Glass Half Full: A Cambodian Orphanage.

Note from the Editor: This post was written from Cambodia by Jolkona volunteer Krishnaja Gutta.

“Whatever little we have, we share it with love,” said Mrs. Prom Kimchheng as she led us into the little orphanage in the town of Battambang, Cambodia.  And yes there was plenty of love – so much that we were overwhelmed with the affection they showered on us during our visit. I’d say they have figured how to look at the glass half full and celebrate what they have there. The picture of this organization would not be complete without a description of the surrounding story, so let me start from the beginning…

I had been corresponding with Mrs. Kimchheng for a few weeks regarding our visit and have always been greated with excitement and warmth in her notes. When we landed in the Siem Reap airport, I saw a lady holding up the Jolkona sign and I instantly knew that was her. She was truly a picture of affection and warmth, full of life and modesty. The only time in our entire trip when she hesitated was when we asked her about the Cambodian Genocide – her eyes glistened with sadness of the memory before she lightly brushed off the topic . “It’s the past,” she said. No one would know she was a founding director of this organization even after talking to her for a few minutes. But make no mistake, she is deeply passionate about her work with Komar Rikreay (Happy Children). We drove through the picturesque, postcard worthy country side of Cambodia passing by lush, green rice fields, coconut and banana trees, and small villages.

At the orphanage with Mrs Prom Kimchheng

We were welcomed with a delicious Khmer lunch along with the children when we reached the organization. The children around us were bursting with excitement, giggling as they gulped down their meager lunch of rice, vegetables and dried pork in broth. Over lunch we met with the counselor and staff and we talked about the organization and the work they were doing. As we walked around after lunch, we saw the kids running around with make up on, dressed in colorful clothes. We decided to go in and help the children dress-up… or so we thought. Really, we were in for a special treat: the children were dressing up to perform for us. What followed was a true pleasure to watch – beautiful children danced, acted and sang for us and we joined the revelry learning some new dances and doing our own dance routine. We then spent time with the kids taking their pictures and making photo frames for them. It was one happy but hot afternoon!

Komar Rikreay was founded in 1994 for sheltering orphans and trafficked children. The organization was later extended to house various activities for children in the community who could not afford school, allowing them to play and learn vocational skills like tailoring, make-up, and English. The shelters were built with wood and were very minimally furnished. When the staff said that they were excited because they only recently got electricity, it struck me how basic their needs still are.

The children varied from ages of 3-16. Joyous and playful those these children were, almost all came from places of extreme trauma. Some of them were removed from appallingly abusive families, some were rescued from human trafficking , some were orphaned, others abandoned because they were mentally challenged. The counselor told us how the organization tries to help the children recover from their tragic pasts, teaching them their rights, giving them training and life skills so they can venture out in the world and live a life they fully deserve, as well as providing a place of safety for them.

Komar Rikreay also helps some of the children to start their own business through micro-financing. We met one such family. Four siblings had come to the organization a few years ago and when the eldest of them wanted to start a hair salon, the organization helped with a loan to rent a place. Now the family is self-dependent and have moved one step further away from their abusive past. It was an incredibly joyful and moving story to hear first hand.

Many of the children at the orphanage dream of such a second go at life. A few dollars can go such a long way in helping them achieve that, whether by getting them to school, or purchasing a uniform and other school supplies, or helping the them with loans.

We at Jolkona were delighted to witness the fabulous cause the organization is working towards and more importantly how they live life by truly seeing the glass as half full and enjoying everything they have with love – and oh what love! We hope to partner with them soon and help them raise many more children in this safe and protected environment, and we hope you will join with us in doing so.

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