A FAREWELL TO MELINDA

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 

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

FESTIVAL AT THE WAT

The Post-COVID era is slowly developing in the countryside here in Cambodia with the Gypsy-like caravans of games and food stalls traveling from Wat to Wat to entertain and entice the children and young people out of whatever money they can gather, from friends or family (or me).

It does feel good, after two years of restrictions, to get out again without a mask and to interact with the community outside of our compound.

There are all kinds of junk foods and cheap toys to buy or win at the game boards, that can’t be found in local stores. Unfortunately, they don’t last that long, which is the reason the caravans keep coming back.

For some, just having the opportunity to be ‘cool’ again makes the night out worthwhile.

and although the rides and games do not compare to Six Flags or Disneyland, they do provide many of the children with a kind of adventure they have not had before.

One thing that was apparent to me tonight, and I think it represents a sign of our times, is that the large screen movie that once was the main attraction of the festival, had almost no one watching it. I think with the availability of so many smartphones that can access YouTube and Facebook at any time of day or night, the idea of watching a full-length movie on a large screen canvas is a bit outdated.

Thanks for stopping in on us. We would love to hear some post-COVID experiences from where you are and how you are handling them.

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

HATTHA BANK VISIT

It has been a long time since we have had a large group at Wat Opot… but today the COVID jinx was broken by a visit from the HATTHA BANK management and staff.

It took a lot of work getting the grounds and stage back in shape, but most of the children were excited about meeting new people again and so they did not mind the work all that much.

I did my usual worrying about all the possibilities of things going wrong or children misbehaving but in the end, everyone did very well and everything went as planned.

Fortunately, Mr. Ouen did the opening introduction and all I had to do is sit on stage and look like I understood everything being said.

They left us with a good supply of rice and condiments as well as sandwiches, coke, and fried chicken for each of the children.

Mask and alcohol, which we use a lot of, were also in their donation, and although we have not had any request for cremation in the past two weeks, 2 cases of the new virus have been found in the country… so we are not sure of what the future holds.

It was a good day for all of us, and we are very grateful to the very well-organized HATTHA BANK staff for their interest in supporting us.

Thanks for dropping in on us.

The Partners and all of the Watopotians wish you a very Merry Christmas!

TIS THE SEASON

It is always nice when our grown-up children return home, even though most of the time it is for personal reasons. Like any family, our children at times run into obstacles along the Paths they are following… sometimes of their own making and at other times because of sickness or accidental injury. Unfortunately, at times they wait too long to share their problems and we lose them to suicide or serious illness… two of our family were taken this year. Most of the time, however, a little cash and some encouragement is all they need.

It is almost Christmas time again and we have a large group scheduled for this coming Saturday. It will be the first time since COVID Restrictions went into effect several months ago, that we can allow visitors on campus again. Last year we did not do anything for Christmas, partially because of the restrictions but also because Mr. Nith, who has for several years designed our Christmas decorations, was involved in a serious accident that left him hospitalized. Although still not fully recovered and unemployed, he has volunteered to start teaching art classes to our children again, and this past Sunday he worked on the Christmas decorations with his class.

We are expecting over one hundred people to attend the event and so we needed to get an early start on the decorations and cleaning around the stage.

It is just the beginning, but enough to make us start feeling positive again about Life and Living… after what seemed like an eternity of death and cremations.

Thanks for stopping by… and a special thanks to all who are supporting and encouraging us in what has been a difficult time. We are doing OKAY thanks to you. MERRY CHRISTMAS!

The WATOPOTIANS

SPIRITUAL WORLD

From time to time I am asked if I believe in a Spiritual world, and I never know quite what to say. I do believe that the energy that is Life continues, once it leaves the form that it has inhabited… but to say that it continues to have the identity of that form is questionable. Still, it gives me great comfort at times to believe that the soft whisper of my name in the middle of the night, or that shadowy figure that playfully reveals itself on occasions from the corner of my good eye… is someone that I have once known and loved. 

This picture was taken while walking to the crematorium one evening, shortly after the death of two of our children. The child in my right hand is real… but in my left hand, I was holding nothing.

This picture was taken while looking for the Spirit of the boy in the picture. A moving Orb that appears to have a hot to cold trail is extremely rare. Could it be the energy of Chhange… or is it just coincidental?

I suppose we will never know for sure until we pass through the veil ourselves, but if the Spiritual world does exist, then these are some good examples for proving their existence… and if it doesn’t exist, then these are some very good illusions.

Thanks for stopping in, and thanks to all of you who continue to support us… your thoughts and encouragement are greatly appreciated.

The Partners

KEEPER OF THE FLAMES

It started back in March of this year with A Rare Request for a cremation service. Our crematorium hadn’t been used for several years and was in disrepair… but the request was from a desperate mother whose daughter had just committed suicide by hanging and no one else wanted any part of her cremation for fear of vengeance from the departed spirit. I woke some of the guys and we got the oven ready… fortunately the crematorium still worked but it was obvious that repairs had to be made before doing any more.

The following week we cleaned up the area around the burner and rearranged the rooms just in case we received another request at some point in the future. We didn’t have to wait long… in the first part of May, we got a call that someone had died from COVID-19 and no one wanted to do the cremation for fear of catching the Virus. I told them we would do it as a temporary solution to their problem but had no idea what we were getting ourselves into.

Nearly every day since then, and sometimes two or three times in one day, the ambulances would come with bodies to be burned… 167 to be exact, before the end of November. Then, just after Thanksgiving Day, another request for cremating a victim of suicide and, as if the cycle had been completed the telephone stopped ringing.

It has been 6 days now since the last cremation and I am beginning to enjoy myself again. Working in the garden, cleaning the swimming pool, thinking about taking some days off on the coast, maybe even doing an excursion with the kids… and just letting the flames die out. It has been a long stretch and I am happy that is finally coming…

“Hello. Yes, we can do it. How soon before the body gets here?”

December 2, 2021/ Prey Kabass / COVID-19 Victim number 169.

Thanks for stopping in. We appreciate your support and encouragement.

The Partners