This article is reposted from the May 2012 edition of Our Diocesian Family, a newsletter of the Diocese of East Anglia, United Kingdom, for their community. In this article, the Catholic Church in Nikhum is mentioned along with our other mission works in the Apostolic Prefecture of Battambang in Cambodia.
During the past few weeks many groups from East Anglia have been to visit our twin Diocese in Cambodia. They have come from North Walsham, Ely and St Mary’s in Ipswich. Two of our seminarians have done a placement there. Mgr. Philip Shryane spent a couple of weeks in January covering the parish of St John in Siem Reap for weekday Mass while the priest had a short break and described life there. So we have plenty of new, memories and photos, more than will get into this issue.
Over the years our Diocese has supported a very small, isolated village called Ta Om on a number of occasions, building the first learning center there in 2004 and again in 2007 we paid to put a new roof on the church.
Last year with help from other sources, they built a new learning center providing classrooms for a Kindergarten and accommodation for young people to have retreats and residential programs. It is only recently that we have been able to take groups to Ta Om, the first part of the road is greatly improved, the second is still a dirt road, very bumpy, and the Cambodians call it a free massage!
This year the group from Ely visited for the first time and saw the work our Diocese has been involved with. One of the great improvements is that through planet Water and with help from a school in the US there is now clean water in the village.
Planet waster installed a water tower and the water drops down through a series of filters and comes out clean and drinkable from the taps at the bottom. It was a great joy to be there on the day it was switched on, such excitement at clean water coming from the tap!! But it will improve their life enormously. Have a look at their website at www.planet-water.org
Just after Christmas Bishop Kike wrote to inform us what the Diocesan project would be for this year, 2012. It is to help rebuild the bamboo church of St Andrew in Nikum. We have helped before in this village, sending money to help level their plot of land and in 2007 we gave 15,000 towards the building of their kindergarten. Fr. Manoj, the parish priest, tells us a little of the history of the church.
It all started in 1999 when two ladies who had been baptized in the refugee camp on the Thai border were repatriated to Nikum. At first they kept the faith very much to themselves and few others, meeting in the home of one of the ladies.
Sometime later Fr. Sophal, a Khmer priest heard of this small community. In 2001 they built a small wooden chapel for Mass and to use for other activities, gradually it has grown and now has many children and young people in the Catechism classes.
On Sunday usually they have 40 to 50 people join them for the Mass. Early in March Fr. Manoj accompanied Fr. Mark Hackeson to the church and he has brought us some photos. Fr. Manoj explained the bamboo and wood of which the church building was constructed is being eaten away by termites- a common phenomenon in Cambodia. In places, the termite activity is clearly visible as they reduce the church to dust!” said Fr. Mark.
“In the sacristy almost an entire corner had disappeared completely. And in the side walls there were gaping holes. Fr. Manoj hopes to replace the bamboo and wood below the windows with brick which will last longer.
The church building and the adjacent kindergarten are well use both by the Catholic community and the community at large. “The day I was there with Fr. Manoj, a group of four volunteers Spanish doctors were giving a surgery for people form Nikum and the surrounding villages providing healthcare and medication that is otherwise too expensive or totally lacking.
“They also entertained the children with some lively games and dancing during the break for lunch!”
So our Building Bridges project for this year is to help to rebuild this small church, please do what you can to help.