DAY AFTER CHRISTMAS

Christmas Day at Wat Opot was uneventful. We put up a fence to keep the chickens out of the newly planted long beans and cucumbers in our garden…

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and worked to get the place neat and tidy in the event Santa would pay us a visit at some point during the day.

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And in the evening, as the Sun slowly settled in the West we had a simple family meditation and gave Thanks that most of the children had returned from home leave. We played some dance music…

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and I made the announcement that we would have visitors in the morning, but wasn’t sure how many people would be coming. I only knew they had given us some money to buy meat for a barbecue. Then I dismissed them with a snack.

The following morning a car dropped off a large speaker system and electric piano. I had no idea what they were planning, I only knew that Mr. Phoun Chaim, the District Governor had given some money and would possibly be making a visit. I wasn’t told that most of the district heads of government would be joining him.

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The Christmas dinner was prepared by our staff and the wife of Dr. Virak… and what a meal it was.

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Barbecued beef, bread, noodles, curry stew, and of course all the rice we could eat.

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And to top it all off we had our own dance band to entertain us after the meal.

Thanks to all who made this possible, especially Governor Phoun Chaim and Mrs. Rathanak Romchong for their cash donations, Dr. Virak, and his wife for the food, and Mr. Channa Nov for making all of the arrangements.

THE WATOPOTIANS

PLANTING TIME

After waiting for several weeks for the rains to stop and for the fields to dry out enough for the tractor to plow them, we are now back in business.

It only took him an hour to get both fields done, saving us many days of hard work.

And today we were able to plant the long beans… something that is very productive and provides not only for our needs but can also be sold to the community as well.

Seedlings had already been planted in our raised garden awaiting the time they could be transplanted into the big garden.

And the children wasted no time in doing so.

Of course, planting the seedlings is only part of the job, adding fresh cowpost to the soil is also important… but not nearly as pleasant of a job.

We are especially grateful to May Chan and her husband Dinesh Shamdasani for their generous donation to our program, which made this possible… and we are grateful to all who have contributed with your prayers, good wishes, and financial support, which helps keep our community going.

MERRY CHRISTMAS TO YOU ALL!

The Watopotians

A TRIP TO THE ZOO

With many of our children home for the school break, we decided to take the ones who had no home to go to, for a short trip to the local zoo.

The zoo covers a large area and requires a great deal of walking. Unfortunately, there have been some problems with developers in the area who want to put up condominiums… many trees along the way to the zoo have been cut down and although they have not reached to zoo area yet, many of the larger animals are gone. No one is sure what will happen next.

There is still plenty of monkeys and smaller animals to see but the park is not very well taken care of and was actually a disappointing day for some of the children who wanted to see lions, tigers, and other big animals. There are still a couple of elephants but they did not put on a performance like the last time we were there.

Still, most of the children enjoyed the experience and were happy to get away from Wat Opot for a few hours. They also knew that the best part was yet to come.

Thanks for checking us out and a special Thanks to our supporters who made this possible.

The Watopotians

OUR NEW LIBRARY AND COMPUTER ROOM

We have much to be grateful for as we will soon begin our new school year in January. Most of the supplies we will need for our students have already been donated and now with our new library and computer classroom, we will be able to expand our community education as well.

The shelves look empty in these pictures but thanks to the many people listed below they will soon be filled with all kinds of reading and reference books.

Many of the books have already been delivered. More will be purchased once we categorize these and the books we already had in our library but are waiting to be filed in the bookcases… the snacks, of course, will not make it to the shelves.

Once completed, our library will be accessible to all persons living in the community… a continuation of our desire to educate and advance the people living around us.

We are so very grateful to the people listed below for their generosity in contributing to this project:

  1. Mrs. Mak Veasna $100.00
  2. Mrs. Buoy Navamalika $100.00
  3. Mrs. Ren Chanthach $100.00 plus packages of writing books with 5000 Riel for each of our students.
  4. Mrs. Yean Somany $100.00
  5. Mr. Kim Arun $50.00
  6. The remaining balance was provided by Mr.Peng Songlim and Mr. Chhim Tepwinuth

The total cost of the project so far has been $1310.00 plus $315.35 for the books.

Thanks for stopping in!

The Watopotians

FREE TO CONGREGATE

It has been a long time passing that we were able to leave our community and meet with others in large groups but finally, the COVID restrictions are lifted and we can go out again. A few days ago our children were invited to a birthday party in the community at the home of Dara and Phari Chhoeun for their daughter Lycheang.

The kids had a good time at the party and were (surprisingly) well-behaved on one of their first times out.

The food was delicious and our children ate their fill.

Then yesterday the Red Cross put on a program for the HIV+ population and several of our older children were invited to attend.

Here they received positive news about the future treatment of HIV and a possible cure. Not sure if it was meant as an incentive to keep taking their medicine or if there really is a breakthrough that I don’t know about.

During his speech, the Governor of Takeo, Ouch Phea, praised the Wat Opot group for the work we did during the COVID epidemic. Nearly 200 victims were cremated in our crematorium because no other place wanted to run the risk of getting COVID.

And while the older children attended the Red Cross meeting with Mr. Somoeun, the younger children were given the opportunity to climb Chisol Mountain with Mr. Dara and the four new volunteers Käthe, Jenny, Salome, and Johanna.

If elephants were available to take me up there, I would have gone along… but not quite recovered enough to give it a try.

Many of our 33 children are on home leave until January… the first time in two years that we could allow them to go because of COVID restrictions. This means the children who have nowhere to go can be given special attention for the next few weeks… maybe a trip to the animal sanctuary.

Thanks for stopping in and thanks to all who support us. If you are interested in helping us out please go to our CONTACT PAGE.

THE WATOPOTIANS

NOT JUST ANOTHER SUNDAY

I was a bit late getting up this Sunday morning… usually, nothing much happens, and because it is a holiday (again) and the Wat I was told was having a carnival in the evening, I knew there would be loud music throughout the day and late into the night.

The kids were waiting for me in the kitchen… showing much more enthusiasm for our Sunday morning Art Class than I was feeling. We got out the crayons and colored pencils and they got to work on expressing themselves on paper.

Quite bold for a child who has only been with us a few weeks. We don’t have the artist that we once had here or perhaps I should say that we don’t have a good teacher to bring out the artist that lies dormant in most children. We picked up the crayons and were getting ready to eat our lunch when Mr. Somoeun told us to go immediately to the stage because some unexpected guests were coming.

We got the stage area cleaned up and the group led by Mr. Channa, a former director, arrived a short time later… but instead of the usual rice and cooking oil in the back of the car, we were surprised to find something quite unexpected.

Computers! Ten complete desktops to be exact. Enough to set up a complete lab.

And that was not all… they also handed out 10,000 Reil to each of the children and over $1500.00 for our operational cost. We are very grateful to the following families for this very generous donation.

1.) Mr. DAVID Dao & Harry Lim (represented by Mrs. CHEA MUY SOUANG) $800
2.) Ms. Yean Somany & her family $100
3.) Mr. Peng Songlim & Mrs. Yim Sophary $300
4.) Mr. Chhim Tepwinuth & Mrs. Vann Amporpech $300
5.) Mr. Hang Ponlork & family, computer desktops 10 units

WAIT THERE IS STILL MORE

After our evening meal, we had a buyer stop in and sold 26 of our chickens, which brought in $155.00 more. And the boring little carnival I was expecting, turned out to be a lot bigger than those of the past.

And there is also a theatrical performance scheduled for later in the evening… much later, like 12:00 to 4:00 AM.

I may go over for some ice cream when I finish this update, but I don’t think I will be watching the performance… even though it will be playing in my dreams.

Thanks for stopping in. If you would like to join us as a volunteer or supporter please go to our CONTACT PAGE or send us an e-mail at wocommunity@gmail.com. Check out the WISH LIST while you are here.

The WATOPOTIANS

WE ARE GROWING

The COVID pandemic had a big effect on our program and for a while, it was looking like we were going to have to close our doors like so many of the other programs in Cambodia. With help from the community, the government, and some of the nearly 200 private families who had loved ones cremated here during the COVID pandemic, however, we were able to continue and now it looks like we are on the way to a full recovery. Below are photos of some of the groups who have visited us.

With their help and cash donations from others, we have survived and have accepted the challenge to not only continue, but to grow as well. With Mr. Dara back in command, we have already brought in 6 new vulnerable children, bringing the number of resident children to thirty-three and we are sure there will be more since the Government Social Services program is reevaluating its position on residential care to include communities like ours.

Here are the newest children who can now call themselves Watopotians.

I am optimistic about our future and the future of our children… now and those to come. If you would like to join us as a volunteer or supporter please go to our CONTACT PAGE or send us an e-mail at wocommunity@gmail.com. Check out the WISH LIST while you are here.

Thanks for stopping in, and leave a comment if can. It means a lot to us to know you support our growing community.

The WATOPOTIANS

COMMUNITY

In discussions that Giacomo has been having with the older children of Wat Opot, the concern of some is for the future… not only their future but the future of the world as well. They have access now, through their telephones and television, to all of the negative things happening, and like most of us, are not sure what kind of world will be waiting for them when they leave our community.

There is a lot of negative propaganda about orphanages or children’s communities like ours and some of the accusations made are legitimate. Whenever vulnerable children are involved, there are those that would take advantage of not only the children but also the opportunity to exploit them… for financial gain.

I grew up in the ’50s in post-war America and my family did not have much to live on… except for the hope of a better future. As a family, we had to work hard to survive. I remember my parents going out to buy groceries and when they returned we would run out to the car to help carry the bags in, but they told us to wait until dark. I didn’t understand it at the time but the food came from a government program and they didn’t want the neighbors to see the packages because they were embarrassed to have to depend on welfare.

As a result, I had to work hard in a small garden where we grew tomatoes and potatoes. I eventually got a job as a paperboy so that I could help with the family expenses. I didn’t see it as work, however… I was happy that I could contribute.

In much the same way, the Wat Opot community is structured on a similar concept. A majority of the work that is done here, is done by the children.

From catching fish to planting gardens in the heat of the day, there is always work to do and usually workers that want to do it. They are paid of course for their labor… I do not believe in giving things away for free because it encourages dependency, and for that reason, there are usually more workers than there is work to do.

Working and living together is what sets Wat Opot apart from other places and even other normal families. Having the opportunity to be a contributing member of a family or group is something that is missing in the lives of so many children today… and for that reason, I would suggest that our children have it better than many others, who must carry the baggage that comes from living in a dysfunctional family.

I dropped in on one of Giacamo’s sessions and they asked me what they could do to make a more positive future happen… I told them we are already doing it.

THE THINGS WE HAVE GONE THROUGH TOGETHER

Thanks for stopping in!

If you would like to be a sponsor of our community please go to the CONTACT page.

The Watopotians

SPECIAL SUNDAY

Yesterday we got a call from Mr. Chansovandara Hong, saying he would like to come out with some of his friends to meet the kids.

They arrived at about 9 AM loaded with supplies and gifts for the kids.

After the introductions, they handed out personal gifts to all of the children including school books and supplies, snacks, soap, and the children’s favorite drinks ( and mine) 2 cans of Coke.

It was a great way to start out the morning however most of the children decided to drink both cans of Coke and so to get them down from their high after lunch, Mr. Somoeun decided to take most of the kids to Chisol Mountain to burn off some of their energy.

It is a long way to the top, too far for me to go anymore, but for the children, it was no problem.

It was a good experience for all of the children since it was the first time in over two years they have been on any kind of field trip. We are hoping that someday soon we can take a longer trip… perhaps to the coast.

Not everyone could make the climb on their own but Mr. Somoeun was there to help our newest and youngest child make it to the top.

It was a good day for everyone and we are so very grateful to all of our supporters for making memorable days like this one possible.

Thanks for stopping in!

If you would like to be a sponsor of our community please go to the CONTACT page.

The Watopotians

UNEXPECTED ARRIVALS

We have been working on the papers for three new children but have not yet arranged a time to meet with the authorities. For that reason when Mr. Somoeun told me to get ready to pick up two children I at first thought it was the case we were working on but instead, it was a new case involving two newly abandoned children.

The authorities were waiting for us with the children at the commune office and Mr. Somoeun and his assistant Chavmean started the paperwork…

while the children patiently waited for the adults to decide their fate.

It was all over in about an hour’s time and we now have two more new Watopotians.

Thanks for stopping in!

If you would like to be a sponsor of our community please go to the CONTACT page.

The Watopotians