Letter from Sr Ljudmila (Cambodia)
I write this letter as I listen to the elementary school children sing: “Give thanks with a grateful heart, give thanks to the Holy One”
Building our School
This is truly a time for all of us at Don Bosco School, Teuk Thla, to “give thanks”. After many years, sacrifices, planning, designing, discussions and receiving generous donations, the ground-breaking day for the new Don Bosco Middle and High School finally took place on Wednesday, 24th April 2013.
The students and their parents have also contributed much to building their new school. The parents had generously come down one Sunday to cut down the banana and coconut trees, while the students helped to clean the place of all the grass weeds and stones. They were happy to walk up and down the land where their school is going to be built. The school represents their hope and their joy, a fount of knowledge and education of true values.
The sun hid itself on the morning of 24th April, as if it knew that the big crowd of children and guests needed to be protected from the heat. We had some special guests to grace the ground-breaking ceremony. They were Monsignor Olivier Schmitthaeusler, Bishop of Phnom Penh, friends from Japan, some priests, sisters from Toul Kork community and most importantly, 580 students from grades 1-7, all the teachers and school staff. The smallest ones, the Kindergarten children, also knew that something big was happening on the other side of the fence, and they too united their voices with the songs of the older students.
The day started with the Eucharist celebrated by the Bishop and priests. We all know very well the truth written in the Psalm: “If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do the builders labor.” Following mass we moved to the land where the children were waiting. They had heard so often that they would have a new school, they prayed so much, and had asked so many times: “When are we going to begin the construction? What is going to happen to us, who are finishing grade 6? The new school is not yet finished. We don’t want to go to the government school!”
That day all were smiling! After the initial program, children said their prayers: for all the donors, construction workers, those who will teach and study in the new school and also for the sisters and those who knew how much courage and sacrifices were put into this new beginning. The Bishop and priests went all around the compound to bless the land. A special stop was made under the tree that holds on its branches the statues of Mary Help of Christians and St. Joseph, to whom we pray every day for this big project. By the time we came to the end of the ceremony everyone was smiling, St. Don Bosco and St. Joseph smiled too from heaven and the sun came out from behind the clouds.
The End in Sight
Someday soon, the last formalities with the construction company and government permissions will be coming to an end. Then, we’ll expect to hear the noise of trucks and machines for the piling work. Although disturbing, it will be like a gentle melody of the future…growing slowly, but steadily.
Our “Give Thanks” goes to all of you - Dr. John, Dr. Priscilla, ACTS members and Singaporean Friends, Ms. Belinda, Mr. Peng Beng, Mr. Kenn and ARCTS studio, Mr. Philip, Ms. Winnie and your Friends, Friends from Japan, from other countries of this world, all of you were present with us. We know that you will continue to support us, and all of you are invited to gather for the solemn blessing of the new school.
News from the School
Let me give you some more news from our big Family. In the middle of April we celebrated Khmer New Year, and the Children were at home for two weeks. The teachers and sisters took advantage of this and held a two day formation session on the Educational Method of Don Bosco. As you know, for us sisters, meetings never end. The city of Phnom Penh was quiet and empty. Nearly everyone from our neighbourhood went to celebrate with their relatives in the different provinces. However, an unfortunate accident occurred when a mother, whose children are our students, took 3 of them on the motorbike to a Pagoda. The little boy, who is in grade 3, is recovering in Phnom Penh Children’s hospital. He lost his eye and his face was badly wounded. His father brought him to the city on a borrowed motor bike, while his mother and siblings recovered in the province hospital. On hearing the news, we went to visit the boy, and helped his father to pay some expenses.
All our other students came back safely. Soon after the New Year, Pu Thy, our driver for 20 years, welcomed a second son to his family, and we are expecting another baby from a teacher. It is common for poor parents to send their young children to relatives far away in the provinces so that their mothers can return back to work in factories or construction sites. For this reason, we have opened a small room as a temporary nursery for our staff and teachers. The mother of one of our students looks after the little ones. It is nice to see them every afternoon when the “goodbye ceremony” begins, first with one, then with another one…all our grandchildren.
At the moment a group of pupils are preparing intensely for a singing competition organised by a Korean Music school. They already sing very well. You will hear them when you come for the blessing of the new school…Don’t laugh! Just wait another year, pray and please donate some more.
The country is preparing for the election at the end of July. Some are afraid of troubles, of curtailed freedom to express their real will. However, we hope all will go well, for a brighter future for our country and of each citizen.
The Year Ahead
We are now in the hottest time of the year, with another 3 months to go before finishing the school year. All of us are a little tired, already thinking of holidays, but still trying to encourage students (and teachers as well) to study seriously in order to learn as much as they can. We will still have some national holidays and school free days in May, but there is much to be done in June with the interviews for the new kindergarten children, scholarships for future teachers, exams and all kinds of serious work. Thanks be to God, we have some nice volunteers with us this year who are of big help, with their youthful enthusiasm bringing new energy.
Relics of St Theresa
Today, we are also expecting a very special Guest from France: the relics of St. Teresa of the Child Jesus, together with the relics of her parents (who have also been proclaimed holy). We tried to explain to the children what it means and we are all in great expectations. Today you and all your intercessions will be presented to St. Theresa. We promise to remember you in a very special way.
Greetings from all the children, girls, teachers and other staff. From all the sisters, especially from Sr. Teresita who is at the moment in Colombia with her very sick father.
Once again, thank you for walking together with us the way to a brighter future for the youth of Cambodia. Knowing that you are with us, we sing and we walk….also run!
In the name of all the Salesian Sisters of Don Bosco (Cambodia)