Met the children and Lidia at our hotel in Cambodia. I was immediately struck by how well behaved the children were. At this point I didn’t know they were from an orphanage. Lidia came over and gave us a leaflet detailing what Together for Cambodia does. I then went over to speak to her and she invited us to visit the next day. Andrew went to see her. At no point did we have any contact with the children. We were sat on the balcony of the office. We were never in the house as it is the children’s home. Lidia told us about the charity and her involvement. She had originally come to Cambodia from her native Spain to do some volunteering. That was in 2007. The original director of the charity was found to be having relations with some of the children and was therefore removed. This then created problems re keeping the charity up and running. Lidia had numerous trips to the local council to cut through all the red tape to ensure she herself could run it. There are 42 children in the orphanage. Not all of them are orphans. In Cambodia there is a very high rate of domestic abuse, alcohol abuse and gambling. A lot of the children are sent out to beg for money at the tourist areas of Angor Wat. There are no measures to say that children have to go to school so they are uneducated and the cycle continues. All of the children go to a private school which costs $800 per child per year. They all learn English and Spanish, are taught how to divide chores between themselves and all work together. Lidia has bought an area of land that she hopes to build a new house and library but can only do this with the help of donations. I have never been more struck by a person in my life. She is selfless and never stops thinking about her children. They all call her mum and she’s obviously very loved by them. She works with local businesses hence why she was at the hotel. She brings about 10 children a week to the hotel so they can be in an outside environment and have fruit and snacks provided by the hotel to them. The hotel has a placement coming up for one of the boys who has just graduated and who wants to work in the hospitality industry.
However, it’s not just about the children. Lidia works with the community too and has a sewing project for women. They earn $150 per month (bear in mind teachers earn $50 per month in state run Cambodian schools) hence why we hear there is much corruption. Teachers ask for money to give pupils better grades etc. we also visited this project and it made me so emotional to see these women trying to write an amount in a book and also how old they looked compared to what their actual age was. We only spent a couple of hours with Lidia but I left her with tears in my eyes and an enormous kiss and cuddle. Her story has stayed with me. I just couldn’t get out of my head those happy faces of children that were being treated with respect and dignity. Therefore we have become sponsors to do even just a little bit to fulfill those children’s dreams and hopes for the future. Wouldn’t it be wonderful to have a future Cambodian prime minister from there. Wiping away tears now. I would love to go back and see what progress is being made. Lidia is in constant contact with us updating on what’s happening with the new build and the children etc.
Leave it at that just now but part of my heart stayed in Siem Reap in Cambodia.