Our director Mr. Dara held a staff meeting today and instead of telling us what he thought of our work performance, had us do a self-evaluation. Our responses were then posted on the board and we discussed the pros and cons of each one listed.

No one felt threatened because we were the ones who came up with the items discussed. Although I had a limited understanding of what was said by some of the staff, I think the meeting went well.

At the end of the meeting, I thanked the staff for all of the work they have and are doing and I reminded them of the fact that over the years, the Wat Opot Community has hosted many important dignitaries, including actors, entertainers, members of Royal families and Political leaders. We had television documentaries done in Europe, Asia, and Korea, Interviews on BBC and Al Jazeera, magazine articles in many leading magazines like Readers Digest, and even a front-page article in the Detroit Free Press, as well as a book written and published about our community that has reached thousands of English readers and has also been translated and published in Chinese. We have also had a huge effect on many children who grew up here and who today are very successful, as evidenced by the diplomas and certificates above the whiteboard… a new project we have just started. I ended by telling them that even though we may not see that what we are doing is that important, we have had a profound effect on millions of people around the World and it is my hope that we will continue to do so.

Thanks for stopping in and thanks to all of you who are supporting us. If you are not one of our supporters but would like more information on how to become one please visit our CONTACT PAGE or go directly to the Wat Opot support website: https://www.watopot.org/en/donate



Reviving the tradition of Art Expression with meditation music every Sunday morning.

Sunday mornings start with breakfast, usually instant noodles, and then a quick clean-up of the campus grounds. Between the hours of eight and nine, all of the children gather in the dining room where they are given the opportunity to express themselves through art while listening to meditation music.

I am not sure how therapeutic it is for them … but for me, to see them all sitting quietly for an hour while I enjoy a hot cup of coffee, is very therapeutic.

Young and old participate in the activity, and although there are various degrees of creative ability in the group, most of them make a serious effort to produce something beautiful.

Thanks for stopping in and thanks to all of you who are supporting us. If you are not one of our supporters but would like more information on how to become one please visit our CONTACT PAGE or go directly to the Wat Opot support website: https://www.watopot.org/en/donate



I had, so much, been looking forward to getting back to Cambodia and the warmer weather but wasn’t prepared for the heat as I walked out of the airport in Phnom Penh. The travel back went much better than I expected and the airline service took good care of me. The 15-hour flight from San Francisco to Singapore was my biggest worry but they put me in an aisle seat with no seats ahead of me so I had plenty of leg room and the bathroom was just steps away. The seat was small and I was concerned for anyone who would have to sit next to me, but as the plane loaded and the doors were shut I realized that seat was not taken. The best part was the next seat over was a young businessman from Singapore and we were able to have some good discussions in between meals and naps.

Some miscommunications left me stranded at the airport for a short time but I eventually got to my hotel and was able to relax… all of the worries of not making a connection, canceled flights, or not getting to a bathroom in time were needless. A COMING HOME party was held at the riverside Saturday evening and on Sunday I slept in and just enjoyed Phnom Penh from my balcony.

Dara picked me up Monday morning but informed me we would be picking up Srey Liep and taking her back to Wat Opot again because Grandma was back in the hospital… so much for a slow reintroduction to the Watopotian lifestyle.

The children seemed as happy to see me as I was to see them again and although the attention can be a bit overwhelming at times, it is so much better than the solitude of being alone. A couple of new kids have been added during the time I was away.

Not much has changed during the time I was gone. Dara, Scott, and the Staff have done a good job of managing the place in my absence, for which I am very grateful. Not sure what role I will play in the future… but there is still a lot of work to be done here and I hope that my health continues to improve so that I can remain a contributing part of the Wat Opot Community.

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It is difficult being in the States knowing that the daily activities at Wat Opot continue and that Mr. Dara, the staff, and all of the children are doing well without me. Corresponding from time to time with them via telephone brightens my day but does nothing to help clear the uncertainties of my future. My vision has returned to what it was before and I await new glasses from the Veterans Affair. My Blood pressure and Glucose levels are under control with medicine and I am feeling much better than before, and so I should be able to make a decision in the next few weeks regarding my next move. I appreciate very much the prayers and messages of support I have received for myself… but more important I am very grateful to all who have come through with their much needed support for the children and staff of the Wat Opot Community. You can follow this link to a new Facebook video that was just completed, if you would like to learn more about the community and the children.

Wayne Dale Matthysse


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.

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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


Our mother pig gave birth to 10 piglets a few days ago. One of them didn’t live very long but the rest are doing good. Hopefully, we can get the remaining 9 piglets to 80 or 90 Kilos in a few months by eating kitchen scrapes and rice husk.

Our staff are very knowledgeable about animal husbandry and know just what to do. Mr. Pheap even slept several nights just outside their pen to make sure the piglets were safe. We also have a pregnant cow but it will be a while before she is ready to deliver.

Two of the three other pigs on our campus have reached 80 Kilos and although we were planning to wait on selling them until Khmer New Year in a few weeks’ time, we were offered a good price ($1.75 per Kilo) and decided to sell them now because we needed the money to buy rice for our children.

In the background, you can see our chickens. They will be in big demand in a few weeks’ time and should bring in a good amount of funds if we can sell them all. Our children are involved in every activity on our campus and are especially helpful when it comes to keeping the buyer honest.

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Many of our children enjoy cooking and on any given evening you may find them in one of the kitchens making “legal” treats for themself or a small group. Some nights, however, I find them building a fire behind one of the buildings to barbeque something “illegal”, such as fish, birds, or frogs that they have collected during the day.

Chay learning how to make french toast several years ago.

I don’t discourage it but do caution them to be safe, especially if smaller children are around. I have always taught the boys that they should learn to cook for themself so that they don’t become dependent on a woman to feed them. Marriage for love is fine but not because you need someone to take care of you.

Both Tori and Chay graduated from high school in December and decided to take cooking classes at the FRIENDS NGO instead of enrolling in college classes. They have already finished the course under the supervision of Mr. Rong, who is also a former Watopotian who teaches there.

Both are now interning at one of Phnom Penh’s finest 5 Star hotels and if they do well could get permanent employment there.

We wish them well as they start out their new life outside of Wat Opot. I would love to go and eat at some of the places where our alumni work… but even if the establishment let me in the door, I wouldn’t be able to afford a meal there.

Thanks for stopping in and thanks to all of you who are supporting us. If you are interested in helping us raise the 35 children we still have with us please, please visit our CONTACT PAGE.