Tuesday, 28 September 2021

Couple stock up for Cambodia charity mission

A COUPLE from Goring are seeking cash donations and supplies as they prepare to

A COUPLE from Goring are seeking cash donations and supplies as they prepare to embark on a charity project in Cambodia.

Terry and Sue Hookway will spend two weeks helping to build new houses and improve a school at a centre for impoverished children in Koh Krobey, near the capital city of Phnom Penh.

The pair, who live in Wallingford Road, will fly out on March 20 and will be part of a 13-strong team from across Europe.

The expedition has been organised by the Christian charity Mission Direct and will provide shelter and education for youngsters who previously lived on rubbish tips or in slums.

Mrs Hookway, 70, will be training native Cambodian teachers while her 69-year-old husband will help to put up buildings.

The couple are collecting clothes, shoes, stationery, books, simple games and craft items, Lego, towels and sewing supplies to take with them.

They have already received several large packs of goods, including a dozen knitted teddy bears made by Rosie Fitzherbert-Jones, of Nun’s Acre, Goring. Mr and Mrs Hookway, who have four children and nine grandchildren, met in 1967 when they were teachers at Goring Primary School and married two years later.

Mrs Hookway, who also taught at Gillotts School in Henley, is now retired while her husband is a supply teacher.

The couple, who worship at St Thomas’s Church, began their charity work in 2005 when Mrs Hookway turned 60. They were inspired by their children, who had embarked on similar projects during their school holidays.

Mrs Hookway said: “I was looking for a way to thank God for 60 incredible years and decided this was the best way to do so. Our children did it first but after many years of taking them to and from the airport it’s great to be regularly doing it ourselves.”

The couple have carried out two weeks’ overseas aid work every year and spent the rest of the year raising funds and collecting goods. They have been to Romania, Malawi, Sierra Leone and Kenya. After visiting Kenya last summer, they set out to raise £1,500 to buy 300 chickens for the Mission With A Vision farm outside Nairobi.

The farm teaches girls who have been rescued from a forced marriage to provide their own food and to make a living from agriculture. The couple have so far raised £555 and hope to hit their target by the summer.

Mr and Mrs Hookway had planned to return to Kenya this year but were asked to help in Cambodia instead because of their teaching experience.

Mrs Hookway said the country was still struggling to recover from the genocide carried out by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge regime in the late Seventies in which up to three million perished.

She said: “Sadly, as the country develops, big international companies are coming in and seizing large plots of land, which is driving poor people out of their homes.

“This project is a crucial way of rebuilding the country and helping children who have been living in ghettos to escape from the cycle of poverty.

“On top of the housing and school, it has a church and a medical centre and it’s somewhere they can get hot meals. We’ll be doing five teaching days and two teacher training days. It will be very important to work alongside the Cambodian teachers and understand their needs instead of imposing on them.

“They have class sizes of about 40 or 50 children, which is larger than in this country but it’s smaller than in Sierra Leone where there can be as many as 90. It can be a challenge but you have to adjust to it and use local resources as much as possible.

“People in Goring have always been very generous and responsive to our appeals. It’s important that any contributions are of high quality. We haven’t stressed that in previous years but why should people who are so poor have to only accept our junk?

“We’re happy to accept money because we can obtain some items while we’re out there. It’s not like in Sierra Leone where nothing is available and you have to bring everything you will need.

“I’m looking forward to it as ever but I do hope I’ve prepared all the right things.”

For more information or to offer a donation, call Mr and Mrs Hookway on (01491) 872252 or email them at srhookway@btinternet.com

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