This picture was taken right before my mother and I left the center on our last day. The kids decided to make a human chain to prevent us from driving away! So sweet. I was honestly so sad to be leaving but I look forward to visiting again next year!
After a long flight, I am back home in Washington, DC. It is a little lonely after being around so many children! I wanted to write to publicly thank my mom for her dedication to not only Sobbhana Day Care Center but also to Cambodia for the last nine years. She has really changed people’s lives and really made a difference in a country that is still recovering from the atrocities of the Khmer Rouge. I hope that one day I can be as inspiring as she is.
I want to also thank each of the group members for their participation: Jeannie, David, Adam, Kim, Nikki and our board member, Barbara, for taking time out of their lives to join us and for their continuing generosity.
Last but not least, I want to thank the director of Sobbhana Day Care, Sophal, and our Khmer extended family member, Phala, for supporting us so much during our trip. We cannot do this without you!
AHKUN! (Thank you in Khmer)
Her name is Sam Blou and she is one of 75 children at the center. She immediately endeared herself to the whole group. Every morning she would greet us by running behind our car with a smile and waves and every evening she would do the same running along the road from her house.
From the start, she was the most affectionate of all the kids. She always had at least one of us by the hand although she was very shy and wouldn’t speak. When we enquired about her to the director, Sophal, we were saddened to hear that she is an orphan. Her parents succumbed to a disease we hear about all too often in Cambodia, AIDS. Cambodia is one of the hardest countries in Southeast Asia. She has tested postive for HIV and she goes to the hospital monthly for Antiretroviral drugs
She lives with her 78 year old Grandfather and an Aunt in a one room shack on public land near the Day Care Center. Last year their house collapsed during rainy season and they were left with nothing to speak of. In the true spirit of compassion, the villagers who barely get by themselves rebuilt their house.
Sam Blou continued to blossom through out the trip. Her shyness evaporated and confidence stood in its place. I have many hopes for this little girl. I hope that by starting her education through the center she will continue her education through secondary school with my sponsorship and support from Sophal and her family. I hope that she will continue to have that amazing spirit. I hope that she was comforted by our visit. I hope that I can see her again on my next trip.
I know that she has changed me. I hope that everyone can have an experience like this that they can look back on with pure love and joy.
PS – Check back on the website in the next few months for a short video on Sam Blou’s life.
We normally write a newsletter or blog during or right after one of our trips to Cambodia. This year we are planning a trip in June however we wanted to update you on what is presently happening at the Center.
We have 75 children. Periodically new children are found to fill openings created due to graduation or from those that drop out. We have had 5 children graduate in Sept 2009. They are presently attending primary school. There are 38 boys and 37 girls at the Center. The age range is from 3-6 years old. There are 5 villages that feed into the Day Care Center and Sophal, our director is responsible for selecting new students. She chooses those that have the greatest need. That is not an easy task as most of the families live at subsistence level. Sophal makes regular visits to the children’s homes especially when they are absent from Center. It is often hard for the parents to find work especially if there is a crop failure due to weather. This year Cambodia has had heavy rains causing much flooding. Many of the parents head to the Thai border to find work to support the family leaving the children in the care of a grandparent, aunt, or even an older child.
We have 4 teachers or childminders as they are called. They are Sreineet Phata, Vutha Voron, Sameing Ann, and Sarath Ham. A day at the Center includes morning exercise, breakfast, and studies which include storytime, study of letters and numbers, art and painting, lunch, bath time, and nap time, afternoon snack and supervised play. The childminders meet every week to discuss the lesson plans for the next week. We have taught them finger plays for stories, songs, organized centers for activities, and supplied educational equipment. We hope to connect them with a local group called Caring for Cambodia that has a training program for preschool teachers. We also have a security guard/ gardener, cleaner, and a cook. Our cook, Rorn Meak has had the challenge of using IRD’s and making them tasty for the children. The Day Care qualified for a nutrition program using pre made protein packed bars (IRD’s) that need to be reconstituted and apparently taste terrible. We have been using them for the lunch program.
Every month Sophal sends us a spread sheet with a breakdown of the monthly costs. I thought it would be interesting for you to see what our expenditures are.
We spend approximately $270 for lunch and $200 for breakfast and $525 for salaries. There are always other expenditures for maintenance and incidentals as well. Our lunch has been subsidized this year also by the nutrition program.
This brings me to our dilemma. The Japanese NGO that was assisting with expenses has had to withdraw their support. Hearts & Hands is now responsible for raising the money to support the entire Day Care budget. We need your help. We have a sponsorship program in place. For less than a dollar a day you can sponsor one child for the year. We are also trying to assist the villagers to give back to the Center by helping them to earn a living by weaving and sewing accessories to be marketed in the US as well as in the tourist areas of Cambodia. Another option was to train select villagers to become bee keepers.
Unfortunately this year we will not be able to do any projects as we have in the past. Last year we were able to put in sidewalks around the main buildings and the bathing areas. Sophal has said that has been very beneficial giving the children a place to play during the rainy season as well as helping to keep the buildings free of mud. Previously we painted the buildings inside and out and now have beautiful murals on the inside making the environment more pleasant for our children. We had hopes of expanding the hours of the Center to 6 days, and adding an additional 25 children. We also had plans to use one of the buildings for a library and homework center for the children to come after school to study.
The Day Care Center has proved to be an invaluable resource for the villagers. The children get a head start for school, spend their day in a safe, happy environment, receive 2 meals a day and snack as well as learn about and practice good hygiene. Education is so important in a developing country. It is the way out of poverty. Look at our children’s smiling faces. They are the hope of the future of their country.