20 August, 2010

waah...poor me?

It’s different here. Different than any place I have known. That in itself is not that surprising as the number of places I have been are relatively few. I have only lived in one other children’s home and this place cannot be compared. The only thing they have in common is that they both are filled with vulnerable children. Wat Opot is a community. A small Cambodian community next to a Buddhist Temple and a small village. Wat Opot has a school for the preschool children (the school age children go to the Village School). It has a medical building (unstaffed), large kitchen/dining area and a little cafe called Chang’s place.

A big difference in this particular Children’s home is that Wat Opot has a crematorium. A place to cremate the bodies, many of which have succummbed to AIDS over the years (500 in the last 8 years). It is my understanding at this time, that Wat Opot has only been an orphanage for the past couple of years. Before that it was a place where people came to die. With all the misunderstandings surrounding the AIDS virus, people could come here for help and to die with loving people around them. Loving people without fear of contacting the disease. Loving People who knew the rumors and misperceptions about how the disease was transported/contacted were false. Rumors spawned out of fear and ignorance. The children of the AIDS victims were kind of left here out of lack of a place to go, especially the ones who had the disease themselves...no one wanted them.

I, myself did not know much about HIV-AIDS until just a few days ago. Even with my minimal knowledge, I knew that I would not “catch it” from the children. What I knew in my heart was confirmed by Wayne shortly after my arrival when I asked him about it. Basically the only way I could become infected in this place is by having sex with one of the children or by injecting their blood into my body. Since neither of those will happen, I am safe to hug, hold and love them to my hearts content.

The children are not always asteticly beautiful. Because of the virus their immunity system is down. With this humid weather it’s common for people to have skin problems. This problem is just a bit worse with the HIV positive children. They may have large open sores, blisters and/or rashes over parts of their body. Their ears may ooze pus occasionally. Because of this (and the fact that many have witnessed the death of parents or other loved ones) they need to be loved and accepted all the more.

Besides the large children’s dorm, the Wat Opot community has families living here in their separate houses as well. They have chickens (soon pigs) and try to garden in the claylike soil. They pitch in to help all the children (68 of them) stay clean, disciplined and healthy. The disease is controlled by medication. Medication that is available in the US is not available here, so they make due with what they can get. If the medication ceases to work, the stronger drugs are not here, so they die. They die because they happened to be born in a poor country.

I don’t pity these children, I love on them. I laugh at (with) them. I have already shed tears for them in the short time I have beenhere. Little faces that have gone through more in their young life than anyone should go through in a lifetime. It’s remarkable how a 3 year old can swallow a large pill twice a day like it’s nothing, like he’s been doing it all his life....then I remember...he has.

Yesterday, I didn’t want to come out of my room. I didn’t know where I fit in here. I’ve always been able to jump into any situation with both feet running. Here it is different. It’s taking a bit longer for me to find my place. Yesterday I wanted to hide, and I did for a bit...until I realized that me sitting alone in my room was doing nothing, it was not helping me feel better. When I emerged from my shell, there was someone waiting for me. A small hand to hold, a tiny butt wanting a lap to sit on, a head looking for a shoulder to rest on. I wipe back a tear and give what is needed. Sometimes the future is of little importance when the here and now is all that matters.

1 comment:

Kris said...

Mindy, your blog is enlightening. It takes a special person to be making every day a comfort for these kids. No doubt it would be challenging as you have shared. take care. . .