BACK IN BUSINESS

The uncertainties of the past couple of years have had a huge effect on our program… and on me. I was all set to retire in 2020 and had purchased a one-way business class ticket home, thinking it would be my last flight to anywhere, so I might as well enjoy it. The COVID Pandemic changed all of that of course, as my flight was canceled. I don’t regret that however, because we ended up playing an important role in the cremations of nearly 200 victims of COVID… and with the funds we received for doing them, we were able to continue caring for the children in our custody. Grants from the Sakka Foundation and our friends in Taiwan also sustained us, along with donations and gifts from others… however, most of that support has now been terminated because of the anti-orphanage campaigns or conditions resulting from China’s present aggressive behavior toward Taiwan. Don’t get me wrong… this is not a plea for money but I would be lying if I told you that I was not concerned for the future of our community. Other orphanages and group homes are closing down because of a lack of funds and for that reason when Social Services called and said they had six new children who they needed to place, my initial response was to say NO, for the first time in our communities history. After hearing the stories of the children, however, I had to reconsider.

Today we took in the first of the six children referred to us. A seven-year-old boy who has been taken out of his family for reasons I can not make known in this writing. We do not know the extent of damage done to him at this point… that will come out in time. He has never attended school.

Times have changed and what use to be a simple agreement with a guardian to take over a Childs care, is now a process involving several people. Paperwork has to be filled out and signed by Social Services and government officials.

 Our Director Mr. Somoeun and his assistant Chavmean do most of the paperwork…

 While social services and government officials wait to approve and stamp the papers with their Seal and add their fingerprints to make the papers legal.

The process takes about an hour and so there is time to discuss the circumstances that brought us all together …

 unfortunately, the discussions are done in front of the child, who has very little say in the decisions being made for him by the adults in the room.

“It takes a village to raise a child.” but when there are problems of abuse, it takes concerned people to look for solutions. Partners in Compassion-Cambodia and the Wat Opot Community are back in the business of being a refuge for the Vulnerable children of Cambodia.

Thanks for stopping by!

The Watopotians

WORKING TOGETHER

The rainy season has come again which is great for gardens, trees, and flowers, however, it also gives weeds and other unwanted plant life the opportunity to grow, especially in our fish ponds. The pond by the kitchen was so overgrown that you could literally walk across it.

It’s a lot of work and only the best swimmers can cut the sections of grass because the pond is deep and the weeds often don’t surrender easily and like to wrap their roots around the ankles of those who push the sections to the shoreline.

The weeds and grass are waterlogged and require a lot of teamwork from our strongest children to get them into the carts.

But once loaded they are carted away by our younger children, to our garden areas where they will be used as compost.

And even the youngest can participate in picking up the stuff that falls off of the carts while being transported to the gardens… at times putting it to good use to protect themself from the Sun.

Thanks for stopping in to check on us!

The WATOPOTIANS

FRESH START

The Wat Opot family is so fortunate to have many good friends and supporters who make it possible to keep our doors open while other organizations are finding it difficult to keep going. Here are just a few that we would like to introduce you to:

 A Big Thanks to Kevin Tseng for another nutritious donation of milk and fruit and his monthly cash donations…

And to Ms. Lor Cheahuy / Mr.Lor Chea Ming / Mrs.Sovan Ang Eng / Mrs. Lay Chhiv Lin / Mrs. Kim Houy and Mr. and Mrs. Pue Vanmolinda and their children Sovan and Visal for their generous supply of soap, shampoo, and hygiene supplies as well as a computer desk and chair plus rice, noodles, and sauces…

And to the LIONS CLUB for their generous donation of rice, noodles, snacks, and sauces that should keep us going for quite a while.

And last but certainly not least:

The Singaporean Families of 黃馬家蘭, 黃秀琴, and 胡麗莉OH LAY LEE for their generous cash donation. We are grateful to all of them… and the many more who support us as we continue to serve the most vulnerable children and families in our area.

The Watopotians!

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!