Poi Pet 2009

poipetFour 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 at the Goutte d’Eau centre. The directors Beatrice and Malai showed us the various programmes catering for the scores of trafficked and street children who are fortunate to find hope and a roof over their head at the centre. We learned more tragic stories of how the children came to be in their present circumstances. The reception centre takes in recently rescued children while the rehabilitation centre is for former substance abusing children who learn circus skills and art therapy to overcome their issues. The residential centre is a long-term base where the children can learn life-skills such as reading, writing, sewing and motorbike maintenance. The centre also offers a half-day drop in facility for local street children who receive basic education and a meal and then go back to work the other half day on the streets for their parents, a compromise with the parents who need their incomes and otherwise would not let them attend.

We brought with us the bags of donations form Singapore – bedding, sports equipment, crocs, toothbrushes etc which were all evidently in need. The cash donation will go towards the expensive running costs of the whole centre.

In the afternoon the children put on a wonderful show with theatre, acrobatics, gymanstics, khmer traditional dance and singing. This was followed by music and games – we joined in and the kids clearly had a whale of a time (as did Cathy especially in the sack race!) and we felt honoured to see all the effort they had made. They loved us taking photos and they were thrilled to see their own image on our cameras’ digital screens. The children were even treated to a dinner of khmer beef noodles – normally it’s rice for dinner.

That night we went into the town centre of Poi Pet, which was not a nice place, to see the risks street children face both day and night. The contrast with the Goutte d’Eau centre made us realize the great need for such a centre and for FirstHand to continue supporting such a good cause. Thanks again for all your generous donations and please do check out our photos of the trip..!

Victoria Giaever-Enger