A NEW LOOK

With the COVID restriction now lifted in Cambodia, we are beginning to get visitors again and even have new and old volunteers interested in coming to help us redefine the post-Covid programs at Wat Opot. That of course means having to get everything back in shape, which is no small task, but by working together we have things looking pretty good again and have even added some new areas for visitors to see.

Here Mr. Ouen, our director, is assigning work details for the children… some for cleaning and others for planting gardens.

The pool has been upgraded with a wall to stop dirt and leaves from blowing in, which saves me a lot of work and also gives me better control of the children when the pool is open to the public.

And the wall of the artwork left a few years back using old CDs, that had faded into a dirty outside wall of the bathrooms and lost its pizazz, was repainted, and now stands out as soon as you enter the pool gates.

and thanks to the donation of solar lights, our Memorial Garden can now be seen from the road throughout the night. We have had people stop during the day to inquire and tour the crematorium because it is rather unique in our area. Many of the people were not aware of our Community, until the COVID cremations.

Thanks for stopping in… we hope some of you will be able to visit us in the coming year and help us build on providing new programs that are meaningful and in keeping with the constantly changing needs of the times we are living in.

The Watopotians

BROKEN NEWS RELIEF

A hot and lazy Sunday afternoon with nothing to do except to watch CNN breaking news (or more accurately broken news because it plays over and over again like a broken record).

Decided to open the pool for the kids which got my mind off of the problems of the world for just a while.

I remind the children nearly every night at meditation of how fortunate we are to live in a peaceful environment. They do keep up with things on social media and so discussions are not unusual and I think it is important to remain open to their concerns.

NEW YEAR AND NEW DIRECTION

With the departure of Melinda, it is going to take some time to get things organized around here again. She was so very good at it and we are all going to miss her very much. 

COVID has had a big effect on many programs in Cambodia and we are no exception, however, we are still going strong, and although we are now down to only 27 resident children, it does not mean that our campus is devoid of the delightfully chaotic sound of screaming children. Pictured above are the community children, intermingled with Watopotians, who now attend classes at Wat Opot from 2:00 to 5:00 PM every Monday through Friday. Those who can afford to, pay 10,000 Riel ($2.50) per month, and that money is used to buy supplies and help in paying the teachers.

Education is very important to the families in our community and because Wat Opot has produced several successful college and trade school graduates… the hope is that some of them will also benefit from studying with us. We would like to be able to make that possible. It is going to take a lot of work to reorganize our program into a more community-based campus but it appears that is the direction we need to take. 

We will of course continue to take in orphans and vulnerable children when called upon to do so, and in fact, the first of our new residents is from an NGO that, up until just recently, was against programs like ours. They had to change their thinking, however, when, because of COVID, there were no other options.

Thanks to all who have helped us through these difficult times.

Your support is greatly appreciated.

The Watopotians! 

BACK TO THE DRAWING BOARD

In the past, Wat Opot has produced some great artists, as evidenced below by the Elephant Room on our campus. Many of them have gone on to use what they had learned here in their professional lives.

Unfortunately, we could no longer afford the program and therefore the artistic development of our new children has been neglected. A few months back one of our alumni was involved in an accident that put him in the hospital for several weeks and then had a long recuperation at home. Although he is now recovered, he has lost his job and just recently offered to start teaching art to the children on Sundays.

Mr. Nith has had to start with just the basics because most of our children now have never had any art training.

A few of the older children still remember some of the things they were taught in the past and hopefully with Mr. Nith’s help they will be able to rekindle their passion for drawing.

We have a long ways to go but it is nice to see the excitement on their faces when they accomplish something they didn’t know they could do.

And even our four-year-old was quite pleased with his ability to express himself on paper.

Only time will tell if we can produce more professional Watopotian artists… but if enthusiasm has anything to do with it, I think there is a good chance that we will.

Thanks for checking in on us. It is your support and encouragement that allows us the offer this opportunity to our children and we are grateful for each one of you.

The Watopotians

FISH AND COVID-19

A few months back the Wat decided to fill in their part of the pond we shared and in the process, the deteriorating fence that separated us for several years was weakened and part of the wall came down.

It will have to be repaired before the rains return but all of the options so far have been rather expensive. While we make our decision on the next move, we decided to drain the pond and harvest the fish.

Several Kilos of Pra were captured including some very large Catfish, which explains why there were very few small fish in the pond.

We sold what we could and the rest, our kitchen staff are preparing for the children’s meals.

On another note, a government clean-up crew arrived early this morning to begin cleaning the rooms of the Volunteer dorm, which hasn’t been in use for over a year. and most likely will not be used again until the COVID-19 pandemic is under control.

The COVID-19 Taskforce arrived later this afternoon to inspect the rooms and offer their gratitude for offering our place as a possible quarantine center, should the need arise.

We all hope that our place will never be needed to house those requiring quarantine… but at the same time realize the necessity of being prepared, should the pandemic get out of hand. It’s scary to think that the virus is spreading and coming closer to us… but at the same time, using our facilities to help the nation prevent its spread, puts us back on the front lines.

Thanks for stopping in and a SPECIAL THANKS to all who have and are supporting our programs with your thoughts and gifts.

GOOD NEWS!

For those that may have some difficulty in reading this, it is the results of our latest yearly inspection by the Department of Social Services. We received a score of 196, with 200 being a perfect score. That is a 97% approval rating… one of the highest they can give.

Inspections are relatively new in Cambodia and have resulted in the closure of many orphanages and group homes that were not following the new guidelines set down by the government. These closures were necessary in most cases but did result in a lot of negative publicity for all child care facilities, operating in Cambodia, including ours.

Drastic cuts in donations because of the bad publicity, as well as the Corona pandemic, forced some smaller orphanages to close even though they were providing a beneficial service. We also had to cut back on staff and services but were able to maintain a relatively stable environment for our children… however, it has required all of us working together on growing our own vegetables…

and harvesting fish from our ponds.

We have had some assistance as well from a few of our long-term supporters and have also received assistance from former residents on New Years Day, for which we are very grateful.

Thanks for stopping in… leave a reply if you can so that we know you were here.

The Watopotians

A DAY OUT

The children have not been off the grounds for some time because of the Pandemic. There have not been many cases here but the schools are all still closed and we have been home-schooling them four hours every day, six days a week. For that reason, we wanted to take them out for a day, even though funds are limited. The kitchen staff fried several chickens and made the rice so that we would not have to buy the meal at the zoo. Presently we have 40 children but there were nearly 60 people altogether with staff and alumni. In the past, we sometimes rented a bus but this time used our two vehicles for the children and had the alumni use their motorcycles to travel the 10 kilometers to the zoo.

We talked to the children about social distancing the night before but realized when we got there that it would be impossible to enforce because the place was packed.

The park is quite large and so Dara and Ouen drove the cars around (for the little kids and me) while the older children walked. We ended up at the elephant exhibit where Dara was able to talk the staff into doing a show. By the time they got it set up, there was a large crowd gathered, which worked out well for the elephant and trainers, because the opening routine is the collecting of money from all of the onlookers. I was not aware of this routine, however, and therefore was unprepared when the elephant walked straight toward me and began molesting me with its trunk. The crowd and the children, who all knew the routine, got a big laugh out of it… while I sat there red-faced like a fool, not knowing what to do.

After the performance, we ate our lunch, and then cleaned up the area. When we were finished, each of the children was given an allowance, which most of them spent on ice cream.

It was a short get-a-way but everyone had a good time and, if nothing else, we broke the monotony that the pandemic has forced upon us.

Thanks for stopping in!

The Watopotians

WE ARE STILL HERE

Hello everyone,

Like most people around the World, we have been laying low because of the Corona Virus. Fortunately for us, however, we have several acres of land to move around on and so we really don’t have anything to complain about. In fact, with the exception of those children returning to us from home visits (like those pictured below, who have to be in quarantine for several days when they come back) we have it pretty good.

Because school has been canceled, and no one is sure when it will restart, we have decided to home school our kids. They meet in small groups for two hours each morning and again for two hours in the afternoon.

The rest of the day is devoted to working in the gardens that now provide much of our daily vegetable needs. Often there is enough to sell in the local community as well. 

We eat greens with nearly every meal… Popeye would love it here.

 Fishponds also need to be cleaned out periodically and fish need to be netted for our kitchen. Our fish are also in high demand outside of our community because the people know our ponds are clean and free of sewer water.

Livestock and poultry also need to be fed and cared for. On-campus we have chickens, which are grown for their meat…

As are the big Black ducks… while the smaller brown ducks provide us with eggs. 

We are also experimenting with growing both Turkey and rabbits for meat (but we haven’t told the animals or the children that yet.) While the local people have no problem eating dog, snake, or rice rat as delicacies, they are not yet sure about eating the flesh of turkey or rabbit.

Even though our days are busy, we still try to find time for the pool…

And I, of course, get stuck most days having to play Lifeguard.

If we were to complain about the Corona Pandemic, our complaint would be that we are not allowed any volunteers until the country is reopened to foreigners. It has been several months since we have heard or felt the support of our followers and that is a bit scary. We are aware that many are just as concerned as we are about how this Pandemic is going to affect their future and for that reason perhaps communications are difficult. Let us hope that tomorrow comes sooner than later.

Thanks for stopping in… we just wanted to let you know that we are still here.

The Watopotians