Thursday, July 16, 2009

Going to Cambodia anytime soon? Check this place out.

You won't regret it!

When Pat and I were in Southeast Asia, we had some great opportunities to meet new people and try new things. However, the social highlight of our trip had to be the orphanage we volunteered with while in Phnom Penh, Cambodia.

This orphanage is an interesting place. It's run by a man named Mr. Samith and his wife. The children here are not up for adoption- many still have at least one parent living- but their families cannot afford to take care of them, so they are sent to Mr. Samith.

He and Mrs. Samith treat the children like their own kids. The kids fight and squabble and cry, and are just like any other bunch of brothers and sisters. Their ages range from 2 to 18, and their main goals are education oriented.

Yes, for all it's faults, Cambodia is really putting a lot of emphasis on educating their children and these days, while it is quite common to see children out selling trinkets or begging for money, it is very much discouraged by the government and by the locals to buy from these children. Why? Easy. Because if the kids are making money, they won't go to school. And they need to go to school.

The kid's at Mr. Samith's orphanage want to learn. They're so eager. They're smart, and are fast learners. The orphanage is barely two years old, but in those two years, somehow, these kids have learned *a lot* of English. A lot.

It's not just the kids at the orphanage who benefit, though. The school that was specially built for the orphanage offers free English lessons to all of the children in the village (located just outside of Phnom Penh).

There are usually several volunteers teaching at the orphanage. Pat and I were pressed for time, but we managed a class with the kids and they were great! We had an excellent time! If you want to volunteer while you're travelling, you have some options:

You can stay at your guesthouse in Phnom Penh and hire a tuktuk every day (or rent a motorbike, if you know the way), or you can stay at the orphanage for as long as you like- for about 5 bucks a night you get accomodation plus all of your meals. Plus you get to play with the kids. Plus, when we were there, they had, like, five amazingly cute puppies to play with.

I think Mr. Samith is a pretty cool guy.

If you're interested in volunteering while you're travelling, or if you want to donate (the money goes directly to Mr. Samith and then goes toward the univeristy education for his oldest kids, as well as food and clothing costs) you can go to this website:

You should not donate clothes, non-food supplies or toys because it makes the kids fight with each other (you have a nicer shirt than me, wah wah wah, etc.). So many of the orphanages in Cambodia are gimmicks, but this one is legit, so you should support it if you have the time. If you are in Cambodia, a bag of rice is always appreciated as a gift, but is not necessary if you plan to teach. They want your knowledge more than anything.

Lee may be the reason I became so smitten by this place. He is just the best kid ever. Always smiling, always laughing- and he really loves his teachers. He isn't the best student in the class, but he is definitely the happiest and the sweetest! I just adore him. And I plan to sponser his university education someday.

Pat and our students for the day! The girls are so, so smart. They pick up on things very, very quickly.

Me, Mr. Samith and the youngest of the kids. What a great, generous guy he is!


Claire & Amy (aka Clamy) said...

Janine this orphanage sounds great! Amy and I are looking to volunteer at an orphanage in Nepal but we are trying to pick up a few other things on the way...we are on our way down the south of Vietnam to visit Tommy and then will be making it across to Cambodia at the start of August..this could be a good volunteer opportunity for us...Thanks! Hope all is well in Korea :)

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Anonymous said...

Is a U.S. citizen able to adopt from Cambodia now or is it still closed?