Wat Opot received some very special visitors. Thirty Khmer students from the Pannasastra University of Cambodia came for the day. Not only were they able to communicate with the kids in their own language, they in a sense represented Cambodia giving back. Along with the numerous practical items they brought (blankets, cases of soy and fish sauce, boxes of noodles, books and school supplies), they also brought with them a much bigger item; hope for the future. The Wat Opot kids were able to experience Khmer giving to Khmer. Something that in the 12 yearsWayne has been running Partners in Compassion, has only happened a couple of times.
The group began by unpacking all of their gifts.
And then a photo shoot.
The kids lining up to get their treat for the day – individual packets consisting of a toothbrush, toothpaste, towel, shampoo, soap, noodle packs, chips and candy. They also each received a tote bag/backpack for school.
The kids opening up their goodies
The youngest Watopotian was not left out of the fun.
It was doubly beneficial for the Phnom Penh students when they began to ask questions about the kids HIV status. Some had strong opinions about it as well; one young man stated “Oh, you shouldn’t have told the child he was HIV+, instead you could just say they take medicine for a fever.” After explaining to them that the only way to reverse the discrimination towards HIV/AIDS is to make it known and to show that those who are positive can live a normal life. Another said “If you tell a young child they are HIV+ then they will be sad and that’s not good.”
To help dispel the negativity they were attaching to the disease,Wayne organized a question/answer session with Wat Opot’s HIV+ teens. He told the students to ask any question they wanted of the kids but they were reluctant to do so for fear of hurting their feelings. Finally Wayne pulled one of the older boys out and had him tell his story. There were tears and genuine concern by the end of the session and the students left with a much different understanding of HIV then when they came.
Meanwhile, some other students ran and played with the kids. Some may have found a new sense of freedom in our vast outdoor space. Growing up inPhnom Penhin an apartment, perhaps, doesn’t allow room to run. Still others read the Khmer books they brought with the kids or sat quietly watching all the commotion.
More of the supplies in the office waiting to be unpacked and stored until needed.
Before leaving (with promises to come back) they got many of the kids together for one last photo shoot.
Many Thanks from