We're in the countdown of our assignment here. March 18 will be our last day of school at the Cambodian Children's Fund and we're already missing the children and our teachers. We have become very attached to these kids, some in particular. As we learn more of their personal stories it makes our time here and our leaving even more difficult.
One day as I was walking through the community I had met a young father who was holding one of his children. He told me that his wife and one of his children had died and that the child he was holding and another child are cared for in the CCF nursery. A week or so later I met this same father, again holding his child who was crying wildly. He was leaving both children at CCF on a more or less permanent basis because he couldn't take care of them. It turns out that his wife and son died of AIDS, he has AIDS and so do both other children. A couple of days later I saw the little girl in the nursery. She had stopped crying but her sick little face would much have preferred to be with her father. A sad story indeed.
As I stood by the nursery another mother, holding her young daughter, came up to me and pointed to the girl's arms. Upon examination she was showing me that the girl had no elbows, just a straight arm from shoulder to hand. She clearly needs physical therapy now but she won't get any. Mom makes their living as a scavanger and the daughter's future will surely have challenges. Another of her children is in one of my classes.
People with big hearts exist everywhere. Another single mother, also a scavenger, with two children who are enrolled at CCF learned of four children who had been abandoned. She took these kids in and is now caring for the six of them in a CCF housing facility. The four orphans arrived with that empty eyed look but you can already see a visible change in them.
The children always want to share something with us. If its a manderin orange several of them will gather around for a slice. They're so pleased when you like what they offer.
The stories are never ending. When Grant was here he witnessed that these kids have happy countenances. They're hungry for attention and they swarm around us, the little ones begging to be held. Even the big ones sit on my lap every time I sit down.
Now a word about their toys. They basically have none as we know toys. They play jump rope with rubber bands that have been tied together or they use a piece of thin twine, both of which obviously don't have enough weight for their desired purpose. Ingenious as they are, they attach a flip flop in the middle of the "rope" which gives it enough weight to turn. They also play a kind of kick ball by using a flip flop as the ball. A few kids have marbles and these are treasured. Another game that the girls play is a version of what we called jacks except there's no ball used. CCF provides a few nice supervised playgrounds in the community and these are wonderful respites for kids who live surrounded by dumps.
Many of the kids are very aggressive with each other. Some of their play wants to make you break it up. We're learning to tell the difference between the norm and a fight.
Living here for an extended period of time is so different from being a tourist. Even so we realize that ours is only a drive by.