Saturday, July 17, 2010

Cambodian Service-Learning - Rhenish Homes

A team of us spent 2 days in Rhenish Homes, an orphanage run by the International Christian Concern about an hour and a half’s drive outside of Phnom Penh.  The last stretch of the road was unpaved, and full of potholes.  Hence the ride was very bumpy and slow. 

The orphanage is in a village of rice fields.  The rainy season has just started, the fields are filled with rain water, and the young shoots of the rice are being planted.  It makes very pretty pictures. 

Rice is the staple food here.  Our lunch consists of rice in soup.  The food is simple, fresh, and tasty.  I was told an extra meat dish has been added because there are guests.  And the kids let us get our food first.  The kids can eat a lot, and very quickly.   Our hosts were afraid we may not have enough if we do not go first.  I can believe that.   I was in a boarding school for poor kids when I was their age, and I remember eating 3 to 6 bowls of rice at dinner. 

All our food are cooked using big pots on these 4 charcoal-fired stoves.  They remind me of the orphanage in DingXi, Gansu.   There they use coal, because coal is plentiful in China.  Here charcoal is the cheapest fuel.   Another reason is there is no electricity supplied.  This orphanage runs a generator for lighting purpose.  And the generator is shut down in the evening after 8:30PM, when the kids go to bed. 

There is also no piped water.   Everybody collects rain water using huge water pots.  They also draw their water from the local water hole behind the orphanage - it is essentially also rain water.

Collecting rain water is far from sufficient for an orphanage with 90 kids.  So the orphanage dug 2 wells, costing several hundred US dollars each.   Fortunately, because it rains a lot here, they do not have to dig very deep to reach the water table. 

Such is the primitive situation in which the kids live.  But, for them, this is paradise compared to what they were used to.  Many used to make their living picking trash from the infamous garbage mountain.  Some have stolen.  There are 4 brothers here whose father ran away, whose sister died, and whose mother sells fruits in Phnom Penh but is often sick and cannot make enough money to feed them.  Here they have a warm bed, clean clothes, clean and nutritious food, caring teachers, an education, a future, and God - all for free. 


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