It was early evening and the Sun was slowly sinking into a patch of dark heavy clouds, which hopefully were full of rain… but they were still a long way off and no threat as of yet for the children playing outside. Ms. Yah, who up until a few days ago was our youngest child, was playing with her rag doll all by herself. The addition of an abandoned brother and sister, both of whom were younger than she, was now getting the attention of the older children and so she decided to entertain herself, 

Some of the children were singing Karaoke on the other side of the wall, while the others watched cartoons on the television. She made some dance moves, thinking she was all alone when suddenly a beam of Sunlight broke through a small hole in the dark clouds and showed down on her like a spotlight, casting her shadow on the wall. Startled, she jumped back and stared at the figure, unsure of what or who it was. She made a few gestures and when the figure imitated her moves she realized it belonged to her and began dancing merrily with her shadow. 

Sometimes Life can bring us down, 

And we see darkness all around,

But in those times don’t be afraid,

Think of Yah and the friend she made,

Shadow, Shadow on the wall,

You were her best friend after all.


Years ago we built a crematorium at Wat Opot out of necessity, because no one wanted to cremate the bodies of our AIDS victims. It was a big investment but we had no choice. Several hundred of our patients were cremated in the oven and because most families were poor, oft times they were done for free. When COVID came along we reopened the crematorium and by the time the crisis was over had done nearly 200 more cremations, and although we were paid $100.00 per cremation from the COVID funds, plus at times some extra from the families, it was a lot more work, because many families were not allowed to attend the service and we had to do everything ourself. I had no idea that some 20 years later it would still be in use… although not used nearly as much, at times we are still asked to do the cremation for the homeless and for suicide victims. We have become known for our willingness to assist families of suicide victims who often find it hard to find others to help them because of the fear of angry spirits that may linger after the cremation.

There have been a lot of changes over the years and what was once just a place to burn bodies has now become a Memorial with frequent visitors coming, especially during the Holidays, to honor their loved ones. Last week we were asked to cremate the body of a young women with no immediate family… and just yesterday the El Lai family came by to honor a family member who died during the COVID pandemic but because of the quarantine they could not be here than. They came with gifts of gratitude as well for the old man they had been told did the service.

It is very uncomfortable for me in these situations but at the same time it gives me great joy in knowing that Wat Opot is more than just another NGO… it is a Community that will be remembered long after I am gone.

The video below was made for the families that could not be here because of being quarantined.

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We have good news for those of you who may not have been aware that S3 had been hospitalized for several days because of seizure activity

.For 17 days he lay in the hospital, most of the time unresponsive to stimuli. There was concern that he would not recover, however, 3 brain scans showed no abnormalities and so, all we could do was wait.

In the past few days he began to eat solid food and was able to stand up and walk short distances and so the doctor give the permission for him to be discharged.

Mr. Dara went to the hospital to pick him up this morning and, even though he was a bit unbalanced and required some assistance with walking, he appeared happy to be home. He said very little, however, and I was not sure how much he could understand and so to check his comprehension level I said,”Hey S3… I have some money from your grandma here.” His response was immediate and I don’t think we have to worry about him not making a full recovery..

Another positive outcome from this ordeal is that the Katha Bopha Hospital has accepted him in their epilepsy clinic and therefore his hospitalization and medicine will be free of charge.

Thanks for stopping in and thanks to all of you who are supporting us. If you wish to become a supporter please visit our CONTACT PAGE.



I hesitate to write this update because I am afraid people will think I am only doing so to reap a cash inflow like so many of the newsletters I get from other organizations. I made a commitment many years ago to not ask for money or things and have tried not to break it. This is not a request for money, even though to be honest our bank account is very low… but we will survive as we have done in the past.

My reason for writing is to share with you some of the problems we are facing in this post-COVID era. Some may not be aware of the fact that once we sign an agreement to take in a child, that child becomes our responsibility for the rest of their life… unless we can get them reunited with their families, which is always our goal but often not an easy thing to do, especially if a child has special needs. Such is the case with this child who many will recognize if you have been here. When we took him in we were not told that he was epileptic and has a learning deficit as a result that prevents him from being able to attend regular school classes. His epilepsy we were able to control, with medicines costing about $150.00 a month but there was nothing we could do that would keep him in a classroom filled with 60 other children.

A few days ago he slipped on the cement floor in the swimming pool and hit his head, That is nothing unusual for him but he broke open an old wound from a previous fall and there was some bleeding. He felt a bit warm and so I gave him some Tylenol and within minutes he was back to running around. That evening he had two short convulsions but had a good night’s sleep. When I saw him in the morning he reminded me that he didn’t get his meditation incentive the previous evening and so I reached into my pocket to get him his money. As I turned back around to give it to him I saw him convulsing on the ground. Since he had fallen into the sandbox I didn’t attempt to move him and thought it would be over in a minute or two… but several minutes passed and the convulsing continued and so we took him to the emergency room of the children’s hospital run by Dr. Vireck. With an injection, the temperature and convulsing stopped but he couldn’t be awoken. and so he was transferred by ambulance to Phnom Penh where he remains today unresponsive. Hospitals here require a full-time caregiver that we must provide until his release, and the Doctors were not able to say how long that might be.

While considering the possibility of him needing long-term care and a special staff should he return to Wat Opot in the condition he is now, we received another call for six more children from two different families who have recently lost their mother and are in need of long-term placement. Ordinarily, that would not be a big problem, however, one 12-year-old boy is deaf and dumb and has never attended school. If we accept him it would open the door to other children with special needs and the need to hire additional trained staff to work with them.

With dwindling funds, an uncertain future, and a body that is showing its age, I am not sure which direction we should go, your thoughts and prayers would be appreciated.

Wayne Dale Matthysse