Our family has just returned home from Cambodia where we spent a couple of weeks with 150 amazing kids at an orphanage in Phnom Penh. Most of these kids are orphans and have been rescued, often around the age of 5 or 6, from living on the garbage dumps just outside of the city. The orphanage is a very uplifting place covered in decorations and photos of visiting friends who have helped this organization over the years. At the the head of this family of 150 children is an extraordinary man, Sokha who, along with his wife, look after and imbue these kids with love and a startling sense of self worth and respect not just for themselves but each other as well.
One of the projects we did with them was to write and illustrate your dream. What the future might hold if their dreams come true. The kids are all very clear about wanting to get educated and each have very clear ideas already about becoming doctors, engineers, english teachers, etc. At the Center for Children's Happiness, they are educated and many are eligible for scholarships to universities upon graduating high school. I have never experienced a more harmonious, kind and grateful group of young children in my life. We did artwork, photography, read books, sang and generally just spent time getting to know as many as we could. Our last night with them we had a party in the small cement courtyard of the Center. The kids danced and sang with such joy. It was so triumphant, so inspiring to experience. I will never forget it. This kind of happiness and gratitude maybe only comes from those who have been given a second chance at life.
The first 3 photos of the garbage dump below were taken by Sambath, one of the promising young photojournalists who lives at CCH. The photos below do not show the magnitude or the actual number of those living at the dumps. There are about 900 people who live and work there, picking through the city's refuse for recyclables and food. The two american girls in the photos are my daughters. To find out more about CCH and how you can help...http://www.cchcambodia.org/index.html