Well, once again the staff of Asia's Hope Cambodia has beat me to the punch. After yesterday's marathon of activities, I returned to my hotel room to find that Savorn and the home parents had already uploaded hundreds of photos of the school dedication service before I'd even taken the memory card out of my camera.
I was determined to get the majority of the day's 750+ photos edited, but in the end, I was too pooped to pop. So I'm doing my darndest to get back on track, but it's already 9:30 a.m., and I'm barely half way through.
To be fair, however, I'm pretty darn exhausted. My pedometer says that I walked about 4 miles yesterday. But about 3 of those miles came in the form of dancing at last night's afterparty.
What a day it was. We started with a wonderful church service and ended with the school dedication, a feast — and the aforementioned dance party.
It was an honor to share the evening with my staff, my kids, guests from Crossroads Church, my dear friends John and Bobbi Campbell, and an impressive list of officials, dignitaries and leaders from around Cambodia. The governor of Battambang gave the keynote address, and took the seat of honor in front of the stage.
But at the risk of sounding corny, our most honored attendee was God himself. I know, it sounds like a cliche, something a pastor is supposed to say. But I felt his presence throughout the afternoon and evening. And he was smiling. He even graced us with a cool breeze and a big cloud that lingered over the hot Cambodian sun until dusk. And I felt his spirit move among us as we danced joyously under the stars.
My speech at the event was pretty dry and formal, an update of Asia's Hope's programs, mostly for the benefit of the dignitaries in attendance. But a couple of people have asked me to post the text here. And although it's not the most engaging prose, it does speak powerfully to the mercies of God and the hard work of his people.
Good afternoon, your excellencies, local dignitaries, international and Cambodian guests. My name is John McCollum, and I am the Executive Director of Asia’s Hope International.
On behalf of myself, my staff and the board of Asia’s Hope, I want to thank the honorable Governor of the Province of Battambang and the District Governor for joining us today. I also thank the Police Commander, and the representatives of the Ministry of Education from Phnom Penh, the Department of Education from Battambang, the Department of Social Affairs from Battambang, the commune chief, the village chief, the commune police commander, and pastors from local and international churches. I welcome you all on this joyous occasion, the dedication of the Asia’s Hope secondary school.
Asia’s Hope is a Christian Non Governmental Organization with projects in Cambodia, Thailand and India. We are honored to enjoy warm and longstanding cooperation with the Government of the Kingdom of Cambodia. We first registered with the Ministry of Foreign Affairs on October 12, 2006, with the Ministry of Social Affairs on June 27, 2007 and received our permit from the Ministry of Education on July 2, 2008.
At Asia’s Hope, we provide comprehensive family-style residential care for orphaned and abandoned children. In Cambodia, we operate 16 childrens homes — 6 in Phnom Penh and 10 in Battambang. At these homes, we work hard every day to provide for each child’s physical, intellectual, psychological, social and spiritual needs. More than that, we meet each child’s greatest need — to experience the love of a mother and father in the context of a safe and stable family. Our 78 Cambodian staff currently provide full-time care to 390 children — 212 girls and 178 boys.
Our elementary school in Phnom Penh offers a high-quality primary education to 195 students. We also offer various training and tutoring opportunities to our children in our homes and at our Battambang learning center. And we provide full university fees, expenses and tuition for 53 young scholars from Asia’s Hope Cambodia.
We have invested not only in the children living at Asia’s Hope, but in the local community as well. We have provided more than 3 tons of food — at a cost of more than 4 million riels — for needy families in surrounding towns and villages. We have also donated more than 4 million riels’ worth of assistance to children and families affected by HIV in and around Battambang. We have donated 2 computers and 1 printer to the office of the commune chief, and a printer to the Ministry of Social Affairs in Phnom Penh. And this year we gave gift boxes to 485 HIV-affected children across Cambodia.
And today, I’m pleased to announce the dedication of the beautiful building you see here, the Asia’s Hope Secondary School. At full capacity, this school will ensure a quality education for 250 7–12th grade students from Asia’s Hope Battambang and the surrounding community. This new facility will allow us to expand our existing English and computer classes and offer a wide range of training and educational enrichment opportunities.
With God’s help, in cooperation with local and national authorities and with the generous support of our international donors, we intend to provide the highest possible level of care to this generation of children and to future generations as well, providing every Asia’s Hope child with the skills and confidence they need to fulfill their dreams for themselves, their families and their country.
We believe that — despite the difficulties and disadvantages they have faced in life — the children you see here today will one day soon take their places among Cambodia’s emerging next generation of social, professional and intellectual leaders. They have the vision, the intelligence and the character. And now, thanks to your support of the Asia’s Hope Secondary School, they will also have the education they need to build a prosperous future for all Cambodians.
Thank you and may God bless you.