Tanya dining with some of the Young Adults
This year’s trip marks the tenth anniversary of my initial six month visit, volunteering in Cambodia. A visit that unquestionably changed my life, starting with the establishment of HOPE with Jo.
Looking back now, working with Sangkheum Centre for Children was pretty ground-breaking in Cambodia. As more and more orphanages were opening, (some sadly jumping on the bandwagon of booming tourism, and almost becoming ‘human petting zoos’), Sangkheum was working hard to reduce its numbers and ultimately make itself redundant.
It seems a good time to reflect on what compelled me to “give back” in 2006?
Well simply put, the recognition of the being in the fortunate position to make my own choices and create my own opportunities ……. which was only heightened after working with some amazing underprivileged children, with the biggest smiles and determination despite some sad background stories.
Ten years on, I am bursting with pride that we have been a small part of some fabulous success stories. Despite not having the best start in life, nor the riches required to attend well-resourced schools, children we first met, at Sangkheum, as shy, grubby, 12-13 year-olds are now working at hospitals, schools, an Internet service provider, NGOs including Save the Children, restaurants and hotels (as chefs and receptionists) and as engineers. Some of them are also husbands and wives, mothers and fathers. On this very trip I even met a very special two week old daughter…… and felt just a little old!!
During my visit seven more young adults moved out, so the Centre’s numbers have now dropped to 15 (from 60 when we first got involved). I had the opportunity to ask some of them how they felt about this move “excited, but also a little scared”.
They are a little coy with me, as they know without the support of HOPE from the early days of the programme they might not be getting the chances they have today – for this I express huge thanks to everyone who has supported us.
As usual my week-long visit was busy and I packed in the following:
• attended a workshop on budgeting for seven young adults at Sangkheum Centre, just days before they moved out into independent accommodation – one small part of the preparation programme that goes on for over two years
• visited the new “home” of those seven young adults with their social worker who will pop by daily as they get settled in and each Monday provide them with their weekly pocket money and living expenses
• visited other “graduate” young adults at home and talked about the jobs they now do, one is training to be a chef, the other recently finished a degree in nursing and is now working at the Angkor Hospital for Children.
• visited four young adults at work, including one managing one of the many Astro football pitches that have sprung up in the last few years
• met with the Programme Manager of Salariin Kampuchea to discuss the new Hospitality programme they are hoping to implement from March 2017, addressing a specific need for IT and language skills to enhance the “work readiness” of their students
• met all 30 students who attend the two Saturday classes of Life skills at Salariin Kampuchea, and sat in on that weeks’ team presentation on “Family Planning”!
• stopped by “Moto Doctors” a new initiative set up by This Life Cambodia (“TLC”), a social enterprise providing moto repair services and vocational training to under privileged locals, and making a financial contribution to the wider TLC suite of programmes. The TLC intern sponsored by HOPE is the cashier at this new enterprise and was delighted to show me around
• had lunch with the former director at Sangkheum, now the Executive Director of an equally great programme, the Women’s Resource Centre, providing valuable support on challenging women’s issues, including contraception and abortion advice, rape and domestic abuse
• caught up with four young adults in Phnom Penh, two still studying at university, a budding teacher and an engineer in the making and two in full time employment, fully independent from the programme, and planning weddings for 2017
Skype calls, written reports and photos are all great ways to keep in touch with the programmes you help us support. But nothing beats seeing it for myself.