All the children at CCF attend public school and classes at CCF as well. They take classes in English and also those focusing on their culture—art, dance, theatre and language.
Cambodia lost a generation who could not pass down to the next the many basic elements of their culture or daily lives, such as recipes handed from mother to daughter, folklore told by fathers and the “when I was your age” stories typically passed from grandfather to grandson.
In addition to their studies, the children learn a vocation.
The resilience and spirit of the children of Steung Meanchey was inspiring and life-affirming.
At the bakery, children learn to make items such as nutrient-enriched bread, which is then brought to the hungry families at Steung Meanchey.
In a classroom stocked with mirrors and beauty supplies, girls learn hairstyling and makeup application. In another classroom, they learn how to use sewing machines to make and design their own clothes.
The older girls and mothers of children at CCF make unique and attractive totes and yoga mat bags from colorful (unused) fish sacks. Called “Srey Mean Chey” (srey means “female” in Khmer), these totes are owned by a number of A-list celebrities who have visited CCF and are now staunch supporters.
I was blessed to meet the young girl I sponsored a few days before I left Phnom Penh. She worked in the dump for 12 years, and has lived at CCF with her brother for the past two. She was shy and pretty nervous (as was I) about our meeting. She made me a paper-chain link necklace—like I remember making in school. It was one of the most special gifts I have ever received.
I also visited the daycare facility. Because of malnutrition, these young children are many times smaller than their counterparts in other countries. These kids return to the dump every afternoon to be with their families. They want to know your name and to be picked up and held. Despite all they have been through, they have not lost their souls. There was such wonderful energy flowing from them that you didn’t want to leave the sparkle in their eyes and their beautiful smiles.
This all affected me very deeply, and I did not have one good night’s sleep while I was in Phnom Penh. Even back on Maui, I still am haunted by what I saw and experienced.
But as depressing as it may have been at times, the resilience and spirit of these children was inspiring and life-affirming. Their love of others is hard to describe, and they support each other with compassion and a selflessness that is admirable. I stand very humble and in awe….
It was very difficult leaving these kids and CCF, and I now can see why my friend Scott has devoted all his time, energy and passion to the children.
We make so many unimportant things important, take for granted so much that we have, and don’t take pause often enough to thank God for everything that we have been blessed with. I now thank Him every day for what He has given me—and for introducing me to the children of Steung Meanchey.
As Scott said to me before I got on the plane to Phnom Penh, “When you come for a visit, you won’t go home the same.” And he was so right.
I will return this year to Phnom Penh for business and to work with the CCF, but most importantly, to see the children. Because it’s remarkable what is happening there amid the dirt and the stench of Steung Meanchey.
On the Cambodian Children’s Fund Website is a simple quote by Gandhi: “The law of love could best be learned and understood through children.”