Tabitha Sale @ The China Collection 3 & 4 March

Don’t miss this exclusive event – Tabitha silk at The China Collection. Come along and see just how beautifully Tabitha silk homewares can brighten up your home. Anne Lockett’s Black and White house and her wonderful range of Chinese furniture is a beautiful backdrop to the colourful Tabitha silk and must be seen to be believed! Full Tabitha range will be on sale. Wine tasting on Friday 4th evening! Don’t miss it!

Nokor Tep Women’s Hospital Cambodia

February 2011

Dear friends and partners,

I want to share with you the beginning of our latest outreach. It’s Nokor Tep Women’s Hospital. I know there are many of you who ask, “Now where did this come from?”  I would love to say simply from my own journey with breast cancer but that’s not true – the breast cancer is the catalyst of a turning point of the journey – not the beginning.

Over the years of Tabitha a number of people have approached me about preventive health care. I have a problem with prevention because it often teaches people about their problems but in our work, there is often no cure. When the AIDS epidemic took hold in Cambodia back in 1997, those of us working in the field were told to educate people. But education is not enough – at that time – there was no treatment available – and people discovering that they were in the process of dying, really hurt.

I am happy about teaching the simpler ones like clean water, good nutrition, etc but anything more in-depth has always brought me a shudder for there is really no where to send folks who are suffering. It haunts me.

This past year a number of women have died in our program – women who could have been saved or at least comforted in their own life’s journey.  Sowanta is a woman who lived in Savy Rieng province. She developed breast cancer – by the time the breast was engorged with disease, it was almost too late. Her and her husband sold their land – the land that fed their seven children. She went to Vietnam and had a mastectomy – her lymph nodes were removed and she returned home. As a woman she was expected to carry out her daily tasks – they lived in a thatched hut – they had a few farm animals and within a few weeks, her surgical sites were infected. She had no money to return to Vietnam – she had borrowed and received help from all those she knew – but there was no more. It took her 2 months to die – 2 months of indescribable pain – 2 months to say good-bye.

Every time I go on a site visit, I am confronted with women who are in pain. Last week, I met Sina – a young mother with four children. She had asked me for help a few months ago and I had told her to go to a hospital for the poor in Phnom Penh. She came and waited for three days – that’s all the money she had. Her number never came up. She went to a local doctor – he said she had a severe vaginal and uterine infection – her womb and her uterine track are full of cysts – he removed three of them – told her not to worry – but the oozing is still there and the number of cysts keep growing. Her younger sister works for us at Tabitha – she too, has an infection and cysts – their mother died a few years ago from this same ailment – they look to me for help but there is little I can do – they are so afraid that they too will die – they are too young – only in their 20’s.

Then, I find a breast lump and with hours everything is prepared for my care. People are distraught – why you? My response, why not me – I, too, am just a person. But my question to myself is different, why do I get all the care that I need? Why am I so special? I am no different – different circumstances, yes, but the same as all the women that I meet. The same desires, hopes and fears. I too, want to live.

In my personal faith, my God says “Love your neighbor as yourself.” To do so means that I either love myself less and take no medical care or I love myself the same and provide medical care for the women that I live amongst – for they are my neighbors!

So I dreamed a dream –I want to have a hospital for my neighbors. I shared my vision with Dr. Ing Kantha Phavi – an extra ordinary woman who happens to be the Minister of Women’s Affairs. Her response was immediate and simple. I have always wanted to do this – this is my dream. Phavi’s life has been anything but easy – like so many here she suffered under the Khmer Rouge, became a refugee, ended up in France where she finished her education, became a medical doctor, and practiced for ten years . In the early 90’s she returned to Cambodia, lived in the forest for 4 years fighting her battles for freedom. She became a staff of the Ministry of Women’s Affairs and ten years ago became the Minister. She is a woman of extra ordinary integrity and courage – highly respected by all who know her. Phavi has a daughter, Mony who contracted thyroid cancer a few years back – she was treated and Mony is a survivor. Both of us treated by the best in Singapore. Phavi’s husband, Trac Thai Sieng is an extra ordinary man. He loves his wife, his country, the dream – he stands with us as we move forward to accomplish our dream.

 

We have 2 hectares of land in the midst of women who work in factories – women from all over the country – who live meanly – 12 to a small room, work 12 hour days – 6 days a week – women who send what they earn, home to their families. They are so young – their youth is eaten away with the burdens they bear – they are our neighbors. Their mums and sisters live poorly – perhaps we can bring some comfort, some meaning to their lives when they are tired and ill.

Our hospital is called Nokor Tep Women’s Hospital. It is a vision, a dream that includes prevention and education, that includes research into the most common of women’s illnesses here. Our vision is not cheap – it will cost 5.5 million to build and another 5.5 million to outfit because women’s cancer is part of this dream – and the machines required are expensive. It sounds impossible but not if the burden is shared by many. To build we only need 120 people to donate $50,000 each or 240 people to donate $25,000.00. each. To outfit we need to do the same.

For our poorest neighbors – treatment will cost very little – perhaps a dollar – for our neighbors who can afford more – we will charge more. For all women, we will have an open door.

I have shared this vision with a few of you. Your response has helped us to clarify our vision – to dream big dreams – to make sure we do it right. To share my personal journey as we do this process – I have created a blog that contains some of my reflections – it’s jannenokortep.blogspot.com.  A friend is working on a formal web page – I am limited in IT skills.

I thank my God for the privilege of dreaming dreams – of showing me the way forward – I thank my God for each of you who share this journey with us. It is so very good.

 Janne

Tabitha at NZ Chamber of Commerce Waitangi Day this Sunday 13 Feb

Dear Friends and Supporters of Tabitha,

We are delighted to say that Tabitha will be represented at Waitangi Day organised by the New Zealand Chamber of Commerce. The Chamber have been great supporters of Tabitha and we really appreciate the opportunity to sell a selection of our beautiful silk products at the event.  Why don’t you come along and join the celebration, it’s free! 

Date: 13 February 2011
Time: 3:00pm – 7:00pm
Venue: Brewerkz Indoor Stadium 2 Stadium Walk Entrance 01#06 (Indoor Carpark E)

http://www.nzchamber.org.sg/event_details.php?eid=224

Tabitha Home Sale Tues 15 Feb @ Nassim Jade

We have our first Home Sale of 2011 coming up next week at Nassim Jade, please drop by to help kick off our sales calendar for the year.  The sale runs from 10am to 6pm at Nassim Jade Condo #04-01 (enter via Lobby 3 from car park).

Tabitha will also have a stall at the UWC Community Fair at Dover Campus on Saturday 26 February from 10am-4pm.  Other great sales are planned for March – more details later!  Please mark your calendars now!

Looking forward to seeing you at a Tabitha sale soon – remember Your Help Will Last a Lifetime!

 

February 2011 Update

Dear Friends and Partners,

It’s been a week of mixed emotions.  Pat, our manager in Prey Veng, asked that I come.  Pat is one of our senior managers; he has been with us almost from the beginning.  Pat’s area is one of our toughest.  In the areas we work, the poverty is rather stark.  Pat wanted me to see Prek Komdieng, an area we have worked in since 1998.  It was always frustrating to visit because, despite a lot of effort, very little has changed.

As we drove into the area, Pat had us stop.  I was looking at a lot of barren fields with splashes of green, here and there.  A number of people were working in the fields and came to meet us.  The first man to reach us didn’t smile; instead I got a look of utter defiance mixed with pride. Touk looked at me and stated bluntly, I have all my children back from the border. Touk has five children and like so many in the area, when life got too difficult, he would get a loan in exchange for one of his children.  The 3 girls and 2 boys had been at the Thai border for two years, the girls in the sex trade, the boys as carriers for heavy loads and of course, the occasional appointment with a man.  What Touk did was not uncommon in this area – many families used the practice. Touk was waiting for me to say something.

I looked at Pat who was excited – he shared the story – last year he had asked Touk to be a model for the village.  Pat would put in a field well and together they would grow rice and vegetables.  It was unheard of in this village – many of the men had gone off to find work, many were too ill to do work – primarily because of malnutrition.  Touk agreed and in the past year grew 4 crops of rice and 2 crops of vegetables.  He earned enough to get his children back. They don’t need to work anymore, he said.  Other men had joined us and the talk began – there were now 12 field wells installed – they needed 20 more – and then what, said I.  Come back in March and you will see. We will have rice and vegetables covering 150 hectares. And the children, I asked.  And the children they replied, will all be home and in school. March is not a long way off – it’s quite a challenge.

Touk was watching me intently.  He was expecting me to pass judgment on his past behavior.  All I could think of was who am I to judge these people – what do I know of hunger – I see it but I eat whenever I want and whatever I want.  What do I know of being ill and not having medicine?  What do I know of having to chose which child is next to go?  I know nothing of this – I just know pain when I see it – and hope when I see it.  I agreed and so in the latter part of March I will come and see.  The challenge is on.

                     

Yesterday I went to see Thary’s projects – she is near to Phnom Penh and easy to get to. Our first stop was at Preah Put village – we walked into the fields – 80 hectares of dry season rice was growing, all from Tabitha wells.  The families grow year round food for the first time and their lives are changing rapidly.  The husbands and the children are all at home.  The smiles are wonderful to see.

    

We went to the new are of Duang. What a different story. I met 18 of 50 families who have been deeply affected by AIDS and by malaria.  In this process the families have sold off their farmland and all have less than 5 square meters to call home.  There are lots of children – it seems that this is the one thing in life they can do.  None of the children go to school – they cannot – they need to scavenge whatever they can in order to eat each day.  Each small shack has two families living in them – 3 square meters is not a lot for 15 or more people.  These families had heard of us and asked us to come and work there.  The estimate is that there are 1000 desperately poor families in this area – half of them are ill.  Some still have land and so the pressure is on to put in wells.  One young husband is growing mushrooms in a space 10 meters square.  His income for the next 6 months will be $600 a month but then the rains will start and the mushrooms can’t be grown.  So he planted another small field with cucumbers and another with trakun, a type of spinach.  He gives us the energy to hope and to do as much as we can.  For those who no longer have land – the problems are much greater – I pray that the children don’t become the victims.

It’s been a week of sadness – it’s been a week of hope.  I thank my God for all that I have, for the choices I can make, for His goodness to me.  I thank Him for each of you – for standing with us as we go through these cycles of sadness and hope. 

Janne

January 2011 Update

January 14, 2011

Dear friends and partners,

Happy New Year’s everyone.  May 2011 be filled with the blessings that you have brought to so very many.  For myself, the new years has started well.  I am back at work with very little restrictions, doing what I am meant to do.  That is so very good.

This week I went on two project visits, something I was unable to do the past six months.  I thought I would share with you what these visits tend to be like.  Usually we leave, the community development driver, Da and the community development supervisor, Srie, at six in the morning.  It means the sun is not quite up and city traffic is just beginning.  As we drive to the projects, the sun comes up and infuses the countryside with a glow – very beautiful.  As the day’s heat takes over, the glow disappears into a hot haze and the harsh reality of life takes over.

This week’s visits were very typical – we looked at finished schools, approved new ones to be built and talked with students and teachers about the marvels of education.  One young lady of 6 attached herself to my shirt and hung on no matter what.  Her mum had died last month and I seemed to be a good replacement.  I felt for the little one.

  

Then we visited families who had received houses from our volunteer house builders.  It’s so good to see the improvements being made by each family.  We met a family that had put bricks on the bottom and were slowly replacing the tin with wood.  They had taken off the Tabitha sign and were protecting it.  They will have a ceremony when the house is rebuilt and then proudly hang the sign on the wall.

Others have bought new stairs, others have extended their homes and many have built or are in process of building a latrine to go with the house.  Some plant flowers around the borders of the house, others put up curtains – all reflect the pride and joy they have in their new homes. For you house builders that come and build, the starter home you built, is the start of new hopes and dreams.

We visit the many families who have received wells and who are earning incomes.  We talked with Hout and his wife – they have eight children- they are middle aged – their faces worn with the cares of life – they are proud and smiling – all eight children are in school – all the time – they are earning enough not to keep their children at school.  It is so very good.

   

We visit vegetable fields – corn that is taller than I, spring onions that I can’t have because they only chop of the green parts for selling – bak choy and cabbages, pumpkins and aubergines, chillie peppers – we look at pigs and see fish – and it’s all so good.

The last item on all site visits is to see the new areas.  I sigh – how can people live so meanly?  Houses are so small and so inadequate – there is no water, there is so little food, and almost no clothes.  We see a number of men drinking under a tree – Srie and Da are disgusted – I say, if I lived like this – I too, would drink.  Life can be so sad.

   

Then we travel home – tired and dusty – but the sun is setting – and the country takes on a warm glow.  It is once again stunningly beautiful.  I am very tired but I am also at peace.  We have done much and there is so much more to do. I thank you for standing with us – I thank my God for the privilege of living this life.  Happy New Years everyone.

Janne

Christmas 2010 Update

Dear friends and partners,

Its Christmas time again and the excitement is building. For Miriam and I the excitement is tenfold for after 5 more sleeps my journey with breast cancer will be over – well, not completely, but the intensive treatment of the cancer will be finished and we can go home.  The prognosis looks good and the daunting process is no longer so daunting. We are so very thankful for that.

My staff is marking off the days on the calendar till we meet – now they are counting hours. I prefer the days, it sounds so much shorter than hours. Several bus loads will meet us at the airport and the celebrations will begin.  Life is good.

While in Singapore I have met so very many of the volunteers who do so much for us. They touch my heart – I met a young lady of 9 raising money to build a school – every weekend she sells baked goods – sometime she gets tired but she doesn’t quit – I am touched by her dream. A seven year old gave me his birthday money to buy a pig for one our families, another child saved to buy two wells – two other children are writing and selling children’s books so that many other children in Cambodia can eat three meals a day -so many women here put in hours of their time to sell the products, and to raise funds. I enjoy the camaraderie amongst them; I am somewhat mystified by their passion yet thankful they have it. I am encouraged by volunteers from all our Foundations and the stories they share of what’s happening. It is like we have Christmas each and every day.

I talk with my staff each day – it’s our busy time of the year – every week at least 4 teams of volunteers arrive from all parts of the world to build houses – 318 houses in just the 7 weeks I have been gone – they send me pictures of three schools completed and three new ones started – they have dug 150 wells with 300 families doubling their income- they talk of our families being able to buy animals such as pigs and chickens, of new clothes and food for the little ones – they rejoice in the number of mums who are eating three times a day– meals that have more than just rice. It’s like we have Christmas each and every day.

There is a new gift beginning this Christmas – it is the gift of hope, of grace, of health to the women of Cambodia. It is not an easy gift, nor will it be an instant gift – but a gift that needs to begin and to strengthen and to grow. Nokor Tep Women’s Hospital is about one more step in the development process – one that will ease the pain and suffering of the poorest women in Cambodia for whom health care is almost nonexistent.

Christmas is about life and love and laughter – it is about the gift of grace – a gift underserved and unearned yet given freely. Each of you have made Christmas real each day of the year for so very many people in Cambodia.  I thank my God for that gift.

On behalf of my staff and our families, we wish all of you a Merry Christmas not just for one day of the year but for every day of the year. May 2011 be a year of the blessings and joy you have given to so many.

Janne

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