30 July, 2016

a bit of a rant

Just plain pissed off...I'm so very very sick of all the hype of the TERROR of orphanages!  It started off innocently enough (my pissy state, that is).  Clicking innocently on a link which let me to explore more links until I just couldn't hold it in.  Instead of curling into a fetal position and crying in this nice coffee shop in the city of Phnom Penh, I will instead blast my frustration to my blog where maybe, just maybe I'll feel better and be able to enjoy my $3.00 latte in peace.

According to the organization Child Safe, "Out of an estimated 8 million children living in institutions across the world, more than 80% are not orphans."


and what?

So what that tells me personally is that 3 of our kids (siblings) should be back living with their paternal uncle and his wife when their widowed mother was forced to leave her children with them to go to work to support her fatherless children.  We should not have accepted those young children because although their uncle's wife physically abused the oldest (a 6 yr old) to the point he feared for his life, she was his biological aunt nonetheless and the children were in a 'family unit'.

By the way their mother loves her kids, a young widow who wants her kids to NOT be abused.  She is a mother who visits regularly and is so very thankful we are keeping her children safe because (at this time) she cannot.

But wait, that's only three lives who are better off in a so called "institution".  Surely they are the only ones?  Right?  Wait, actually there are more more of our healthy happy kids we could throw to their biological wolves.  I mean they are healthy and happy now, but if they would not have come to Wat Opot Children's Community 2 would be dead from AIDS complications since their non-poverty stricken biological families choose not to put them on medication, until finally sending them to us - sending them to us with only the clothes hanging on their skeletal backs.  

Or those who (5 more) who were not given their medication regularly by their parents or grandparents, thus making their small bodies resilient to the first line of ARV medication.  Those kids had to get on the 2nd line of ARV medication.  FYI - 3rd line medication is scarcely available in Cambodia...

For all of those  I guess if they were dead then they could not possible end up truly messed up "For all children, living in long term stays in institutions have lasting negative impacts," according to thinkchildsafe.org   

Hmmm...nothing seems more lasting than death, (shrug shoulders) maybe I'm wrong, though, since I've never died.

Let's see, that's 10 kids or so who would not be growing up educated, un-abused and happy in a non-traditional home.  Wait I am sure I can come up with more. 

"Evidence shows that (particularly those under 3) are at risk of permanent developmental damage by not being cared for in a family setting" so not counting the ones listed above, whose  development would be permanently damaged if they were dead, there are 16 kids that have been at Wat Opot since they were less than 3 years old or just a bit older.  

 Of those kids, 4 are in Preschool, 5 are in Primary School, 3 will enter high school this fall and 4 are currently in high school.  Out of the 16 kids all get an education, participate in sports, jewelry making, crafts, have chores, help out in the kitchen and cafe and play and laugh.  Wonder when the permanent damage kicks in? 

Our Youth in Transition program supports (and has supported) over 25 kids who are functioning quite well, getting (or graduated from) higher education or trade school.  Some have married and now have kids of their own.

Guess it kicks in later in life...although if "Children who are institutionalized find it difficult to function in society when they leave the orphanage" is true, then I am really getting fucking confused. (sorry for the profanity, mom!)  But what am I missing here?

"We got thousands of dollars...but don't know where the money went." - former residential staff care member. Oh please, Child Safe, but that's a lack of ethics PEOPLE problem, not slotted solely to Orphanages, "Quite frankly, as long as the accountants had told me that they thought this was an appropriate structure, I felt comfortable with it." Jeffrey Skilling - Enron.

Ah, it's working, I'm feeling better!  Frustrations thrown to the universal internet realm.  Or the fact that I'm in Phnom Penh and looking at all the cute photos of the children in my care, has made me feel better...yeah, that's probably it.

Or maybe it's these photos I came across while perusing my huge repertoire of photos...

Oh shit, wait, is that what "they" mean by permanent developmental damage???

18 May, 2016

Heat and other Happenings

So much happening, but with minimal to no internet, it becomes impossible to blog. On top of that the heat is almost unbearable.  

We have had record highs for weeks.  It's just grossly hot.  Let's see...how do I put it...oh you know the amazing feeling on a hot summer day when you are able to dive into the crystal clear ocean? You go under the salty water and back up again.  Swimming like a free dolphin or at least trying to.  Then you emerge, exhausted from the swim and haul yourself onto the beach.  You lie there, spent, just enjoying the coolness of the water drying on your body.

Then you get up and your skin feels tight. As the water evaporated from your skin, it left behind a layer of salt, it feels stiff and you just want to take a shower in fresh water to rinse it off.  THAT's how my body feels ALL the time here!  Not like the cool ocean spray, but the salty residue that's left behind.

I shower at least 2 sometimes up to 4 times a day, just to rinse the salty sweat off.  I am soaked with sweat by 9am and my boobs have lost weight in the sauna like temperatures of my bra.  Fans  are minimal relief blowing out hot air and I find myself pushing the kids away from me all day long stating "your body is hot, I need air!".  Chetra, our 3 year old started saying, "I am so hot" all the time, and I realize he is mimicking me.

I start out each day telling myself that I am not going to comment on the heat and most days I make it all the way to breakfast without a peep...that is, if I don't run into anyone on my way there.

I guess you get the hint that it is a bit hotter than usual here, so I'll lighten the mood with some fun photo's of our day to day happenings.


Hope you enjoyed a glimpse into our life.  Come back again!

25 April, 2016

My Room.

My room has taken shape over the years...from a small room filled with kids clutter to two rooms fit for an adult woman with a much needed Girls Dorm Renovation in 2014.

It fit me well for a couple of years...but then with the large sectional in the room adjoining my bedroom, it once again became a sort of playroom for the girls, with them getting very comfortable coming and going.

I needed my privacy again.  I started with the windows, as the afternoon sun is like a sauna in the room.  That helped, but the couch needed to go and so it now resides in the boys dorm.  The room stood empty for a few weeks as I just pondered what I wanted in there.

I finally found some furniture I liked in the city and once it was in, it was almost complete.  Gail Gutraudt, author of In a Rocket Made of Ice, had sent me a photo years ago and I always envisioned it on my wall.  Well, during Khmer New Year this April, my dream came true!

One of our former boys, now a young man, came home to visit and promptly went to work on the blank wall.

And then employed some of the kids to finish the other walls.

And the finished product!

Pure Comfort!!

27 March, 2016

old time movies

My parents had an 8mm video camera when they were dating, so I was documented in black and white from birth .  It wasn’t easy to sneak up on us when we were kids, inconspicuous shots were not an option, unless we were outside.  Inside, the camera required two huge lights (as a child, they seemed like stadium lights) which were turned on, WHOOSH and then mom saying “pretend I’m not here”.  Well, we did the best we could trying to commence doing whatever we ever were doing while sweating and squinting pretending the camera and it’s heat projecting spot lights were not there.

Of course this was “back in the day” where you had to get your video reels developed, so it wasn’t until weeks later that we would  fire up the ole’ reel player and see what pictures emerged.

Sometimes the whole film was white, sun exposure, or dark, when the stadium lights weren’t used. And sometimes mom and dad viewed surprise footage when one of us kids got a hold of the camera when they were gone; usually on Thursday's bowling night. They could usually figure out who the videographer was…when the 3 other siblings were on the receiving end of the camera. 

These memories came rushing back the other day when I downloaded the photos on my (now defunct) camera to my computer.  I had the same thoughts as my parents so many years ago…

”I don’t remember taking that photo(video)”

“hmmm, where was I”

 “when was this” 

“Why would I take that?”

With 41 kids it’s not always easy to figure out who was taking the photos…but with the now common selfie,  the moment of truth arrived:

Mr. Saoun, may you never change.