Thursday, October 22, 2009

Photos and Graduates

Thursday night here in the Kingdom of Cambodia. We have had an absolutely fabulous day. We are all entirely energized by the events of the day and are able to see our new goals coming in to focus so much more quickly and clearly than we could ever imagine!

But first, some promised photos from yesterday...

A snap shot of some of our students at Kompong Speu Orphan center. This is during the ceremony where they prepared some short speeches to welcome us during our visit. They are in between morning and afternoon Khmer school - a time when they would be resting from their long walk to and from the school and having lunch. They were so patient and giving - even though they were "waiting" for lunch! Don't they look like a nice bunch?

Here is me with the two boys that we sponsor. They are brothers around the same ages as George the Younger and Henry. Sopheum, on the left wants to grow up to be a police man. His older brother, Sambo wants to be a doctor. They are great boys and we recognized each other in a moment as soon as I stepped from the car. We have shared photos with them for several years and it was surreal to see them in person. For some odd reason I was a bit taken aback that they really did look exactly like the photos that they sent! (And for what it's worth - - for those of you that know me - - yes, it does take a great amount of self-control not to poke fun at the name "Sambo" - - but at least it's out in the open that I readily acknowledge that the potential for humor exists!)

We only had a quick visit with the children, as we knew that the drive to Wat Prey Cheum was going to be long. We stopped by the local market in Kompong Speu Town to grab some fruit and drinks to take as a treat for the children. Our Program Manager here in Cambodia was extremely helpful in negotiating with several fruit vendors to make sure we got the best prices.

The children of the make-shift orphanage greeted us as we rolled up. They all greeted us individually - hands clasped in the "prayer" under their chins, some using a highly chirped "hello!" in English, but most with the traditional Khmer greeting of "joom-ree-up soo-a" (And yes, that's a phonetic thing I've got going there - my keyboard isn't set up to write in the swirly twirly that is Cambodian writing!)

Here's the little girl that wanted to hold everything and eat at the same time. I grabbed a photo before I convinced her to hand over the bananas so that she could eat the other fruit. And, yes, it may have come to your attention that we indeed brought soda to the kids along with the fruit. In hindsight, we felt badly that we did not also bring rice. We had no idea that the condition of the "orphanage" was so bad (and that is really a "quotation" mark, since it is not an true orphanage, but merely a place beside a Wat that is trying it's damnedest to help these children in the best way that they can). Having said that - kids are kids, no matter what their circumstances, and they LOVED getting the treats.

This is just another shot of one of the young girls there, so that you can remember her face at some point in the future when you are thinking about what to do with that extra $10 you've got laying around. You can call me. I can help you do something really useful with it. I can also help you with any amount you've got laying around. Got an extra $10,000 and you can build the whole complex for these children. You can even put your name on it!

This is a wide shot of the buildings where the children are housed. The two wooden structures on the left are the "dorms" where all the children sleep at night. There are currently about 50 children out there - they all sleep crowded in those two buildings. The building on the right is the "school" where the art teacher comes - and where hopefully, the next Cambodia Tomorrow School will hold their classes until a new building can be constructed.

And finally, as we pull away, a final snapshot of the happy faces of the children. It is staggering that no matter how basic the living arrangements, that no matter that they are without families and support that can be counted on without fail every day - that these children manage to be happy.

And finally, the "you're not in kansas anymore" photo of the traffic jam that we encountered on the way back to Phnom Penh! I thought that getting stuck behind an Amish horse and buggy in Lancaster PA was maddening. Try a couple of skinny cows yoked to a rickety cart filled with tree trunks. You will never honk at that black buggy again.

So, there's the photo ops from yesterday. George the Elder would be very proud that I managed to download the photos myself on to the lap top. Inept would be an exaggerated description of my overall IT skills. Complete dope would be a better description. But, truth be told, one of my traveling companions, Cathy, did it for me!

As for today - we spent the morning with our recent university graduates overhauling their CV's and working with them on interviewing skills. We had to cover some finer points of CV writing such as:
  1. Lying on your CV is a bad thing
  2. Using your fellow unemployed friend as a professional reference is not appropriate
  3. Things you are "going" to do or "wish" you could do are not technically "experience"
  4. Listing "watching TV" as one of your interests is not advised if you actually want to get an interview any time in the future.
We also worked on shaking hands and making eye contact when interviewing. Elizabeth gave them some homework to start going through the daily paper and looking for companies that might be looking for employees. In other words, we had to start with the 101 course of "how to look for a job." These guys are the first boys out of the KS Orphan Center to ever have graduated from University - so role models are non-existent. Amazing, huh?

And finally, we had the BEST meeting ever with a French NGO called ASPECA. They are one of the co-supporters of the KS Orphan Center - and they have an additional 23 centers across Cambodia serving nearly 5,000 children. Our meeting today focused on how we might partner together - - them doing what they do best - which is supporting the basic needs of the children. And us doing what we do best - - which is providing them the support and knowledge to implement first rate English language programs at each of their centers. It is a BIG thing to think about - - but OH BOY were we excited when we left the meeting!

It's a long way out to think of getting our program implemented in so many orphan centers, but if we can look at how our program has helped the first orphans from KS finally graduate from University - - imagine what that would mean 10 years down the road when we can have had an effect on 5,000 more Cambodian children. Sort of stops you in your tracks, doesn't it??


XOXOX Molly~ said...

I couldn't be more proud that you are my sister. Well done!

Anonymous said...

Me too! Are you trying to get me to adopt that little girl with the banana????? Jeanna is not going to like that. . . .can I sponsor her???

sheila said...

Wendy this is absolutely wonderful and bittersweet to read. The children are amazing and pictures like this, the happy kids despite their environment, should show everyone that there is SO MUCH more to life than we think.
Happy Travels!

ゆび said...

Wendy, great pics!
Rob and I decided to set aside some $ for donations each year. Not much, but we would like to donate some for your organization. What's the best way to do it?

KB said...

You. Are. Awesome.

Chris said...

I'm so proud that you are using your super powers for good! Well done!