Beaudesert education heroes stage a night of Cambodian culture

CAMBODIA: Joy Drescher, Chanthou Oeun and Lesley Turton at the event in support of education in Cambodia.
CAMBODIA: Joy Drescher, Chanthou Oeun and Lesley Turton at the event in support of education in Cambodia.

SUPPORTERS of Rotary’s Educating Cambodia program enjoyed a night of fellowship, culture and entertainment at Beaudesert on October 2 to raise funds and celebrate the town’s contribution to education in Cambodia.

Ten years ago the first Rotary Beaudesert School in rural Cambodia was opened, followed by three more in the same region, thanks to the Beaudesert Rotary Club and the persistence and determination of John Mann.

Mr Mann was responsible for establishing the first Beaudesert Rotary School in 2008 after visiting Cambodia and realising a dire need for education in the area.

Visitors included members of the Zonta, Probus, Boonah Rotary, Jimboomba Rotary and Sunrise Club, Beaudesert Chamber of Commerce, Scenic Rim mayor Greg Christensen and Councillor Michael Enright accompanied by his wife Jenny.

Guests were treated to traditional Cambodian food and music performed by Chanthou Oeun, who was working as cleaner in her home country when she met Mr Mann and came on board as translator.

“I worked hard to learn English,” she said. “It was especially difficult because I could not read or write in my own language.”

Visitors also heard from Zoe Anne Fields, who was responsible for financing the fourth school. She said she knew Mr Mann from mutual fundraising activities and a shared love for theatre, both having been involved with BAMS before Ms Fields moved to Magnetic Island eight years ago.

“I heard on the grapevine that John was doing something in Cambodia and this was something I had wanted to do since I was a young girl,” she said.

“I went to Cambodia in February this year to see for myself what was going on and knew I wanted to be involved.

“The funding came from a legacy left to me by my dad and my uncle and doing this with the money allows me to look to the future instead of looking to the past.”

Mr Mann said they had established the schools to provide an education for the 1300 children who attend classes every day in two shifts.

“We employ only Cambodian teachers and their government pays them $2.50 a day, so we give them a salary supplement,” he said. 

‘We have had a lot of support from the people of Beaudesert.

“Hundreds have bought $2 raffle tickets over the years, 15 members of our community have been to Cambodia and some of them sponsor teachers.”

Mr Mann said in terms of student numbers, the schools represent the biggest charity educators in south-east Asia.

‘We operate on the smell of an oily rag too,” he said.

Guests at the function once again displayed their generosity, with all proceeds from entry costs to raffle tickets going towards Educating Cambodia and one person making a surprise donation of $1000.