We were given 4 siblings about a month and a half ago. Their father was ill in the hospital and with him out of commission, the mother had no source of income and couldn’t take care of the father and her 4 children, so they were referred to us. The girls aged 1 ½ and 13 and the boys aged 3, 8 fit in right away. We didn’t know much about their family life, but with no tears shed (except for the baby) the older kids seemed to be happy about a new environment.
The 8 and 13 year old had never been to school and didn’t even know basic Khmer. After a troubling day where someone teased the oldest girl about not knowing her ‘alphabet’ she, along with her brother, promptly agreed to go to school…placed in the first grade. Not knowing how long they would stay, I was happy the school accepted them without a fee since there is actually only a month or so left of school.
What we were left with at home was now 4 preschoolers who needed a place of their own, a nursery of sorts where they can play and not be overwhelmed by their 48 older brothers and sisters. Wayne and I looked around and the best location seemed to be the current under-used health clinic. By moving the supplies from our office to another room, Wayne set to work organizing the clinic in the back of our office.
We all got to work - washing down the walls, scrubbing the floor, and then moving furniture/shelves into the newly cleaned space. I went through all the Creative Learning Center supplies and pulled tot toys, puzzles, and books. Then it was on to establish a hygiene area with toothbrushes, paste, soap and fresh clothes so the kids can get cleaned up there everyday.
As the room progressed, we lost the 4 siblings back to their parents as the father was released from the hospital. As always, hands tied about the decision Wat Opot has no control over -more illiterate children staying that way…but looking on the bright side, when the parents came to collect their children there were 3 little boys and their mother riding in the tuktuk with them.
Those same three little boys who had already stolen our hearts 5 months earlier! Seems their father is not out of prison and the mother realized that for now (hopefully for a very very long now) the boys are better off at Wat Opot. It was hard not to run and hug them all, they had been gone for 3 months…so needed to adjust a little and not be overwhelmed at first. Within minutes Udom began running around like the little madman we remembered. Adham was a little more reserved, but once Somnang gave him some marbles, he began playing like he had never left. Sokah kept to his mom’s side, but wandered a little now and then. When it was time for their mother to leave there were no tears. All three boys were happily back in their adopted home.
That evening again, no tears, no crying themselves to sleep. Adham and Udom settled themselves in the boys dorm under the watchful eye of our nighttime (pretty much invaluable) boys caregiver, Mr. Paul, and Sokah walked into my room, looked around and promptly laid down. Many of you know what a joy it is having the boys come running back in my life; how loosing them shattered my heart.