study and grow up in.
For me it was comforting to know that we have a God who can make use of all our individual gifts and talents and stitch all of them into a tapestry that can deliver joy to the faces of the kids in a faraway land. That is amazing.
By Damian Png
Vietnam mission is confirmed for 31 May to 3 Jun 2017.
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