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! 

FIREWOOD

A few months ago the Governor of our Province donated two truckloads of wood to our community, for use with the cremation of COVID victims. At the time I thought he had grossly overestimated what our need would be.

But I was wrong… here is all that we had left a few days ago.

I called the COVID office but was told there was no more money at the time to buy wood and we would have to find our own supply. On our property, there are some older trees that have died and we decided to take them down.

With the help of some men in the community, we carefully took them down, and while the men with the chainsaws cut them up in smaller pieces, the children brought them to the Crematorium.

Somoeun, our new Director of Programs, demonstrated how to split the logs into usable sizes… most of the time by swinging the axe only two or three times. The guys spent much of the next two days attempting to match his technique but found it a little more difficult than he made it seem.

Because the rainy season is upon us we had to move all of the wood to higher ground since waterlogged wood is difficult to burn. It was a lot of work but we are now prepared for several more cremations…

and even though COVID cremations have been down lately with only one or two per week, we would gladly have worked in vain if there was no more need for further cremations. Thanks for stopping in.

The Partners

EARLY WAKEUP

A few days ago the COVID-19 team came to fumigate our campus after discharging all of the quarantined factory workers. I believe there were 28 of them at the highest point. They all tested negative and were allowed to return to their workplaces.

I didn’t really see a need for it since no one in the group was positive but better safe than sorry I guess. I was glad to get back to the security and privacy of the volunteer dorm again and relieved that the crisis appeared to be over.

It is just after five in the morning… just got a call to open the gate because the ambulance was waiting outside with the fifth victim of COVID-19. I dressed as fast as I could and found them waiting impatiently. There were only two attendants and the driver… I wondered where the rest of the team was? I loaded the furnace with charcoal before suiting up and as I turned around I realized that they had already removed the body and placed it by my feet. I quickly put on my protective garments. We loaded the body into the furnace and I placed the wood around it.

By six o’clock, the fire was burning, and I could finally get to my coffee and breakfast. Thanks to the kids our crematorium is always ready to go now and I don’t have to worry about getting caught unprepared.

Just before our evening meal some of the boys helped to gather the bones and after we chanted, they helped to prepare the furnace for the next time, which I hope will never come… but realistically could be tonight.

Thanks for stopping by… we appreciate your support and interest.

The PARTNERS