28 December, 2008


Merry (late) Christmas!

I have been enjoying some time at home this week - that is my excuse to explain the delayed blogging. It has been a joy hanging out with my family and friends. I think this was the break I needed.

When we were in Cambodia we went to a school my organization have build a couple years ago. It's a first and second grade structure about 3 hours outside the capitol. We went there to do some crafts with the kids and to give away school supplies. It was a fun morning. Half the group did crafts with one class while the other half played games with the other class outside.

The whole time we were there a group of children hung outside the door. These kids were not dressed in uniforms, they did not attend the school. I wanted to ask why these kids - around the age of the students in school - were not there. Education is free to the community, but perhaps their parents did not allow them to attend. In this area school is only in the morning, so the kids can help their parents in the afternoon, so it's not like these students could be killing time until they went to class. They watched with curiosity while we interacted with the students. They watched us gush over the students, give them supplies and praise their work.

I have to admit it was these kids that took my heart. So much so that I started ignoring the students and went to make friends with these other children with the only thing I had - my camera. I think the digital camera is the most amazing thing ever! You take a picture and show it to the kid and they just smile. There was one shy girl at the window who did not want her picture taken, so took the pictures of those around her and when she saw their smiles she relented. I wished I had taken a printer with me so I could have printed out these pictures for the kids. Then they could have taken something with them. I felt selfish not giving school supplies to these children - but it was not my place to do something about it.

At noon the students went home, taking their bags of supplies with them. But the curious neighborhood kids stayed and kept watching us. What happened next broke my heart.

We had gathered in one of the school rooms to eat our lunch. We piled our PB&J, chips and cookies high on our plates and talked and laughed, almost immune to the kids standing at the windows, watching. I couldn't take it. When I was sure everyone in our group was served I made PB&Js and took them outside to the kids.The kids timidly took the food, I don't think they eat bread in Cambodia and I'm sure the jelly was super sweet. But they waited, patiently, while others took what was being offered, waiting to be served.

I wish, looking back, I had waited to eat so I could have sat with them...I wish we had made a more traditional Cambodian lunch and eaten it with them, I wish we had given them school supplies and invited them in to do crafts with us. I wish we had broken down that divide of "who we are here to serve" and "who else happened to be there"

It broke my heart. And even now, more than a month later, I am still struck by it.