25 March 2008

they swim in their clothes

I had forgotten that Asians are very modest; the kids as well as the care givers who came along to help, jumping in the sea fully clothed! I didn't dare disrobe to my bathing suit hiding under a long sarong and white blouse. In regret, I didn’t even jump in clothed as I was considering instead the five hour ride back home in wet clothes. The kids had a ball playing in the salt water; for many it was their first time swimming and for others their first time seeing the sea. Our small group of six rode a big coach bus from Phnom Penh to the province so to pick up the orphan children, and then continued another three hours to the coast; the orphanage itself already two hours from the city. When we arrived at the Wat, there were many kids dressed in their school uniforms even though it was a Saturday waiting by the road. We thought, "Oh, they are really ready!" Many of the kids had painted scenes of Kampot Beach during our Art Therapy "sanctuary place” exercise the day before and were really excited about going asking repeatedly what time we would be leaving for the next day. We almost rounded up the wrong kids! These children playing around the temple were from the village; our Wat Opot Project children patiently queuing on their campus within sight of the Wat, the road, and our bus.

Go to the Wat Opot Project website where you can see pictures of the children and their campus. If you go to the Special Projects tab on the website, you can see some of the artwork they have produced. Please note that while that page also talks about an art building, know that the children's needs are more direct as of this writing. It is a daily struggle to have enough food each day. If you feel compelled, please consider giving directly via their new US recognized fund: Wat Opot Children's Fund. You may also specify that the funds go to a special project you have in mind or that they are creating, such as an electric washer, implementation of electricity (they currently use a generator to provide electricity for two hours each evening), bicycles for the kids, or improved lodging. The website will list their most recent projects and needs.

All week during my visit, I'd been thinking about what Cambodia needs most. My short list includes:

  • Education of course
  • Screens for their windows and anti malaria preventive measures
  • Clean water
  • Plentiful food

Phnom Penh is a bustling recovering city, however only a few miles out of town, electric wires end, access to good schools diminish, medical care is sparse, jobs are non-existent, and markets offer fewer and fewer goods. For most of the villagers and all orphans I met, their direct needs are very basic: food daily, access to clean drinking water, and university funds.

At another orphanage, UNACompanied ASsociation, called UNACAS, the children dressed in traditional costumes and performed for our small group. The children are incredibly precious and it saddens me that *for now* Cambodia is closed to the US for adoption. I feel rather odd in that we arrive to eat lunch especially prepared for us, sit as a special audience for a relatively big production of traditional dancing, and then we leave. The kids were so adorable and remembered us more than we from our previous visits during the week. I shot at least 30 pictures of children just before we left as they vogue for me squealing, ‘one more!’ after seeing the image on my camera and running back again to pose giggling all along.

Learn more about this project by contacting them directly via this link *scroll to bottom to find*

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