Anticipation is running high this morning.
Today we start classes at LRDE in the morning with a repeat at the Sfoda orphanage in the afternoon. It's actually not really a repeat because later this morning we will be dispatching two TEFL-trained teachers to give some basic English lessons to the children at Sfoda.
It's a little something extra we can do with the orphanage but not with LRDE because the flow of street children of different ages at the restaurant is unpredictable with numbers swelling from 20 to 120 in minutes.
We arrived a little after 9am and the early birds at LRDE immediately came running out to greet us - there were smiles, hugs, laughter and a few tears (yes, I'm looking at you, Petra Sant).
Most of the children at this time of the morning are new to us because the older ones are still at school by the time we arrive, but that doesn't stop them from jumping on us and hugging us like they've known us all their young lives. Head-lice? Possibly, however, my case, alas, there isn't enough hair for a louse to cling onto anyway.
The group was treated to a traditional Khmer dance with my own sponsored child, Sreypeap, in the lead role (naturally). We then learned the Friendship Song which was specifically composed for DO Cambodia. This was immediately followed by some warm-up exercises taken right out of the acclaimed Helen O'Grady Academy curriculum.
I finally handed over my trusted teaching tambourine to Ms Katherine and the girls to continue with the scheduled lesson plan whilst Chiara and I sat down for a meeting with the president of LRDE, the amazing Mr Chhiv.
Mr Chhiv and his operations manager, Sreymom Chea took us through some of the problems faced by LRDE. In their own words they "put a lot of hope" in our organisation and whilst education remains paramount if these children are ever to climb out of the poverty cycle their parents exist in, it is even more important that they get food in their bellies.
The thing is, while the funding for food at LRDE has remained unchanged over the years, the number of children turning up each day has grown substantially and there simply isn't enough to go around.
DO Cambodia was asked whether we would be able to assist and the short answer is a resounding yes, but of course we need help from benefactors, so I am taking the opportunity right now to ask readers to help in any way they can.
Any donation will go towards creating a monthly allowance for LRDE to be able to provide a balanced diet of meats and veg for these developing little human beings. Please fire an email to the address at the end if this blog. Any amount will be greatly appreciated so please do help if you can.
Another problem that is beginning to surface is the fact that children grow up and, just like in our world, teenagers finishing high school need to decide whether they are going to learn a trade or head off to university.
Sreymec h, for instance, has just turned 16 and is determined to become a doctor. Both her parents had HIV and have since passed away so she lives in a corrugated shack with her grandmother who washes laundry in order to scratch a living.
Our very own Dr Alexandra had a long chat with her about the medical profession and was surprised and impressed by her interest and ability to absorb information quickly. We hope to be able to support Sreymec h's future in any way we can.
While we were there hairdressing students from Caritas Cambodia turned up to give the children haircuts. These Caritas students are deaf mutes who wish to contribute in some way to help LRDE. LRDE on the other hand insist on paying for the haircuts to reciprocate the support. The result here is a typical win:win situation as the students get their training, and the children get their haircuts.
We headed off to Sfoda in the afternoon. Again the welcome was overwhelming and we had children flying at us from every direction.
We are very satisfied with the improvements to the orphanage when compared to last year. DO Cambodia has contributed substantially to these improvements by donating a mini computer lab so that the children can develop their ICT skills, use the internet for research and also Skype occasionally with their sponsors, who they refer to as their godparents.
We also provided the orphanage with a brand new kitchen - a massive improvement on the rather unhygienic space they were using before. We also upgraded their showers and provided sinks graded to cater for the different ages of the children who call Sfoda.
Thank you for following our blog and believing in our mission. We are asking benefactors to donate any amount so that we can help Les Restaurant Des Enfants (LRDE) to continue feeding the street children of Phnom Penh. No amount is too small. Any amount will help.
Please send an email to email@example.com and we will get back to you. Thank you.