Wirral couple on Cambodia mission

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Ann and Tony Courtnell. Pic © Ann Courtnell

Ann and Tony Courtnell. Pic © Ann Courtnell

A husband and wife from the Wirral are helping to change the lives of many deprived children in Cambodia after seeking new opportunities in the Far East.

As an escape from hectic working life, Ann and Tony Courtnell left their home in Noctorum, Wirral, just over four years ago and settled in Sihanoukville, Cambodia, where Tony built a bar for the couple to run.

After getting to know the area, the couple heard about nearby Romduol Ream River School. Ann became the Treasurer for the school and she and Tony have now been helping to raise funds for over two years.

Ann said: “We got involved with the school to try and give something back to the country we have grown to love. Just seeing the children’s faces is a gift in itself; they are always so happy and yet have nothing.”

Romduol Ream River is a private school and relies solely on fundraising in order to run efficiently. This includes paying for two teachers at a cost of $130 per month.

The school was built by General Sok Romduol five years ago on land he owned. It originally had no basic amenities, such as writing materials or electricity.

Ann explained: “When Tony and I first went to the school, I cried with the sheer poverty from what they called a class room to no shoes on their feet, to the filthy clothes and the look of hunger in their eye, and yet all they said was that they were happy to see us.”

Children at the Romduol Ream River School. Pic © Ann Courtnell

Children at the Romduol Ream River School. Pic © Ann Courtnell

Through the help and support of volunteers like Ann and Tony, almost all of the 68 children have now been provided with shoes, school uniforms donated by a local factory, toothbrushes and toothpaste, books and pencils, educational posters and toys. Desks have also been restored and a concrete wall surrounding the site has been built to deter snakes.

The school now also has access to an on-call doctor from a factory if needed, and is in the beginnings of getting running water and electricity direct to the school.

Ann, 54, and Tony, 61, have received a lot of support from friends and local residents in helping them to fundraise. Most recently, Charlie Hamnett, 45, a friend and fellow bar owner, has just completed a gruelling walk over 500 miles of rough terrain in very hot and dry conditions. So far, the walk has raised more than $2,500.

Other fundraising projects include collection boxes in local bars and several annual events held in the area.

About Georgie Whitworth, JMU Journalism