I don’t get out from Wat Opot very much and usually, when there are trips off campus with a group of our kids, I prefer to let someone younger take them. Ten hours in a van with a group of teenagers is almost more than I can take now days. This trip however was a bit different in that it involved touring the USNS Mercy and I was given a special invitation because of my Navy background. Partners in Compassin was chosen as one of the NGO’s in Cambodia to receive medical teams and the ship sent teams out to some of our more remote offices, but on two days they also sent teams to Wat Opot to interact with our children and to provide water filters and testing of our water to make it drinkable.
The trip to Sihanoukville was arranged by the husband of one of our past Volunteers, Eugenie Brunner. Her husband, William Brunner is a USN Captain and general surgeon on board the ship. How could I turn down this chance… and I was allowed a group of 12, which was just right for all of our high school children plus one volunteer. We had to make an early start to reach the docks on time but the trip went well.
As we approached the harbor, we could see the ship in the distance. The kids were excited as we boarded the large boat that would take us to the ship. At this point it was still not evident just how big the ship was. As we got closer however, it became more and more spectacular.
We were met on board and given the grand tour by Captain Brunner himself which made all of us feel very special.
Unfortunately, during the tour the wind had picked up and although unnoticeable on the ship, when we stepped back outside the waves were quite large and the boat that took us back was very small. I won’t go into detail here but lets just say we were all very happy to get back to solid ground.
We found a place along the beach to recuperate and ate our lunch, since some of us had just lost our breakfast.
This is one of Cambodia’s newest hotels. It has been restored to it’s original grandeur over the past couple of years and one of the major contributes was a man I once took care of many years ago in San Antonio, Texas. His name was Kheam, and when I knew him he was just a refugee, placed in a group home. He had a dream however and worked hard to make it happen. He has done very well. I often tell the children I care for about him and so when we passed the hotel I asked the driver to go in. Everyone was reluctant to drive up to the place because the guards tried to keep us out but I told the driver to just keep going. I went into the lobby and as soon as I mentioned Kheam’s name I was referred to the resident manager who said he knew him well. After I told him my story he invited us to use the hotel’s private beach. All of the kids were hesitant to go into the hotel but once we got to the beach it was a different story.
Unfortunately the day had to end and we had a six hour van ride ahead of us back to Wat Opot, but the memories I am sure will last a lifetime and… who knows what dreams may come of it.
Our THANKS to everyone who made this day happen!