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A word from the Chair
Hi and a massive thank you to all of our supporters. You have once again provided us with the funds we need to continue our work in Cambodia, although this year the effects of COVID-19 has meant that we have not been able to undertake our normal activities in Cambodia. As many of you will already know, we now provide support to 10 schools and around 3500 students in the two communes in which we operate.
COVID-19 has again challenged our fundraising activities in Australia, with us not being able to run our normal events. However, as a result of some on-line fundraising activities and some generous donations from our supporters, we raised almost $19,000 this year, which will enable us to continue our work when the schools re-open in Cambodia.
A substantial initiative for us this year has been the introduction of a membership model for the Foundation, which will provide our supporters with the opportunity for direct input into our future strategic direction, to provide assistance in the organisation of events and fundraising activities, to take part in the election of the board and to also nominate for board positions. We look forward to the greater involvement of a broader membership base.
I would also like to acknowledge the work of our retiring Treasurer, Doug Thompson. Doug has been with us almost from the start of the Foundation and his expertise has ensured that the Foundation has a strong financial basis for moving forward. He made an enormous contribution to us achieving tax deductible status last year. Thanks Doug and we wish you all the best for the future.
I thank you all for your ongoing involvement and look forward to your continuing support for the work we undertake with the communities and schools where we operate in Cambodia.
In our Annual Report last year, we reported that 2019-20 was an unusual year. We talked about the fact that we learnt how to be flexible in meeting a range of different challenges, not the least being fundraising. Little did we know that 2020-21 was going to be even more difficult.
The COVID-19 situation in Cambodia has mirrored that in other countries, particularly those in Southeast Asia. While the country missed the extreme conditions experienced elsewhere, particularly in the northern hemisphere during the early stages of the global pandemic, the effects of later variants have been significant.
Like most countries, the Cambodian government has imposed severe restrictions throughout, including the closure of schools. The result has been that schools have been closed for the entire financial year, apart from a few weeks in October 2020 and January/February 2021.
In addition, the Australian government’s international travel restrictions have meant that we have not been able to visit Cambodia since October 2019. As we reported last year, arrangements were being made for our in-country representative to purchase materials in our absence in 2020. However, due to the closure of schools in the early stages of the pandemic this did not occur.
The schools reopened for a short period at what would normally be the commencement of the school year in October 2020 and plans to carry out the usual purchase and distribution of school stationery and uniforms to all schools were commenced. However, before the program could be implemented, a full lockdown was announced across the whole country and schools were closed again. Consequently, no funds were spent for the whole of the financial year on our primary task of providing basic school stationery, uniforms and bikes for students who were to attend school during the year.
In January 2021 we received good news that schools would be reopening with the commencement of the school year being pushed forward by two months. Our planned distribution program was reinstated only for it to be cancelled once more as we received news that schools would again be closed. As at the end of June 2021, schools remained closed.
Fundraising activities have also been curtailed because of the social distancing restrictions in Victoria. No events have been possible. However, we have been fortunate that we have a group of very generous supporters who have provided solid financial backing during this very difficult year. Our financial position remains sound.
While there has been a pause in the program in Cambodia, the opportunity has been taken to carry out other important tasks. Highlights include:
The introduction of a membership model which will provide an increased opportunity for our supporters to become involved in a range of activities including:
providing input into our future strategic direction,
providing assistance in the organisation of events and fundraising activities,
being involved with the implementation of our program in Cambodia,
standing for Board positions, and
taking part in the election of the Board.
The commencement of a comprehensive review of our strategic business plan
A comprehensive redesign of our website
Initial planning for a business prospectus proposal to attract corporate donations
Successful crowd-funding campaigns in lieu of our annual dinner
Despite the fundraising difficulties, almost $19,000 was raised during the year through crowdfunding campaigns and individual donations. Our balance sheet remains healthy with assets of just under $77,000 being held at the end of the financial year.
In presenting the 2020/21 Financial Report, Treasurer Doug Thompson announced that it would be his last report and that he was tendering his resignation. Doug has made an extremely important contribution to the organisation. He took on the role soon after the Foundation was formed in 2010 and played a critical part in ensuring that the organisation’s finances were well managed. His contribution will be greatly missed and we wish him well in his future endeavours.
2020/21 Financial Report
Total revenue for the year was $18,936.47. The only expenditure in Cambodia was $185.50 spent on improved security at one of the schools, with an additional $16,903 available for future works.
The balance sheet remains in a healthy position with assets of $76,876.25 being held in various forms.
Total income for the year was $18,936.47 of which $361.11 was expended on bank fees and commissions, $185.50 on Cambodian activities, $1,486.71 on insurance, $15,978.16 held by MyCause to be paid into the Children of Cambodia bank account in following months and $1,637.50 applied to reimbursing a Director for costs associated with works in Cambodia.
In addition, MyCause has paid $11,247.37 into the Children of Cambodia bank account, which represents donations collected and recognised as income in previous months.
These transactions resulted in a net increase to the balance held in the Children of Cambodia bank account for the year of $10,534.86.
The balance sheet remains in a healthy position at the end of June 2021, with assets of $76,876.25 being held in various forms, as follows:
Bank account balance of $63,010.64
Funds held by Green Gecko in the Project account of A$1,685.67
Cash in Hand of A$1,210.81 and
MyCause holding $10,969.12, which will be paid into the Children of Cambodia account at the end of July 2021.
The COVID-19 Story in Cambodia
The first case of COVID-19 in Cambodia was detected in January 2020. Although a number of imported cases and transmission to direct contacts were confirmed throughout 2020, no community transmission was detected until the end of November 2020. Cambodia’s initial reponse was slow – during the initial outbreak in China, few international travel restrictions were introduced and it was not until March 2020 that restrictions on arrival, schools, clothing factories and entertainment venues were closed and major public holidays cancelled. Most restrictions in the country were lifted by September 2020.
When the first known local transmission was reported in November 2020, the government cancelled the remainder of the school year.
A large scale outbreak was detected in Phnom Penh on 20 February 2021. By 23 February hospitals in the city were at capacity and overwhelmed.
On 15 April, all of Phnom Penh and surrounding Provinces were placed into lockdown and the World Health Organisation warned that the country was “on the brink of a national tragedy” with the whole of the country’s healthcare system at risk of becoming overwhelmed. Prison sentences, fines and caning were used by police to enforce restrictions.
Certain districts were declared as ‘red zones’ where food markets and supermarkets were closed and people not allowed to leave home except for medical emergencies. The lockdown resulted in thousands of Phnom Penh residents going hungry and requiring emergency food aid.
In June 2020, curfews were introduced in Siem Reap, the city closest to our schools, and a full lockdown put in place soon after.
Total COVID-19 Cases in Cambodia
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) predicted in October 2020 that the poverty rate in Cambodia could double as a result of the COVID-19 recession. The economy shrank by 3.1% in 2020, the sharpest decline in Cambodia’s recent history, following 7% growth in 2019.
The pandemic severely impacted the tourism sector in Cambodia, as international travel was disrupted by restrictions and all tourist visas were suspended. In Siem Reap, ticket sales for Angkor National Park dropped to an average of 22 people per day during April 2020, leaving Angkor Wat, typically bustling with thousands of tourists, almost empty. In October, ticket sales for Angkor were down 98% from sales in October 2019. At least 600 hotels nationwide have closed, and more than 10,000 tourism sector employees have become unemployed. Many of the families in the villages where we carry out our work are normally employed in the tourism industry in Siem Reap.
Over three million children were affected by school closures. UNICEF stressed that moving to online learning disadvantages rural children in Cambodia and the disruptions to education during the pandemic could have a long-lasting impact.
Source Wikipedia and World Bank
At the time of publishing this report (22 September 2021), advice had been received that COVID-19 conditions had worsened in Siem Reap Province where our schools are located due to community outbreaks of the Delta variant. Daily cases of the virus in the province have risen to more than 500.
A lockdown has been imposed which bans people from leaving their homes, gathering in groups and conducting business. The lockdown is being strictly enforced with vehicles, including motorcycles, being confiscated if people are apprehended outside their homes even if the intention is purely to try and buy food.
On the positive side the Government is providing mobile house-to-house COVID testing services.