Yesterday, after a long day at the clinic, we took a bus to see our volunteers and the children at Wat Opat Children’s Community. The children were already at the gate – welcoming us with an exuberance that one can only expect from 50 something young kids. As the bus stopped, a little girl of about 6 or 7 years came up and and put her hand on the glass. Her fingers fingers spread wide and she gave me a toothy grin. I put my hand up to the glass too.
We exited the bus and the children swarmed us. The rest of Team IWA greeted us too and we were happy to be reunited with our new friends. The sounds of laughs, “hello”s, and “good to see you again”s filled the soggy air. We were somewhere special.
“Lauren,” someone said. I recognised a girl’s soft voice calling my name. I spun around and there was Kunty, a 14 year old girl who l met earlier at the clinic when she came in for her AIDS checkup. She lives at Wat Opat with her mother, who is the cook for the orphanage.
“Hi!” I said, and we gave each other a hug.
“You came,” she replied, and I told her I wouldn’t have missed it. Wayne, who started and runs Wat Opat, came up to us and told us that he would give us a tour to begin with. I felt a small hand grab mine. I looked down and it was the girl in the red shirt who had put her hand on my bus window. There was that grin again.
“What’s your name?” I asked.
“Srey Poav,” she said.
“Lauren.” Srey Poav repeated my name carefully, as if each syllable were breakable. It came out more like “Low-wrem” but we both got the gist and she did a much better job at saying my name than I did hers, I’m embarrassed to say. So I had my own little escort as Wayne showed us around the community. We saw the volunteer dorms (which the kids are forbidden to go in!), the girls and boys dorms, their garden, duck and chicken roosts, and kitchen.
At one point I had stopped to take a picture with my IPad. The kids saw the device and instantly came over. “I try”, “I touch”, “I see”, they said.
“Ok,” I said. “Just touch here to see a picture and…” Before I had a chance to finish, their fingers were flying all over my IPad – they already knew what they were doing. They looked through pictures and frantically opened and closed apps.
“Ok, ok…that’s enough for now.” My battery was almost dead and at the rate they were going it would have been toast soon. We made our way to the kitchen where we ate a delicious red curry with rice. When we were finished, we went to the temple for meditation with the children and the monk…they practice it at 6:45 every evening. After meditation was over Kunty found me and we chatted for a while inside. She told me that she liked making Jewelry and liked to draw as well. I told her I did too.
I ran into Melinda, who runs the place with Wayne, and asked her if I could see the jewelry that the children made. She took me to the ‘shop’ and I was stunned. So many of the children make jewelry and they are so talented. There were trees painted on the walls and the jewelry hung on the limbs. It warmed my heart to see their creativity.
“The bus is leaving,” someone said. I wrapped up my conversation with Melinda and walked outside where Kunty was waiting for me.
“We have to leave now,” I said. She smiled and gently wrapped her arms around me.
“Can you come back?” Kunty asked. “I miss you.”
I smiled back. “I hope so.”