A colleague of mine back home had enriched me with stories of the orphanage in Cambodia, New Hope for Cambodia Children, where he and his family have volunteered. It was my plan to spend a few days there while in Cambodia.
Kathy picked me up at the airport and we scurried to catch the bus that was about to arrive. My backpack which has become just as much an albatross as my suitcase the previous trip, collapses off the carry-on suitcase it was resting on, about the same time that my strap on my shirt breaks. I feel like I’m the circus that just rolled into town. I assure you, I am much more competent than I present.
Kathy Tucker who (with her husband John) started the ‘village’. It’s called a village because it provides housing as well as medicine and education to the 300 or so children who reside there. On the way Kathy briefs me on the history of the village which they developed in 2007. “It was John and I, $5000.00 and with a lick and a prayer we built it.”The orphanage has caught the attention and support of many who have spent time here; Bill and Chelsea Clinton, Patch Adams and Kenneth Cole to name a few.
She shares one story of a three week old baby abandoned in an empty house-he was near death. “Kris” was taken to the village where he has now grown into a healthier third grader. Here is today:)
The stories are endless and leave me with a heavy heart. We turn onto a dirt road about an hour outside of phnom penh “Where are we now?” I ask. “We take you to the end of the road and rob you”, Kathy jokes. “well it’s ok I only have half a shirt left anyways”:)
We arrive at the village. Acres of developed land with clusters of small concrete houses and school houses.
One of the only known freestanding librarys in Cambodia
We pass by children who are laughing and playing in the courtyard and playgrounds.. it’s Friday so their curfew is extended. One of the Kids come to Kathy’s door to return the DVD from movie night. He greets Kathy as mom- John as dad. They are all their children and referred to as such.
Kathy walks me to the volunteer house. The bathroom has a large basin for water, a small pot rests on the edge to shower ourselves with. My room is small with bunk beds enclosed by pink mosquito netting. I settle in early as I’m told that the next day we are taking the high school students into town shopping for new clothes.
Words cannot express how I’m feeling right now. With all that consumes our western existence..all the frivolous worries we so often become preoccupied with..on the otherside of the world is a small little village in the countryside of Cambodia where this is happening. Selfless, determined efforts to save the lives of kids who otherwise may not have lived. I’ve missed my kids this whole trip but now, today, I miss them more than ever. It is without a doubt the greatest most important job on this planet..to take care of our children. All of them. To help them not only survive but to thrive.
I wrapped the netting around my iron bunk and had myself what really truly has been the best sleep I have had in years. Go figure..