We visited an orphanage today. The first thing I noticed was a young girl of about 7 years old in a purple shirt. She was covering her eye with her hand. Eventually, she joined with the group of other kids but still seemed embarassed and kept trying to cover her eye (with her hands, hair, turning her head). I went up to her, gave her a hug, and asked her to play a clapping game with me. She agreed, took her hand off her eye, and revealed a swollen reddish eye. My heart wrenched. I don’t know how it happened to her, maybe she fell, maybe she got in a fight, maybe she has pink eye, maybe someone beat her. All I know is that she was ashamed to let Americans see her face.

We played a few group games with all of the children (maybe 20 kids) and one boy named Pay-ya attached to me. He climbed on my back, pulled at my hair, held my hand, and chattered away in Khmer to me. The pastor later told me that he was the “energetic” one. I taught him how to make a high pitched sound by blowing on a piece of thick grass.

Many people thought that the worst part of this excursion was leaving the orphanage, watching the children sadly wave goodbye and knowing that we would never see them again. However, I think the worst part is realizing that these children are used to having groups come in for an hour and then leave. They are used to getting their pictures taken so that some American can “remember their experience forever.”

We also went to IJM and learned about what they do in Cambodia and other countries. In Cambodia, IJM works mostly with young girls who have been sex trafficked, helping them to be reintegrated into society and to start a new life. One personal story showed the work that IJM is doing because a teenage girl was saved from sex trafficking and now owns her own beauty salon and volunteers with other young girls who have recently been saved from nearby brothels or pimps.

To finish the day off, we went to a restaurant and met Theary, Marti and Daravuth Seng. I sat across from Marti and learned all about his high school days at GRCHS and college days at Calvin.
Alison DeRooy


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