Below is an edited version of Wong Lai Cheng’s article on her recent trip to Cambodia.
I praise and thank God for a meaningful trip to Phnom Penh, Cambodia to minister to the under-privileged children living in the slums. This trip came about as a result of a community project run by four women who were my classmates in Primary School. Their goals were to reach out and provide these children in the third world country with gainful employment.
Day 1 (Friday, 25 Mar): We arrived in Phnom Penh early in the morning and had lunch at the Khmer-Thai restaurant. We visited the Genocide Museum which is housed in the former Tuol Sleng High School building. When the Khmer Rouge came to power in 1975, they converted this school into a prison and interrogation centre (called S-21) headed by the infamous Kaing Guek Eav (a.k.a. “Duch”) who is currently on trial for his crimes against humanity. We also visited the VillageWorksTM of the Girl Brigade Ministry where the ladies are taught to sew crafts for a living. This is to help them to overcome the trap of poverty. We also visited the Cambodian Harvest Dried Fruits Co. Ltd., a company who helps the mines victims to rebuild their lives by providing them employment.
Day 2 (Saturday, 26 Mar): After having an early breakfast at home at 7.00 am, we travelled to the Women and Children’s Clinic, which provides pre and post-natal care to the needy women in the village. The name of the clinic is rightly called “Jehovah Jireh” (the Lord will provide!) This clinic also acts as a day-care centre for school-going children. The Singaporeans and Australians’ volunteers adopted this centre. When we reached there at 8.30 am, the children were waiting for the volunteers to conduct songs, crafts and stories telling. There were approximately more than 80 children, with 1-15 years old children coming from the slums and villages. These poor children came without slippers and shirts. Their hair were unkempt and infected with lice but their faces were filled with excitement. They came to “Jehovah Jireh” centre hoping to find help from the volunteers each Saturday.
Our group gave them slippers, biscuits, crafts, colour pencils, crayons, children clothing, which they received with much joy. One of us, Audrey, trimmed and washed their hair, clothed them wth the used clothing which we had brought along. Serena Lee and her daughter sculpted balloons for them. We taught them Christian songs such as “God is Good to You”, “Jesus Loves the Little Ones Like Me”, etc. We also taught the children to memorise “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved” (Acts 16:31) in the Khmer language! For craft, they had the memory verse in a heart-shaped piece of paper. Oh! They were so delighted that they used it as a ‘fan’ too due to the hot weather (39oC). Time flew and we had to leave at 1.30om for lunch. Thereafter, we visited the Choeung Ek Memorial (i.e. “The Killing Field”). Many of the Cambodians who perished under the Khmer Rouge regime ended up dumped in one of the dozens of “killing fields” scattered across the country. The killing fields were essentially ad-hoc places of execution and dumping grounds for dead bodies during the Khmer Rouge regime (1975-1979).
Day 3 (Sunday, 27 Mar): We left early in the morning to catch the ferry at 8.00 am to attend a Khmer church in Prekompel Village. They worshipped in Khmer language. It is a wooden hut church next to a pig-sty. We saw two cows lying around the sandy roadside. The congregation consisted mostly of 40 children and teenagers. Some young children loitered along the roadside to see and to listen to the Christian songs sung by the youths in Khmer language.
We took the opportunity to teach them English Christian songs along the sandy roadside. Not long, we saw many other little children emerged from the villages, with their faces and legs covered with dry mud joining us. It amazed all of us to see their resilience to survive and their desire to learn. They are at least 20 of them ranging from 1-9 years old. Such is the simple “FAITH” – Forgetting All I Trust Him. We left at 1.00 pm to catch the ferry to return to Phnom Penh in time for lunch.
God is gracious to grant us fine weather in the late afternoon to enable us to enjoy a boat cruise in Mekong River and to see the lives of the people living on boats. I was touched by the bravery and assistance offered by a 10 year-old boy who held a bamboo stick on his shoulder as a handrail for us when we walked along a narrow plank to enter into his boat. Thank God for safety and fine weather – indeed God is in control!
Day 4 (Monday, 28 Mar): We visited the HIV Children Orphanage which has 95 children under its care. These children, ranging from 1-12 years old, were picked up from the roadside – perhaps their parents had died from AIDS. A volunteer and a nurse tended these children with their prescribed medication. We took a walk along the Japanese Bridge to view the Mekong River too.
Day 5 (Tuesday, 29 Mar): We paid another visit to Jehovah Jireh Centre and brought along more clothing and toys for the children living in the slum areas. At the same time, we also revised with them the Memory Verses and sang with them – this time in English.
Indeed, the work among the children in Cambodia was exhausting but significant. We were able to share God’s love to others. God is indeed gracious. Salvation is of the Lord. I thanked God for journey mercies and we returned safely to Singapore on Wednesday, 30 Mar. Praise God for His grace that I was able to minister to the children and the orphanages during this short trip to Cambodia.