Xenia Polunin (a.k.a. Mujin) blessed Wat Opot with her presence again. Mujin manages her late uncle’s foundation, the Douglas A Campbell Foundation (DACF). Last year the DACF donated the money to create a beautiful volunteer dorm.
The DACF continues to be a generous supporter of Wat Opot, sometimes when we least expect it. Last month we received a surprise email stating that they had some money left over for this year and asked us if we needed anything. We had been tossing around the idea of getting our own Wat Opot TukTuk to make our lives a little easier and safer and as things usually happen here; when a thought is generated, the money magically appears.
At least every two weeks, a group of our HIV+ children (and some resident adults) must make the hour-long trip to visit the hospital in the town of Takeo. Sometimes there are 9 or more children who need to go, plus a chaperon and the local tuktuk we use can only seat 6 children comfortably and safely. Sometimes we can switch some appointments so that there are fewer children who go at one time, but mostly we cannot do so.
Our first issue is safety and although an overloaded unsafe vehicle is the norm in Cambodia, it is not something we condone. For the hospital visits our children leave Wat Opot around 6:30AM and sometimes do not return until after 4:00PM; we are at the mercy of the hospital staff and efficiency is not their strong suit. The second issue is cost. Twenty-five dollars is a high tuktuk fee for the distance, but we are paying for the driver to stay there with them because of the irregularity of time.
We also rent local tuktuk’s to take volunteers to the market, or to pick up large amounts of supplies when our broken-down SUV is not running or when we do not have a driver. There are places around Wat Opot that we would like to take small groups of the children to more often such as Phnom Tamao Zoo, and the little ones are unable to walk the distance to visit Phnom Chisor so often they get left at home.
With the DACF’s board’s unanimous decision to buy it for us (and a powerful motorcycle to pull it), Vandin ordered them straight away. We were fortunate that it was ready the day after Mujin arrived at Wat Opot for her yearly visit. Everyone was impatiently waiting all day for it to come – as we made the mistake of telling the kids it was coming “soon”. While we were eating dinner a dull roar erupted and we knew the tuktuk had pulled onto the property.
It soon became to dark for more photos, so we hustled everyone into the kitchen. Mujin was able to calm their excitement as she led them on a journey with their minds during our meditation session that evening.
The next day we were able to take a photo showing the actual tuktuk without all the children blocking the view. And Mr. Chay received the honor to pose as the driver. (The three of our 3rd graders were very thankful that their teacher did not show up that morning so they could run back home and check it out again.)
Now, with a tuktuk of our own, we have the freedom to plan more excursions, the ability to bring large amounts of fruit from the market each day, and to pick up supplies and transport our children to their monthly check-ups safely and more cost effectively.
After watching two of our staff try to drive it (one of which almost took out a tree!) we realized a professional driver was needed -a bunch of bananas from the market we can afford to loose, but this vehicle will be transporting our precious human cargo. We hired a local driver, Mr. Huit who has been taking us to Phnom Penh and back for a couple of years now and is someone we trust to take our kids safely wherever they need to go. He took it for it’s first spin this week by taking our kitchen staff to the market to pick up our daily food. One of the ladies commented that it was so nice for her to sit back and relax on the way instead of looking at the road driving our motorcycle (the way they used to go every morning). Mr. Huit then drove a group of the kids who had saved up their allowance to the market the next day and we comfortably fit 8 kids plus two volunteers.
Oh and least we not forget that while Mujin was in Phnom Penh, making her usual connections, she found out about a Christmas Fair that was happening the following weekend. She’s a big fan of our jewelry and promptly paid the 3-day fee for Wat Opot to have a table at a Christmas Fair. We sold almost $300.00 worth!
Thank you Mujin, and thank you DACF!!