Ely pair return to orphanage in Cambodia after raising over £9,000 for ‘dumpster children’

PUBLISHED: 17:34 23 March 2020 | UPDATED: 17:34 23 March 2020

Peter (third from left) with CCH students. Picture: LIZ SAYERS

Peter (third from left) with CCH students. Picture: LIZ SAYERS

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Friends and neighbours in Ely helped Peter Harris raise over £9,000 last year to help transform the lives of orphaned and abandoned children in Phnom Penh, the Cambodian capital, and he has just been to see for himself how the money is being spent.

Peter Harris with children from the Centre for Children’s Happiness (CCH) in Cambodia. Picture: LIZ SAYERSPeter Harris with children from the Centre for Children’s Happiness (CCH) in Cambodia. Picture: LIZ SAYERS

The education consultant has been involved for over 12 years in the work of the Centre for Children’s Happiness (CCH), which provides a home and education for children who would otherwise work on Phnom Penh’s rubbish dumps.

“We pledged to pay for a year’s tuition, accommodation, food and travel for five students at a cost of £900 each - a total of £4,500,” Peter said.

“We also hoped to raise enough to pay for 24 children from impoverished families living near the dumps to buy books, uniforms and bicycles to enable them to go to a local state school at a cost of £150 each - a total of £3,600.

“The cost includes bribing parents with rice to feed their family, otherwise the children would be put to work on the dumps - bribery is working well!”

Peter with children from the CCH who hold bags of books. Picture: LIZ SAYERSPeter with children from the CCH who hold bags of books. Picture: LIZ SAYERS

CCH has a long-established link with Don Bosco, a Christian charity which runs two-year vocational training courses at its centre in Sihanoukville on the Cambodian coast.

In Sihanoukville, one of the five students from CCH has started a hospitality course at Don Bosco Hotel School, another is doing IT and administration and the other three are studying electrical engineering.

Peter and his partner Liz Sayers stayed at the hotel where they also caught up with another five CCH students who are in the second year of their studies.

“We have seen for ourselves how these once-vulnerable young people’s lives have been transformed by CCH,” Liz said.

“They are all learning skills that will enable them to be independent and contribute to their communities.”

The visit to Cambodia was combined with a business trip to south-east Asia for Peter who recruits overseas students for British boarding schools and colleges.

“When we left home in January, coronavirus seemed confined to China, so the last eight weeks have certainly been a challenging. Education fairs in Hong Kong, Vietnam and Japan have been cancelled or postponed and there have been last-minute flight cancellations,” he said.

Last year, Peter and Liz walked 120 kilometres in five days along the Camino, the pilgrims’ route to Santiago de Compostela in northern Spain, to raise money for CCH.

The couple have now flown back to Thailand and are waiting for a flight home from Bangkok.

“Only a few weeks ago it was business as usual in Bangkok, although there were no Chinese tourists,” Liz said. “Now the city is in virtual lockdown.

“At the weekend, an estimated 80,000 workers left the city in buses, either to return to the Thai countryside or to cross the borders home to Cambodia, Vietnam or Laos. No doubt they will be as relieved to get home as we will.”

Peter has pledged to continue support for CCH over the coming year. He can be contacted via pjhely@gmail.com.

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