I was greeted warmly at the arrival hall by Mariya and Zul, my Cambodian family and team. This young couple who are successful enterpreuners donated two acres of land to us in 2012 and helped us oversee the construction of the home through completion a year later. I visited the home in 2014 along with my dad, who was the main reason for the success of this project, and a volunteer from the Bay Area (see reflections from that trip here).
I asked my hosts what the children would love to have on a hot summer day like this. After considering a few options, I decided to get them apples (a fruit we take for granted), rambutan (one of my favorite tropical fruits) and their favorite drink. We drove for about two hours in their beautiful brand new Range Rover and arrived in Kampong Cham where our home is located. The kids were lined up in two straight lines in anticipation of our arrival. I got out of the car and all of them said “Welcome” in unison. The younger ones were shy and avoided eye contact initially but we quickly broke the ice as we started to get re-acquainted.
We sat together amidst tall and slender rubber trees that adorned the front yard of our house. I suddenly thought of an idea to test the children’s knowledge of the Quran. As a cool breeze shifted through the air, we began to recite chapter 55 (Surah Ar Rahman: The Merciful) in groups of four. Some of the children had amazing voices and recitation, some hesitated in the beginning, but with encouragement all of them managed to complete the assignment. I ended the session by asking the two Quran teachers to recite a few pages of another chapter, which they did really well.
We then enjoyed our afternoon treats and, as the sun began to set, we proceeded to perform our sunset prayer. I’m grateful that there is electricity in the house as there was none in 2014. Back then I remember having to use a candle at night and when we woke up for dawn prayers.
The next day was just as hot and humid. We decided to do play outdoors under the shade of the trees. The first game was to blow up balloons and throw them in the air. Some of the balloons popped, which resulted in lots of giggles. The kids were so excited as they jumped to catch other’s balloons and I managed to capture these magical moments with my phone camera.
Next, we had a water balloon fight. Each child got to play with me by trying to run away as I threw the balloon on the count of three. Some got away; some got soaked. We then moved to throw and catch water balloons. I got to play with all the kids one by one but amazingly the balloon always burst when it was the turn of one of the kids to catch. They wanted so badly to see me get soaked but somehow I managed to dodge every balloon. After 2 hours of balloon games, we were hot and thoroughly exhausted. It was time for another treat: more favorite fruits and drinks.
The kids wanted to show me their own game. It’s called “two and three.” Everyone linied up in a circle made of three people. When an assigned person touched the one in the front the person in the back became a target to be caught. It’s basically a game of who can run the fastest and it went on for quite some time.
We ended the day by having a delicious traditional Khmer soup called Laksa. It’s rice vermicelli with vegetables and chicken soup using coconut milk, turmeric, and other local spices. We all ate heartily and many of the kids asked for seconds. As I watched them enjoy the food, I felt a surge of gratitude in my heart, first and foremost to our merciful Creator, and second to my GiveLight family. What a blessing to be able to turn their sorrow into joy, hopelessness into dreams. As always, the most difficult part was saying goodbye. I wished I could stay longer but I had to visit another GiveLight home. I do hope to return before another five years pass. In the mean time, I leave these children in the hands of God and our generous Cambodian team. Thank you for being a part of our beautiful journey. To see more pictures from our trip, please click here. If you would like to help maintain this home or sponsor a child, please donate now.