In 1994, one Bruce Carlton, a missionary with the Baptist Church in Cambodia learnt from a Singaporean, Mr Bob Yap, a member of Barker Road Methodist Church about The Boys’ Brigade Ministry. Mr Bob Yap had been working in Cambodia for several years then. Bruce Carlton then came to visit The Boys’ Brigade in Singapore, learnt about the ministry and was then, convinced that The Boys’ Brigade ministry could do a lot of good for the community in Cambodia. During his (Bruce) visit, he visited The Boys’ Brigade Campus, attended an Executive Meeting as observer, visited The Boys’ Brigade-GB Campsite, the 40th Singapore Company, The Girls’ Brigade Company and The Girls’ Brigade HQ.
From the outset, we determined that we should plant seeds and let the Brigade in Cambodia determine the form best suited to their own situation, and not force them into our image.
The first introduction to The Boys’ Brigade was conducted in April 1995 at the Church of Christ our Peace, an Anglican Church with Rev Don Cormack who was most supportive of the The Boys’ Brigade. Cambodian pastors and youth leaders from various indigenous churches came for the induction and the training focus on The Boys’ Brigade Philosophy and Method, Uniform, Badge System, a typical The Boys’ Brigade Parade, First Aid and some indoor games. Members of this party were Mr Michael Moorthy (The Boys’ BrigadeM President), Mr Pang Seng Hock, Mr Ong Teong Hoon and Mr Richard Tan Hock Gee (then Captain of the 40th Coy).
Mr. Pang Seng Hock was appointed Cambodia Co-ordinator. With the sudden departures of Bruce and Don, our local ‘Cambodia Brigade’ Committee continued with Pastors Hieng (Anglican Church of Christ our Peace); Nara (Church of Christ), Mr Kakda (Russey Kheo Baptist); Mr Uong Rien (Open Gate Christian Fellowship); and OMF Missionaries Ms Alice Compain, Mr Alvin Tan and Dr. Yew On (ex-The Boys’ Brigade Malaysia). Our OMF missionary advisors were very dedicated and played vital roles in interpreting, training and guiding our progress and safety.
Regular training for Cambodian pastors and youth leaders from the 4 member churches were conducted by Seng Hock, Alice, Alvin and Dr. Yew On. The churches keenly applied the training to their youth and children’s work. Uniforms and drill were kept to a minimum, due to the uncertain, tense political situation.
In March 1997, 12 people died and more than a hundred were injured in a grenade attack on an opposition rally in Phnom Penh. In the July 1997 coup, hostilities broke out in Phnom Penh, with at least 200 people killed as a result. One Brigade member died in the chaos and another was shot but survived. July training was cancelled and all Brigade activities were suspended for safety reasons.
When peace returned, regular training resumed in September 1997. In addition to previous trainees, there were fresh faces. Seng Hock began to refer to trainees collectively as ‘Primers’. Key Cambodian leaders attended NCO training in Malaysia with Seng Hock in January 1999. This trip was a great eye-opener for the Cambodian leaders. Further trainings continued in Phnom Penh.
In 2000 Cambodian Primers from various churches gathered for training and emergency sand-bagging during the bad flood season engulfing Phnom Penh. Enthusiasm was high. The Cambodia Brigade committee decided it was a good time to launch uniforms and agreed on a design for officers and Primers.
That year, Seng Hock wrote a review with recommendations (1995 – 2000) to The Boys’ Brigade Overseas Extension Committee. Unfortunately, he was away on leave and unable to personally explain the report to the Committee. It was decided that Seng Hock should be re-assigned as Trainer and a new Cambodia Co-ordinator appointed. In November 2000, hostilities broke again: 8 people were killed and over a dozen injured in a fierce fire fight in Phnom Penh. Since then, momentum for Brigade work in Phnom Penh was lost.
In the meantime, whilst the BBLC was functioning, the Principal of The Methodist School in Phnom Penh, Mr. Stephen Yeo who was from Malaysia and is familiar with The Boys’ Brigade Movement in Malaysia wanted to introduce The Boys’ Brigade to the school. The Boys’ Brigade was thus formed and operationally running by 5 volunteers teachers. After a few weeks into operation, Mr. Yeo sought assistance from Mr. Chou Fang Soong, Methodist Missionary Society and then LCEC Chairman of Bedok Methodist Church to assist in the planning and running of the Boys Brigade in The Methodist School.
After much discussions with the Methodist Missionary Society and the Bedok Methodist Church, Mr. Chou approached Mr. Steven Lee Honorary Captain of 40th and Mr. Eric Cheang Assistant Chaplain of 40th and 97th Singapore Companies to explore the opportunity and feasibility of assisting The Methodist School in the formal setting up and running of the company.
The delegation was thus formed in early October headed by Mr. Eric Cheang with blessings from Bedok Methodist Church LCEC and The Boys’ Brigade HQ in Singapore. The sequence of events as follows;
A single storey building was built at a cost of USD 36,000 in 2005 and it provided tuition in English and IT courses. Since then, on a daily basis, between 60 to 80 students have benefited from their involvement with our Learning Centre.
The Centre has been receiving foreigners to interact with the students and these visitors are largely from groups organised by the YMCA Singapore, The Boys’ Brigade Singapore Companies and some Singapore churches.
Our first missionary to be based there was Mr Reuben Yong. (Reuben was a teacher in Charge of the 39th Company in his school, Swiss Cottage Secondary School, Singapore) and he heard God’s call to be a missionary in the BBLC. He spent a total of 4 years from 2005 to 2008, during which time, he married another The Boys’ Brigade Officer, Ms Lim Jia Ying who had been visiting the BBLC with The Boys’ Brigade Boys. In 2009, they left Siem Reap and his position was taken over by Mr Kong Chak Mun, the Captain of the 28th Company.
It was not until 2002, during the transition from Mr John Tan who was then the President of The Boys’ Brigade to Mr Choo Gim Kang, that the idea of establishing a presence in Cambodia was re-visited. This time, it was the Singapore Youth Expedition Programme (YEP) that was the catalyst. YEPs were undertaken with the intention of promoting The Boys’ Brigade in Cambodia; as well as to instil “mission-mindedness” among the young The Boys’ Brigade leaders. It is worth noting that the first full-time worker we have in Cambodia, Mr Reuben Yong, 39th Singapore Company and Mr Kong Chak Mun, Captain of 28th Company, were the product of the YEPs.
After several teams of The Boys’ Brigade Boys had gone to Cambodia on the YEP, the initial ones were led by Mr Albert Ching, then The Boys’ Brigade Executive Secretary, and facilitated by Mr Choo Gim Kang, it was felt that for their contribution to the Cambodian communities to be more meaningful, a somewhat “permanent” presence should be established instead of merely making trips to Cambodia.
It was the strong suggestion by Mr Tay Puan Siong, an Old Boy from the 12th Company that the efforts were made to secure a “permanent” base in Cambodia.
In late 2002 or early 2003, Mr Albert Ching got in touch with Pastor Lau Pak Soon, a missionary Pastor in late 2002 or early 2003 and they met in Phnom Penh. From this meeting, they learnt about the work that Pastor Lau was involved in and he then mentioned about the piece of land in Siem Reap and that was how the idea of a partnership between Mr Sokreaksa Himm and the BBLC was born. The land upon which BBLC was sited was in the name of Mr Sokreaksa Himm
The persistence of Mr Tay in advocating and persuading Mr Albert Ching, the then Executive Secretary of the The Boys’ Brigade, in establishing a base in Cambodia instead of moving from locations to locations must not be discounted in the establishment of The Boys’ Brigade Learning Centre. The master-plan was created by Mr Cheang Kok Keong, who was trained as an architect, and was then, also the Captain of the 44th Co. He was the one to design the BBLC. Mr Osbert Chew, who was then Vice-President for Development, was responsible for seeing the BBLC project through. A paper for the Vision of the BBLC was presented and the Singapore National Exco approved a budget of SGD 150,000 over 3 years.
It is envisaged that the BBLC will also become an incubator for new Christian ministries, through the following methods:
3 Oct 2009
Forming of Committee for Overseas Extension Project
Initiated by LCEC Chairman Mr. Chou Fang Soong and supported by Mr Steven Lee, the committee was formed, headed by 40th and 97th Singapore Companies Assistant Chaplain Mr Eric Cheang assisted by 97th Captain Mr Ang Hoe Yong and 97th Training Officer Mr Abian Heng.
7 Oct 2009
Notification to The Boys’ Brigade HQ Singapore of intend to start The Boys’ Brigade Company in Cambodia
Support and blessing received from The Boys’ Brigade Singapore Brigade Executive, Mr Desmond Koh.
23-25 Oct 2009
Kick Off meeting in Cambodia
The following members met up with Principal of The Methodist School in Cambodia, Mr Stephen Yeo, appointed Assistant Chaplain Mr Liew Sun Khang and the appointed Captain and Officers in Cambodia;
1. Mr Eric Cheang, Assistant Chaplain 40th/97th
2. Mr Ang Hoe Yong, Captain 97th
3. Mr Abian Heng, Training Officer 97th
4. Ms Veronica Lim, Treasurer
5. Mrs Amanda Ang, CE Coordinator 40th/97th
13-16 Nov 2009
Continuation in The Boys’ Brigade Knowledge inculcation
In continuation of providing logistical support and The Boys’ Brigade knowledge inculcation, Abian flew up the 2nd trip to follow up on assisting 1st Phnom Penh Company to strengthen their weekly program, routine and discipline. Together with Abian include Primer Aaron and Trevor to provide guidance to current appointed serving officer.
7–23 Mar 2010
Training for Cambodian Officer – Officer Cadet Course
Assistant Chaplain Mr Liew Sun Khang, Captain Mr Chandra and 3 serving officers together with 2 Senior Boys from 1st Phnom Penh Company attend the combined March Camp and Officer Cadet Course (OCO) conducted by Mr Ang Hoe Yong from 18 – 21.
March in BMC. The curriculum of OCO was promulgated by The Boys’ Brigade HQ Singapore. The 2 senior boys attended the Leadership Development Course 1, together with 40th and 97th Boys.
Planning for Year End Program and 1st Enrolment Service and Parade
Abian went up to Cambodia to visit and encourage the 1st Phnom Penh Company and to assist in the planning of the year end combine program with the 97th Boys and the 1st Enrolment Service and Parade.