26 September, 2014

ALS Challenge - Wat Opot Children's Community

Oh the infamous Ice Bucket Challenge.  I saw postings of it a month ago and though “Wha…?”  They were postings from my friends in the US.  Many miles from where I sit typing.  I figured, oh another funny thing to watch.  I didn’t google it, I went on living my life. 

Then low and behold, it made it's way to my neck of the woods  It wasn’t long before I was tagged by my beloved godson.  Okay, now I must get serious about it.  Just what was the Ice Bucket Challenge?  Of course I had heard of Lou Gehrig’s disease….but ALS?  After research and video’s that brought me to tears, I decided that whether we complete the challenge or not, the kids should know about this.

Our kids take medicine every morning and evening to stay alive.  Without the medication, they would die.  Gail’s book talks about a time where they did just that.  Die.  No medicine, no chance of survival.  I don’t know that Wat Opot, although  I have witnessed the death of Lan Krome here.  A heart wrenching pain of loss.  What was it like to see that every day?

Peace Studies.  Yeah I learned so much in Peace Studies.  In Spain, so much theory made it seem likely that I could save the world; I mean, how hard could it be?  My semesters in Austria threw me into reality, a reality that regardless of what I know, I may not see the change in my lifetime.   It was kind of thrown into my face.  It may have seemed a bleak future of some, but for me, I accepted the challenge to “Be the change I want to see in the world”.  For me, that meant: to treat others how I would like to be treated.  However your religion translates that, you can’t possibly screw up another’s life living like that.  (Extreme addictions excluded).

I digress…where was I?  Oh yeah ALS Ice Bucket Challenge…

Well, I don’t have warm water to bathe in here.  If I may get so personal, my showering routine consists of dipping a dipper into a vat of water.  Water that gets pumped from our well into a large tank raised above the buildings and then flows into a small cement vat of water that is in my bathroom.

That’s why the challenge from my nephew took so long to complete.  Not only did I have to figure in how to make it challenging, I had 40 kids to fit into the equation.  Wayne and  I tossed it around for weeks….and he came up with the idea in the video.  Once that was decided, we really felt it necessary to inform the kids of the in's and out's of ALS.  

Some of them had heard of it and in Phnon Penh people were accepting the challenge and then were encouraged to donate to a local hospital.  All good and well, I thought the kids should know the origins of the challenge….so, many gathered around my computer and we “googled it”.  So many questions.  Good questions!  The Why’s the How’s and again, the Why’s.  I answered the best I could and resorted to the ALS website for the facts.

We also watch the challenge accepted by my mother, my cousin and others the kids  could relate to.

We then decided that tomorrow was the day!  So without further adieu, here is is:

03 September, 2014


It's Wednesday evening and I'm sitting in my room listening to the girls winding down for the evening.  I have 2 puppies under my bed and 3 cats on it, the fan is blowing steadily as the evening is a bit warm.  I sit and sit...wanting to write about all the wonderful things in my life, but I hesitate.

Now I'm on the floor watching the puppies play with Pineapple, the kitten who doesn't know he's a feline.  Pineapple is much faster and of course can climb up on the bed or couch, which he does regularly, seemingly just to taunt the vertically challenged pups.  There's also Coconut who likes to watch the others play, but isn't quite sure how to join in.  Lazy just hisses at them all if they so much as glance her way.

You see this is safe, to go on and on about the 4 legged creatures who have one way or another made their way to Wat Opot.  The pups, Lucy and Ben are siblings or half-siblings or perhaps not related at all, they were rescued by PPAWS and brought to Phnom Penh for medical care and to find new homes. Neither Ben or Lucy ever knew their father(s), their mother(s) didn't really have much say in the matter when they became pregnant.  Ben and Lucy are lucky.  They now have a really great home, playmates (2 and 4 legged ones), nutritious food and a nice soft blanket to sleep on.

Yes, talking about the animals is safe. The kittens, Coconut and Pineapple, were given to me by a women who's promiscuous mama cat no longer wanted to care for them and the woman didn't either.  I guess they were getting more demanding in their needs and the thought of feeding hungry little mouths didn't appeal to the woman, hmmm...interesting how that happens.  Shirking responsibilities.

Now I could have refused the tiny kittens, told the woman they were better off with their biological mother, even if she would no longer care for them.  I guess the puppies too, could have been left unwanted, unloved and eventually in the same boat as their homeless parents.  

Safely talking about animals and posting cute photo's of them, and not of the children in my care.  No, to talk about the kids would be some sort of dirty crime!  Posting photos - I was told recently - is exploitation.  Seriously?  Those holier-than-thou certainly know everything there is to know about keeping children safe and happy. A child who lives in a children's home couldn't possibly be better off than with his or her biological family?  An uncle who doesn't want his nephew should be forced to care for him, right?  I mean they are blood related and all...

A little girl who's parents died of AIDS complications went to live with her grandparents.  Her extended family knew she was HIV+ but they didn't put her on  the lifesaving ART medicine, didn't even take her to the doctor, didn't enroll her in school.  She was unwanted and finally given up by the grandparents.  Sick and uneducated...but she should be with her biological family right?  Grandparents who don't want her, other relatives who don't want her.  Under no circumstances should she be allowed to live in a nurturing environment, with many other kids she can relate to, right?

A child near death survived and is doing fine, but I guess her and her frail mother should be kicked out of the children's community they live in.  They probably should be forced to make it on their own, right?

The little boy, who's on the autistic scale who used to throw knives at his overworked underpaid garment factory employed mother.  Not being able to leave him with relatives, she brought him to a children's home where he can be supervised.  If she hadn't...surely he wouldn't have actually hurt her as he got older and stronger... surely she wouldn't have hurt him?

The little boy who parents consisted of a young bar girl and a now deceased HIV+ drug addict man shouldn't have been brought to a children's home?  God forbid he grow up to be educated and healthy. 

Keeping unhealthy families together, hmmm...how does that work in a country with no social services? Maybe some nice generous well-meaning organization can pay the adults to take care of them?  Yeah, because money will make them love the kids.  Of course that would work!  Of course the adults would use the money to educate, feed and clothe the kids and not spend it on their own destructive habits.

Beaten and broken children, sick and unhealthy children, unwanted precious human beings over the years have found a nurturing environment within Wat Opot. Some of those children have been reintegrated back into their extended family, with the reintegration process consisting of multiple home studies, monthly family visits which slows subsides over the course of a year and then bi-yearly check-ups to make sure the child is in a healthy environment.  

This is not possible for many of the kids, though, so they are living with caregivers who love not because they share the same DNA, but because they share the same compassion.  Caregivers who double as the parents some of these children never knew.   Caregivers who like to post photo's of their kids to show off how cute and funny they can be.  To keep others who care about the kids informed of their progress and growth.

Exploitation? Throw the first stone. (oh, after you delete all the photo's of your kids from social media)

Awww...look at how cute Coconut the kitten is!