A trip topped by spaghetti
The thing I love most about visiting the Roteang Orphanage is that it’s like going to a friend’s home. Upon arrival, I am greeted by lots of happy children, friendly nannies and attentive staff. I am also reminded, once again, how fortunate we are to have such wonderful people caring for our kids.
A new addition to the team this fall was a delightful young adult, Houston Warren from Washington state, who was spending part of his gap year at our orphanage before he enters college. At the TSF English School evening classes, Houston aimed to improve the students’ ability to understand a native English speaker. While there, he also identified some of the orphanage children who were struggling with the language and provided them with the extra help they needed. A bright, likeable guy, Houston got along well with the nannies and other staff, and seemed to enjoy his “pied piper” effect of drawing 20 boys along with him everywhere he went, even while shaving!
A Smaller farm, a Larger School
Unfortunately, we had to again move our farm project and Khmer Literacy School to a new location in Roteang village because the land we had been renting was sold. We have now rented a smaller piece of land, more appropriate to the smaller number of workers who are available to farm the land. We brought in a number of truckloads of dirt to fill some ditches on the property, and built a new farm literacy school there. This time, the school was constructed totally with thatch, eliminating the metal roof, so it will be cooler for the students and teachers.
Our agreement with the farmers is that we will employ one member of their family, and they must bring their children to the literacy school. In reality, many more students attend the literacy school than the children of our farmers. The new school is built to serve over 140 children of various ages during three different sessions in each school day. The goal of the school is to provide Khmer literacy skills for students who are eager to learn but unable to attend the village school.
While we had been somewhat concerned that we might not be able to attract enough students to this new location, once again, the classrooms were full in September.
On Top of Spaghetti...
There is always time to have some fun with the kids at the orphanage; and what could be more fun than sharing with them the original happy meal, spaghetti. Sally Stokes and I did some shopping at the Lucky Market in Phnom Penh and headed back to the orphanage with 11 pounds of spaghetti, a dozen cans of sauce, two entire bulbs of garlic, eight onions, 50 loaves of bread and enough ground pork to feed a small army.
Preparing this dinner was a challenge. We took over the orphanage kitchen, filled it with steam, the young and the old, gratefully accepted some help from the curious staff, and somehow avoided heat stroke while working over the steaming pots in the Cambodian heat. The end result was worth the wait. With only three forks in the entire orphanage, the kids eagerly ate their meal with big spoons, chopsticks and even their fingers. It was a delight to watch these kids slurp their first spaghetti and wear it proudly!
Sincere Pride and Gratitude
Always a highlight, this year we had seven college graduates and the rain did not stop their families and other villagers from attending the ceremony.
One mother in particular was filled with joy and her smile beamed with pride. She and her son, Roueng Borey (2nd from left), used to live on the side of the road. Now, equipped with an education and a good job, Borey was able to obtain a loan to buy them a home. In a long letter of thanks to his sponsors, he writes, “I would say that I would achieve nothing without you. You always give me hope, encouragement, motivation and advice… I promise I will share all of my achievements and knowledge… to create a sustainable development for my country, as your country, USA. I am sad because I stop being your sponsored child… I am happy because I can be independent to lead my own life.”