Poi Pet 2009

Four members, (Beth, Cathy, Tori and Tanya) have just returned from FirstHand’s 4 day trip to Siem Reap and Poi Pet. In Siem Reap we visited the sisters at the Missionaries of Charity centre where Sister Nazarene and the other ladies are doing a wonderful job looking after 15 very young children (1month – 6years old) and one 15 year-old girl. In the morning we went shopping to buy the basic supplies that they had requested – cooking oil, rice, biscuits, washing powder and milk powder. Two piled-high tuk-tuks later whe were at the centre handing out the food donations and also the clothes, toys, linens and medicines you had all so kindly donated from Singapore. The children were very excited and over the afternoon we got to know them better feeding them dinner, learning their names and their individual stories as to why they are in the centre. It was especially heart-breaking to hear that the little six-year-old boy with cerebral palsy has a healthy twin who has been adopted to Australia. We also gave a cash donation and we were heartened to hear how the funds would be used to good ends. The centre provides outreach programmes helping young, often single Mums to care for their unborn children and supporting them with their newborns until they are strong enough to be handle things on their own. They also provide a meal and classes for 40-50 children, 5 days a week to learn Khmer and English reading and writing skills. Leaving Siem Reap we drove up to the Cambodia/Thailand border town of Poi Pet to visit the children...

Phnom Penh 2009

An exert from a personal account of a volunteer trip…. On Sunday we stayed closer to home. A smaller group of us headed to the Sisters of Charity orphanage in Phnom Penh. I’ve been here before and it’s absolutely heart rending. This home is run by a group of women with hearts of gold and nerves of steel. I’m not a religious person and I can’t claim to understand their motivations, but I know without a doubt that I could not do what they do. They routinely have sick and mal-nourished babies left on their doorstep. They take in children with special needs way beyond their limited resources. They provide compassion to parents who, unable to care for their children, have abandoned them but still want to be able to visit. They work around the clock to keep everyone fed, bathed, and clothed. And still they smile. The Sisters have been unfairly criticized in the past. A woman with a chip on her shoulder, claiming to want to help, went in to volunteer. Rather than helping the Sisters she began slandering them behind their back. No doubt she saw the same things we see on our visits: bleak, over-crowded living conditions. It IS crowded. They have cots crammed in end to end in the sleeping section, and a tiny place to play on the floor. Some of the kids are noticeably and physically yearning to go outside, where they have limited opportunities to go. The food is probably the same day after day. The situation seems grim. It is grim. You certainly wouldn’t wish this on any child. But...