Saturday, November 28, 2009

The Story of Tuit

Recently I received some information from Janne, founder of Tabitha, and read this story. I'm copying and pasting the lot to show how we can make a real difference in the lives of those, often far away from us, who only want a chance to help themselves.

November 2009

Dear friends and partners,

This week marks the end of the first UN held Khmer Rouge trial of Duch – the infamous head of Toul Sleng – a torture and death chamber of more than 14,000 Khmers. Duch has said he is guilty and he has said he is sorry, but these words have little meaning for the survivors for he also says “I was just following orders”. There is no remorse.

When I started Tabitha Cambodia back in October of 1994, the wounds of this brutal regime were still open and raw. Pol Pot and the Khmer Rouge were still active in many parts of the country. People were struggling to make sense out of their losses – losses which included family, homes, education and their very fabric of society, their faith. We had decided to start cottage industry, a program that focused on providing work and incomes for families who had lost so very much. I decided that we needed to focus on traditional skills inherent in this society. Silk weaving was one such skill.

One of our first weavers was a very old lady, named Tuit. When I first met Tuit, she lived in a thatched hut. She was bent over double – she could no longer straighten her back. Tuit was raising 4 grandchildren – at 78 she should have had the luxury of resting her weary bones and enjoying her family – but her family were mostly gone – her husband and her 4 birth children had been executed by a regime that was only following orders. Her one surviving son had gotten married and had 4 children – the son and his wife died of AIDS – Tuit was raising the 4 grandchildren – 16 years old and younger at that time.

We talked of the threads of her life – raised in a happy home, learning weaving skills that created beauty – getting married and having a good home - and then it all ended with the brutality of the Khmer Rouge. Tuit revived her weaving skills – and the silk thread she wove became the income that helped her grandchildren to survive. The silk thread spoke of better times; times when life was normal and good, time when wearing silk spoke of the daily events that people were living. Each silk piece bespoke of the married status of women, of special events being celebrated, of a society that had customs and beliefs.

Several years later, a housebuilding team came and built her home. Tuit was so very touched – in Cambodia it means so much to have a home to die in. She was so very tired and wanted to move on. I asked her not to die but to live – to live for her grandchildren – to stretch the thread of life a little longer.

Over the next several years, Tuit taught the oldest child to weave and the income of the family was secured. The children graduated from school and all got married – the oldest one still weaving today. She is passing on her skills to her three children. The weaving allowed Tuit to live out her life with dignity and beauty. Tuit passed away three years ago at the age of ninety. She was surrounded by her grandchildren and their children. The thread of life continues – the thread of silk her burial shroud. For a few years, this silk weaver regained some degree of comfort in her troubled life – for a few short years – she could be what she was meant to be – a woman of beauty comforted by a thread of silk that bound her family together.

Tuit’s story is but one story of so very many – women and men who have gone through unspeakable horror – the silk thread has given them the strength to carry on, the strength to live for a while longer, the strength to regain their meaning in life, the strength to dare believe in life itself.

For each of you who have purchased an item of Tabitha’s cottage industry – each of you have carried that thread of life one step further. You have given life to so many for whom life was nothing but a thread. I thank my God for each of you – this Christmas season, may each of you give a piece of the thread of life – to those whom are attached to your personal thread of life. May the joy and peace given by each item suffuse you with the joy and the peace you have granted to others.

Tabitha Cambodia#239, St 51,Phnom Penh, Cambodia

Please remember that we continue to offer a number of alternative gift ideas for your loved ones which enable you to support our partnership programmes. These gifts include a well for £60 which provides clean water for 5 families as well as our 'Gifts of Life' starting at £5 for school supplies, a gift that can make all the difference to children struggling to afford school. These unique gifts can be ordered using the form available on our website.

Tabitha Cambodia
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Silk Wine Gift Bags from our own Organic-Ally site at just £3.50.

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Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Get the adrenaline going

Husband was back at work yesterday, the first time in five weeks.

He had taken two weeks off to coincide with son's half-term break so that we could do all sorts.

A visit to granny had to be cancelled because I had put my back out two weeks before, and granny herself had had her wrist in a cast.

OK, so we booked tickets for the special exhibition at the British Museum.

Of course son had to manifest another cold on that Wednesday morning. He recovered after a couple of days of rest, as usual. But husband copped it.

Friday he struggled to get to the hospital for his ultra-sound scan because his consultants wanted to be sure that his liver was OK. He came home exhausted. Ironically liver was OK but he was exhausted from the cold symptoms.

He was in bed most of the weekend.

Monday, we thought his cold was over. Tuesday it was my turn to get this cold.

Wednesday husband was at the clinic because his cough was bad, his temperature was fluctuating and he was not in very good nick.

Pleurisy, said the GP (#1). Antibiotics and off to the hospital for an x-ray.

Son had some respite with a sleepover at his mate's.

Two days later (Friday) and no sleep, back at GP (#2, a different one, locum, but good one): no improvement. What do we do?

Continue with antibiotics. Honey and lemon.

Fraught weekend. This was perhaps the lowest point of his illness. He just could not find a comfortable position to be in. Moan, groan, moan, groan.

For our poor son, Daddy was physically in the house, but not quite there, it seemed. He just could not do "Daddy" things and Mum was both mum and dad (a not very good one, I'm afraid).

Monday: son returned to school.

Wednesday: husband at GP (#3, the GP who normally sorts out his long-term medication). Cough slightly better but now acquired flu symptoms. X-ray shows pneumonia. More and stronger antibiotics. Signed off work for two weeks.

Hissing, moaning, grumpy old husband.

Eventually, he showed signs of improvement, the coughing eased and he managed to sleep at night. But still came downstairs in the morning and was slumped in the sofa after breakfast, exhausted from showering and eating!

On the Saturday just before the end of his two weeks of antibiotics he managed to 'crack' this sleep/less cycle; managed to stay awake throughout the day. Tried to find things for him to do to kick-start the adrenaline.

Sunday he volunteered to do a 'supervised walk'. I wanted son to go to the shop, or to learn to do so, crossing two roads there and two roads back, buying the goods, paying and getting the right change, etc. I normally keep a distance behind him when he does this.

Husband decided he would do the supervision. Came back and complained his legs were killing him.

Of course they were, he had not used those walking muscles much for weeks. If anyone has had an experience of a fire drill walking 33 (or even just 20, 15) floors down an office block, you will know how this feels.

Midweek, back at the GP (#4, yet another one, the big cheese in this practice) who pronounced him fit for work and that he had "old-fashioned pneumonia". (A friend had use the term "new-moan-ia" previously. There certainly was a lot of "moan".) We figured he might have picked it up when he was at the hospital for his scan.

Any way he made great improvement since, and spent the rest of the week doing slightly more every day to get back into the swing of things. He was back at work yesterday in his new woolly coat and woolly scarf.

Many thanks to our friends and family for prayers and kind wishes during this time. I am especially grateful that my back had recovered sufficiently to take on those extra nursing duties. My cold symptoms lingered for some time, but I was spared a tickly cough which I dreaded the most. And husband's employer and colleagues were all so kind and understanding.

Just 2500 emails to clear on his first morning back at work!

We are NOT looking forward to the swine flu jab he has to take. This is recommended for those who are either pregnant (which he is not), immuno-suppressed (which he is) or had had a chest infection (that's him again).

Could it be after Christmas? we begged.

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Monday, November 16, 2009

Tough Love: Look at my Face! (Part 2)

Chatting with husband at lunch (still recovering ever so slowly from pneumonia) it transpired that our son had been smacked not once -- as I thought -- but twice.

Husband recounted how he had to smack son when he was much younger after doing exactly what he had been warned not to do.

It's like, "You do that one more time and you will be smacked."

Son did it one more time and immediately -- smacking is only effective if it's immediate -- and was smacked on the back of his hand.

"I had to do it only once. Never had to do it again," he said.

And of course there is this other thing about "always carry out your threat". It must have been something quite serious to warrant a smack.

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Tough Love: Look at my Face!

This morning at breakfast, husband still off sick, asked son due for a History exam this morning: "What is the middle name of Alexander the Great?"

Son: Uh, uhm, "the"!

So delightful he is now. Yet there was a time before he was out of nappies when he would keep pushing the boundaries. Well, he still does, actually.

For reasons I cannot remember he was told he was not to cross the line between the hall and the living room. Maybe it's the staircase that we thought could pose some danger.

What did our young man do? He walked up to the line/boundary and threw his toy into the forbidden area.

Would Mum let me go out there to retrieve my toy? He looked at us and waited for a reaction from us. Can't remember what we did, probably ignored him. And he learned when mum and dad set boundaries, those remain as boundaries.

Once while he was still toddling he took to biting, purely out of mischief. He was told off sternly, "Do not bite!" And every time he approached me and started acting suspiciously, I would be on my guard and said, "Don't you even think of biting."

Then one day while I was at the kitchen sink he crept up behind me and sank his teeth into the back of my thigh.

In pain I turned round, stooped to his level ("stooped" being the operative word) and smacked him really hard on his hand.

First the shock, and then he realized there was some pain. Tears.

"That is what it feels like when you bite! PAIN."

Then when he had calmed down, we had a cuddle.

He never bit again. Not me, nor anyone else.

I've never had to hit him again.

I had used my "cane". Once.

Up to that point he had no idea what pain meant; that certain behaviour of his (eg biting, hitting, head-butting) could cause pain on another human being was a totally foreign concept.

Recently I recalled how my father used to hit us on the head: He would place his left hand, palm down on our head, and then hit his own hand with his right hand. (And should any social worker query, he was only hitting himself, really.)

Everytime he 'hit' us, he had to hit himself first. This was a 'Chinese' way of gentle discipline. It was almost done in a loving way, never out of anger. That was not very respectful ... smack!

Then he would say that every time parents hit their children, they themselves feel the hurt, just as his own hand had to take the force of the smack.

"Fathers [and mothers, too], do not exasperate your children!" so the Bible advises.

I can recall how I had done exactly that. It was a futile exercise. We both just got angrier and angrier. Never again.

I also learned that I must give him 'face' and 'space'. If I pushed him into a corner where he could not show remorse with some dignity, it becomes a downward spiral. When I had made my point and backed off ... he'd come round to it ... eventually.

Still we have many boundaries. Computer and TV times are restricted. Twenty-minute slots on the computer (he sets either the oven clock or some other timer) and a total of 90 minutes a day on the TV. If he fails to use up the 90 minutes due to school activities or homework, tough! He gets a bit more TV on the weekend. But he is required to be "sensible".

Sometimes when I get extremely tired and need a lie-down I would give him free rein. On those occasions he has proven that he could be sensible, resting between 'screen activities' and never exceeding his 20 minute computer slots.

Years ago someone mentioned that there are some mothers who could control their children just by raising their eyebrows. Just one eyebrow, actually. Their children understand "the look" and refrain from whatever.

These days when son gets a bit carried away -- as nine-year-olds often do -- I find myself saying, "Look at Dad's face," or when Dad is not around, "Look at my face," and immediately son knows what is best for him.

If all else fails, I would say, "That's why God give human children mums and dads. We are not like animals who are expected to look after themselves hours after we were born."

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Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Tough love: do your children a favour

I stole this from The Telegraph.

I've found myself saying to my husband what joy our silly-stage nine-year-old is bringing us. Every day.

The proof of the pudding is when he turns 13, 15, etc, really. Meanwhile I am finding great joy in watching him grow up slowly but surely in learning to be more and more independent and learning greater responsibility with each passing day.

This article reminded me of "the cane".

When growing up in Singapore, "the cane" was ubiquitous in households with young children.

This was usually hung up high on a hook on a wall in the living room.

Do/Did parents use the cane?

Of course.

But only once.

The cane, when properly used, needs to be used only once, if at all, in the life-time of a child.

Before that, parents and carers would point and say, if you misbehave, disobey or did something that might endanger yourself or someone else, the cane will be used.

After it had been used -- once, if at all -- parents point at the cane and say, "Remember that cane? We don't want to have to use it again."

Did I use the cane on my nine-year-old?

I'll elaborate in my next post. I am too tired to write at the moment.

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Friday, November 06, 2009

No respect, no morals, no trust - welcome to modern Britain

No time to think (cold symptoms linger, husband has pneumonia and flu, bah!), so only this to support what I think (when I have time and energy to think).

No respect, no morals, no trust - welcome to modern Britain