Hi everyone,
 
After many months of thinking about a newsletter to let people know about what I do in Cambodia helping firefighters and disadvantaged children, my fingers finally got to maneuvering around the keyboard with the hope that few errors and some laughs will come out of this endeavor.
 
As always, I look forward to visiting friends, both expat and Khmer.   A friend of mine, Angela, owns and operates Blissful guesthouse in Kampot and she helps me  contact the fire station in Kampot when I'm in town.  In Sihanoukville, Maggie Eno, who is the executive director of M'lop Tapang, an organization that cares for 120 disadvantaged kids (www.mloptapang.org) is a good friend that I always look forward to visiting on my trips to Cambodia.  To the other friends that help me when I'm in town, thank you for your time and assistance.
 
My latest visit to Cambodia was January 11-24, 2005. The main reason for my 8th trip was to assist a non-profit from Washington state put on a fire academy in Phnom Penh, the capital.  A couple members of the group had seen my website (www.cambodiaphotogallery.com) in the summer of last year and saw that another crazy American was helping fire stations in Cambodia.  They invited me to help with the academy, and off I went to my second home.
 
I arrived several days prior to the start of the academy, as I was going to deliver 400 lbs. of clothing, games, toys, crafts, school supplies and stuffed animals to M'lop Tapang, an organization that helps street children reintegrate back into their family, community and society.  On a previous trip last year I delivered clothing and school supplies to M'lop Tapang, and through emails had gotten a better idea of what to bring this last trip.  It was very rewarding to see the smiles on the kids faces when they received the "presents."
 
Later that afternoon, I had food and drink with the Fire Captain of the station in Sihanoukville and made sure that a few firefighters would be attending the academy in Phnom Penh.  It was quite the relief to hear that they had already been notified and everything was in place for the firefighters to attend the two-week academy.
 
The following a.m., my minivan taxi drove me to Kampot to deliver 15 fire extinguishers to the Fire Captain in that town.  When I arrived in the afternoon, I found that the Captain was in Phnom Penh and wouldn't return until the next day.  Rest and relaxation were in order.  Early the next day, I went to Bokor National Park to see how I could be of help to the "renegade" fire station that I had heard about.  On my previous trip in Oct. '04, my friend asked me what I thought of the fire truck at Bokor National Park.  I asked him, what TRUCK ?!?  He said he assumed I saw it since it was at the entrance to the park and it was RED.  I told him that I would visit the park on my next visit to assess the situation.  
 
I had fire extinguishers for the station in Kampot, but had not delivered them, and after talking to the assistant ranger, I realized he could use some extinguishers and safety glasses that I had in the minivan taxi.  About 50 rangers patrol the park with chainsaws to clear paths without eye protection. The 25 safety glasses and 5 fire extinguishers are a good start to help the rangers at Bokor National Park.   I told the ranger that I would be back later in 2005 with more extinguishers and digital cameras for the rangers while out on their patrols. Then I went back to Kampot for some rest.
 
In the afternoon I met with the Captain of the Kampot fire station and delivered radios, a camera, safety glasses and 8 fire extinguishers.  The 5-7 personnel were very happy and needless to say I made their day. I let them know I would be back later in the year as well.  After my short stay in Kampot and saying goodbye to Angela at Blissful Guesthouse, off I went to Phnom Penh to meet the 7-8 members of the non-profit (www.oesp.net).
 
About 4 hours later I arrived in Phnom Penh and went to the hotel where I would be staying for 9 days. Only one person from the non-profit was at the hotel, so we got dinner and waited until 12:30 a.m. on a Sunday for the rest of the group from Sihanoukville.  They had gone down to the town to pick up a firetruck that had been shipped over from Washington state.  On the way to the capital the truck got a flat tire, and it took at least 4 hours to fix.  At about 12:30, the front desk rang my room to let me know that the truck arrived at the Ministry of the Interior.  A taxi took me and the other person to the Ministry for a quick visit and back to the hotel for sleep.
 
The next day was spent unloading the 40-foot container of fire equipment, and the following week 25 firefighters were initiated into the basics of a fire academy.  They learned about carrying hose, spraying water and foam, breathing air, search and rescue techniques, ladder carries, and practicing evolutions to work as a cohesive group.  Seeing the firefighters learn and work in unison as the days went by was rewarding. 
 
I appreciate your support and please contact me with questions how you can help with my non profit, The Douglas Mendel Cambodian Relief Fund.

 

Douglas Mendel Cambodian Relief Fund

P.O. Box 410

Silverthorne, CO 80498