September 21st, 2008 – by: semiperipatetic
Srey Pun and Nah
When visiting the Angkor temples in Cambodia at the beginning of August, I was amazed by the architectural brilliance and size of Angkor Wat and the Angkor Thom complex. What really struck me though was the number of children trying to make a living by selling goods outside the temples. Children that live just outside the walls of one of the most magnificent man made structures but have never been into the temples, either because they are not allowed or because they cannot afford it. Most importantly, I was struck by their attitude. They were happy, friendly and, above all, very eager to learn. Instead of complaining about having to go to school they were excited to demonstrate their knowledge and were thirsty for more. And of course always eager to play with us.
Tet-nee and Ratana
Given that education is not free in Cambodia, parents usually can't afford to send their children to school, so most of them end up selling goods on the streets from a very young age.
In Siem Reap there are numerous projects and initiatives whose purpose is to provide education, housing and support to underprivileged children in Cambodia. Children that either have to make a living by selling goods on the streets (or outside the temples) or simply cannot live with their families anymore because their parents are unable to provide for them.
I spent 3 weeks volunteering at an orphanage which provides care for a total of 45 children between the ages of 5 and 16. These are children that were either living on the streets or came from destitute families. They have never tried chocolate and none of them has ever seen the sea. They live in a climate that has a minimum average temperature of 32 degrees and believe that 25 degrees is cold, since they have never experienced anything below that. But these are facts of little interest. What is captivating is that these children appreciate what they have, know how to share it and know how to give. The sense of community and support for each other is truly inspirational.
This page is dedicated to the children of Svay Thom and Srasrong.