Before I share my day, let me share some of the background of CCF (Cambodian Children's Fund). The donations are split between 1/2 sponsorship and 1/2 private donations. It began with 45 children and now houses 450 children, with a waiting list. To be accepted, a child is interviewed - ask what they like to do, about their parents, siblings and other relatives, abuse and domestic violence. Afterwards the parents are interviewed, then a determination is made if the child is accepted. There are 140 staff members in which half are teachers. The average age of a child is 11 at CCF, meaning most parents are survivors of the Pol Pot Regime. There have been only 12 children kicked out of CCF mainly for stealing.
We are broken out into groups. My group ventures to CCF2. this facility consists of all girls, ages 6-23, many who sleep there. I am immediately impressed of the facility - the cleanliness, organization and the friendliness of the staff. I get to go to the painting class - fun. There are about 8 girls ranging from ages 6-12 - it's very difficult to judge their age, - of course Cambodians are petite but from the malnutrition they endured they haven't grown to their full potential, I ask each of them their name, one by one they politely answer. One little one barely whispered - I whisper back and she laughed. I come to find out, she has only been there for 5 days. What a sweetheart! At first, as most children, they are shy. Slowly one by one become more open. It was heartwarming to hear them speak English. Understanding how much these children want to learn and remembering most of them came from the garbage dump. They ask me to write my name and begin to write " I love you, Jude. Thank you for coming." - Once again my heart melts. I start taking pictures and they love seeing themselves on the camera. After class, I help serve lunch - each and everyone of them looks me in the eyes and says " Thank You" so politely. Lunch is rice served with a vegetable and meat soup. We played with them afterwards - it's amazing how creative these children are. They all ask "What is your name?" and "How are are you?". One child is compelled to teach me Khmer (Cambodian language). We are sitting on the floor and I am nowhere but present with this child. I'm amazed at her persistence and patience. You all know my strong Brooklyn accent, so just imagine me trying to learn Khmer. She says "I love you" in Khmer and slowly brakes it down word by word for me. I try to pronounce it. she smiles, laughs and tries again. We share this precious time together for a while and not due to here wonderful teaching skillls, it's difficult for me to pick it up. I'm then off to help with reading books to them. The teacher has each student tell me their name, age and how many siblings. Most of them have 8, 11, 13 siblings and I thought my family was large with 7 of us. They ask me my name, age and how many siblings. I read a book to them and the teacher graciously translates it for me. It's time to leave and I hug each child. I'm full of content and joy. Most of these children have been abused, lived and worked on the garbage dump and I'm blown away on how loving they all are. I realize I needed to experience S21 Museum, The Killing Fields, the dump to understand how and why these children arrived here. Today was one of the most magical moments I have ever experienced. In the evening, my group visits with the children at CCF1. Laurel (another woman in the group) and I head to a group of older children - both boys and girls. Laurel came up with the idea of Rocket Balloons. There are about 4 groups of 5 children - each worked together to build a Rocket Balloon. They listened and followed instruction step by step not aware of what they were creating. Once completed and the races began, joy, screeches and excitement filled the room. Cheers and laughter was music to my ears and heart. It was so much fun and at times Laurel and I would look at each other and just laugh. The brightness in each of their eyes was a beautiful gift to witness. Afterwards, I followed the music, there was Angela (another woman in the group) coconut shells in hand clapping and dancing with them. Before I knew it, the coconut shells were in my hands and I'm trying to dance with them. The children laughed and patiently helped me not ruin their traditional dance. Nikki (another woman in the group) and I laughed, smiled and joyfully preteneded we knew what we were doing. My heart was filled with such joy and happiness. And again, I was nowhere but dancing, smiling and laughing with them. It's just fantastic. Unfortunately, our times comes to an end and we have to say goodnight. But of course, another magical moment appears as a young girl puts a bracelet on my wrists that she just finished making. My heart is warmed once again and again I couldn't squeeze her hard enough. What a gift to be able to experience all of this! I am so blessed!