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Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008

READERS' FUND

NGO fetes 15th school it's built in Cambodia


Staff writer

Fourth in a series

Ever since its founding in 1995, Tokyo-based nonprofit organization AMATAK House of Cambodia has been dedicated to building schools and promoting better education in the poverty-stricken Southeast Asian nation.

News photo
Class act: Students wave flags during the completion ceremony of a new school built by AMATAK House of Cambodia in Pingpong village, Battambang Province, last January. COURTESY OF AMATAK HOUSE OF CAMBODIA

Under the direction of the Rev. Fumio Goto, founder of the organization, AMATAK has so far built 14 elementary schools throughout Cambodia, and a 15th, a school in Poytasek village in Banteay Meanchey Province, will hold a completion ceremony on Jan. 26.

"With our limited number of staff members and funding, building one school per year is the best we can currently do," Goto said, noting some of the education facilities funded by AMATAK are now more than 10 years old and are in dire need of maintenance.

"The locals have low cash income, and the municipalities are very poor," forcing them to be overly dependent on our help, Goto said, expressing concern that starting next year, the NGO might have to direct its activities toward repairing schools instead of building new ones.

This year, AMATAK received ¥178,119 from the 2007 Japan Times Readers' Fund — support Goto says is "very, very important for us."

"We need to be careful that we ourselves don't become too dependent on contributions," Goto laughed.

It's not only the building of schools that AMATAK is involved in.

Goto recalled how he was overjoyed when he visited Cambodia in August and met a girl AMATAK saved from child prostitution.

"She had just finished elementary school when we first met her," Goto said, "and her parents were about to sell her off as a prostitute."

AMATAK prevented this from happening, and helped her attend junior high and high school. Goto said she began teaching at one of their schools in September.

"I told her to let us know if she encountered any other children who might be facing similar hardships. We are here to help them," Goto said.

AMATAK plans to invite a Japanese violinist to perform for the new school's completion ceremony in January.

"We couldn't find a piano anywhere in the village to accompany the violin, but the violinist told me that wasn't a problem," Goto said.

"He said he'll play Bach's 'Unaccompanied Violin Sonata,' " Goto continued. "When I asked him whether that won't be too complicated for the children, he said they'll understand the beauty of the music whether it be the first time they've ever listened to a violin."



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