I'm going a little off the beaten path this month for my Pre-New Year's Resolution. Over the past few months I've typically donated and shared with you places that help a large amount of people. This month, I'm very glad to be able to share with you a small place in Cambodia.
I hope in sharing this with you I am not giving any misinformation. If I am mistaken in any of this, I am very sorry and will correct it accordingly. If I am unintentionally plagiarizing anything, I will correct that as well.
I recently finished a book, In a Rocket Made of Ice by Gail Gutradt
Briefly, it is about the time Gail spent in an Orphanage in Cambodia. But what made this Orphanage different was that children with HIV/AIDS lived there. They could live and receive an education, treatment and a loving atmosphere where they were once feared and abandoned.
To borrow from the website, "What is special about Wat Opot? It is
rare, and perhaps unique in Cambodia, for HIV-infected and non-infected
children to live together as family, sharing homes and meals and playing
together. This sets an example for the community, and its effect on
increasing tolerance and diminishing fear cannot be overstated. Many
orphanages are simply holding tanks, where fortunate children are either
adopted out, or warehoused til they come of age. Wayne sees Wat Opot
as a loving extended family, a place where children will want to return
to visit after they have left to live in the larger community. It is
open to everyone, the poorest of the poor, the most rejected and
abandoned, regardless of religion or past experience, and to young and
old. Money is tight, but Wat Opot Project runs on the less
quantifiable energies of love and kindness, service, faith, and
What really drew me to this community was one of its founders, Wayne. A Vietnam vet and the only survivor of an attack, Wayne wanted to be of service to others. He teamed up with a Buddhist, Vandine Sann, and created this community that would eventually be the Wat Opot.
What I really love about Wayne is his love and compassion. He gives himself fully into what he does every day. I love his integrity and his deep faith. He is doing God's work. He is helping others and giving all the has to better the lives of others. He is truly a good man. I have so much respect and love for his work. The people who volunteer with him are good people.
It got me really thinking about volunteering abroad. Living in Cambodia for a few months and doing what I could to help.
But I'd be lousy at it. I can easily follow the majority of the rules. I always dress modestly. I don't smoke/drink/do drugs.I would respect the culture and conduct myself in a way befitting of the community.I would throw myself into the community with love, enthusiasm, and respect.
The thing I would struggle with, is coddling the children. I would love and dote. I wouldn't be able to resit a sweet smile or a cute face. I would be the one to buy 50 or more small pieces of candy for all the children. I wouldn't be able to restrain myself. I would become attached. Which would just be difficult for all of us once I left. I love kids. I tend to dote on the Regular's kids at work. I can't imagine how attached I could become to these children.
But Wat Opot really touched me. As amazing and life changing it would be to join a foundation that traveled to volunteer and help others; I don't think I'm ready for that in my life. Change like that is scary and wonderful. To quote a loved book, The Bean Trees "Some folks are heroes and take the risks, and other folks do what they can from behind the scenes." Until I get to that point of service in my life, I want to work behind the scenes.
I encourage you to read the book. It is heartfelt and full of life. Getting to know Wayne, the volunteers and the children of the Wat Opot Community only furthers my resolve that one person can absolutely make a difference.