Monthly Archives: December 2012

The Carrying – an unspoken ritual

Ardi new friend_sm Last night we spent much of the night at the Community Center and then off to check in on the Nursery and Childcare. There are children who come to these facilities during the day and are picked up by parents at night and then there are many who are residents of CCF and call this center home. There are little ones who have been rescued from the most bizarre, violent and abusive environments, children who have been abandoned on the trash heaps by parents who gave up, children who for some reason or another have nowhere else to be, no one else to love and care for them.

It sounds rather sad but when you get there the atmosphere is alive with learning and play. The Littlies (as we call them) from the Nursery are already fast asleep in their beds but the older ones are having a raucous night of drawing and coloring and even older ones are studying English with a teacher.

Tonight there is no lack of enthusiasm as children rush to show me their latest artwork and the kids begin to do the funniest and cutest antics hoping Scott will take their picture.

But there is a small group of the saddest of kids. A few who have their little backpacks packed with a handful of prized possessions and wait for their parents to come and pick them up -Parents who are long gone and who will never come for them.

Five siblings gather around Scott for comfort and he reassures them.

Apparently the father beats the mother. A violent environment from which the five siblings wanted and needed to escape so they were immediately brought in through the CCF Rescue Program. But they fear for their mother. The older one is not yet ten but still feels the responsibility of leaving his mother behind in such a dangerous environment.

Scott talks about possibly arranging for the mother to work at the Childcare Center. She could be an assistant and be with her own children and help with the others. Seems like a simple solution. But it remains to be seen if she will leave her drunken, wife beating husband. The abusive wife “I can’t leave him” syndrome appears universal.
There are two sisters maybe 6 and 8 who want to do nothing but sit alone and be sad. Scott tries to engage them, I try but no they just want to be sad. Sometimes it seems there is no more you can do in the moment and you know there will be more moments in the future so you let them be.

We begin to say our good byes and head out to the village but as we go through the gate Scott sees the two sisters sitting with their sad faces at the gate waiting for someone to come for them.

Abandoned there is no one who will come.

Scott, who moments earlier was willing to let them be alone with their sadness, cannot leave them waiting endlessly at the gate.

He sweeps the youngest into his arms as we all head back to the childcare center.

I reach out for the older sister’s hand. But I know that she needs more than a handhold. So I reach my arms around her and boost her onto my hip.

I am learning the magic of CCF.

I have watched Scott carry a child into the center any number of times and I have seen what that does to their experience. I have seen the sad looks go to cautious smiles, heard the sighs of relief as they relax in his arms.
There is some deep and profoundly comforting experience that comes from being wrapped in someone’s arms, of being held, of being carried.

Here at CCF the message is “I have you.” “We have you, now.” “Whatever your life before this moment, whatever your fears and pain, we have you now. You are safe, you are loved, you are protected, you are part of this wild and crazy family of kids and staff who will be there for you forever.”

The Carrying – like an unspoken ritual.

I can remember the same comfort I felt when my dad carried me as a child. I remember my family would go to the Drive In movies in the summer and on the way home I would pretend to fall asleep in the backseat of the car because I knew if I was asleep my dad would carry me into the house. I remember how it felt to wrap my arms around his neck and feel the strength of his hold. I never felt so safe.

And so it is here.

She seems big when I first pick her up. But once in my arms she seems so light, so fragile, so delicate. She does not want to look at me or engage me but she does want to be carried.

I find one of those brightly colored plastic kindergarten chairs and I sit down. She is on my lap now her arms still wrapped around me. I could stay here all night.

I now find out this is the first night at CCF for the two sisters. Abandoned and left behind – concepts that they still cannot understand.

The other kids are thrilled we are back swarming around to push their latest colored masterpieces into my hands, motley groups once more making funny faces and animated gestures to get Scott’s attention and a possible photo.
While managing the family of five, the little sister in his arms, the eager photo stars and discussing plans with the Child Care staff Scott gives a quiet command and within minutes Scott’s driver has gone to the car and returned with a bag of child sized sweatpants and CCF shirts for the newbies.

The silent one on my lap is reluctant at first but once I slip a brightly colored T shirt over her dress she has new interest. She compares her shirt to the shirts of the other kids. Once she realizes her shirt has all the design and color features of the other kids she suddenly she feels not so alone. She watches her little sister who is eager to get a new outfit and soon she is slipping on the sweatpants under her little dress and T shirt.

All the new kids now have new outfits that brighten their faces and mark them for a new future. Safety, food, medical care, a life time of education and a community of love. They will never be alone again.

The girl slips from my lap, stands to straighten her new outfit out and jumps in to join the other kids for a group photo.

And now. Now we can move on. This part of our evening is complete.

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Reconcilin​g the Cambodian experience in the saddest of weeks….

Hanging heavily in the air this week is the feeling that the whole world is somehow struggling to come to terms with the unfathomable tragedy that is Sandy Hook and its shocking loss of life including that of 20 innocent little children.

As a mother myself, my own heart is aching for these lost babies, many whose only fault was being in the wrong place at the wrong time.

 

Moreover, how deeply disturbing is it that it has taken a tragedy of this magnitude for the world to actually give loud voice and focus to what in reality should be self evident: the preciousness and importance that is the life of each and every child in this universe.

As a mother of seven I think I would have found the misery of Sandy Hook near impossible to bear this past week were it not for the good fortune of having only just returned to Perth and home, from the incredible, life changing and uplifting experience of time spent with the child beneficiaries of Scott Neesam and his Cambodian Children’s Fund.

I learned so much from these beautiful happy young souls. This includes experiencing the life affirming power of realizing you’ve been with hundreds of children whose lives are not only being transformed through association with CCF, but literally have been saved, and bright futures created through the vision and energies of just one man. 

It is humbling to contemplate that in less than eight years, Australian-born Scott and his foundation have rescued more than 1300 Cambodian souls from their almost sure fate as children of the Phnom Penh slums: that of life scavenging on the stinking tips of Steyne Meechy simply to survive. Seeing these children, today receiving an education and assistance that may include food, accommodation and income support for parents that allows many to actually attend school, is both heartwarming and uplifting. In one of the poorest countries on earth, some if its poorest inhabitants are being provided with a future and new life few would ever have dreamed of, much less experienced were it not for Scott Neesham’s singularly stunning efforts and enterprise.

 

In a world which this week must sadly acknowledge its utter powerlessness in restoring those 20 beautiful lives now lost forever at Sandy Hook, equally I believe we can give honor and added meaning to each and every one of these little lives when we step forward to save another child’s life. This includes helping Cambodian children through the good work of CCF. It was impossible to walk away from exposure to the child beneficiaries of the Cambodian Children’s Fund without being struck by the thought that each child coming into Scott’s program is actually being given back a life: from barely surviving, today there is a large corpus of children who are actually thriving. Equipped with an education including leadership and vocational training, CCF is also working child by child to create the leader’s of tomorrow’s Cambodia. It won’t happen today or any time soon, but at CCF at least there is hope in the future. And as we well know, it is hope that helps hold us through the darkest of days. This includes these sad, sorrowful days as a confused world farewells those victims of Sandy Hook especially its 20 child victims.

I am eternally thankful for my Cambodian experience and the perspective it has provided, and I believe too, better enabled me to endure the horrible news that just keeps flowing from this saddest of weeks. It’s also why I Intend to keep making my own meaningful contribution to CCF ongoing into the future.

Contributed by Elizabeth/Wiggy Saunders

An Average Night

Photo Bohdan WarchomijChhot Srey Neang and siblingAs the US lies heartbroken in the incomprehensible aftermath of events at Sandy Hook, CCF continues its steady unrelenting mission to provide for the kids of Steung Meanchey, the community living at the edge of the former Phnom Penh municipal dump.

On last evening’s walkabout I accompanied Scott and the fabulous CCF Directors from the Australian office. Here is a list of the highlights:

• Played tag with a handful of kids at the Community Center until I was exhausted – They Won!
• Helped give out “Best Student” awards to kids that beamed with pride.
• Challenged an outdoor classroom filled with little ones to a “sing off” of “If you are happy and you know it” – They Won!
• Comforted a lost child until the staff could find out where she lived and get her home to her mom.
• Stopped off to see one of our most recently found teen girls who is without parents, at 15 has never been to school and was on the verge of going to work in a garment factory. She has just moved into our facility for older girls where she is surrounded by love, new companions, health care and the chance to learn vocational skills.
• Stopped off to visit one of our favorite grandmothers who tells me all her problems in Khmer which I cannot understand and gratefully receives small gifts of cookies and sweets we bring her. She Wins!
• Walked for hours through the so called village avoiding the usual amount of garbage, rubbish, puddles of mud and scary dogs.
• Stopped in to say hi and check on any number of familiar families and kids.
• Scott found a girl with a raging fever. Perhaps Dengue – which sounds terrifying to Westerners but more common than you imagine here. Called CCF emergency staff and put her on the back of a moto with staff and 2 sisters and off they went to the hospital. Not a fancy emergency car or paramedics but equally as effective.
• Found a devoted sister carrying her young sibling who is obviously in need of medical attention and nutrition and made arrangements for follow up care.
• Watch the older kids take responsibility for distributing dozen of cans of Pediasure, clothes and mosquito nets to eager hands.
• Returned home to a very cold, very cheap Cambodian beer and writing emails to staff for immediate follow up on cases.

As Scott said to our Aussie visitors: “A pretty average night.”

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