Alan is AWOL this weekend and asked me to write the final blog for the week so here goes.

Today the team rolled up their sleeves for something different - escorting 35 children around Dreamland, the fun park in Phnom Penh and clearly a highlight for them.

Last year, we had taken the children of Sfoda and some children from LRDE who are sponsored through DO Cambodia, but this time through the support of a Maltese benefactor, we asked if we could take children who had never been to Dreamland before. This made today extra special.

Most of the children were new faces because not all get to LRDE in time for our lessons. We arrived to find them bouncing at the gate eagerly awaiting our arrival so that they could dash in and get to their first ride. Their clothes were black with filth, their shoes (if any) torn or with the soles ripped off, but their smiles… beaming. We handed out a couple of multi-coloured Helen O’Grady t-shirts and released them on Dreamland.

I didn’t join the others on the Viking Ship ride this time, even though it’s my favourite, because I wanted to try and capture the expressions of the children on my camera.

Ok I’m lying, the truth is that last year a child vomited on Alan during this ride, I didn’t want to chance it happening to me and I wanted to have a front seat when it happened to Alan. It didn’t happen, sadly, but I have to say, Petra screaming at the top of her lungs for the ride to stop was more of a joy.

By the time the ride stopped, there were no kids to be seen because they had all tucked themselves underneath their seats in fear. Good fun for me.

After all the rides were gone on, 17 times over, we got them some burgers and soft drinks. What struck us most was not the speed at which they devoured everything, but their politeness and generosity.

Every child would reply with a ‘sank you’ (their pronunciation is one of a kind) and then get up and clear up their food when they were done to wait for their next instruction. One girl upon receiving her burger and fries, tied the bag up and sat down because she wanted to take the food home to her family.

In the afternoon we had our session at Sfoda and today was an arts and crafts day! Following our session of arts and crafts with LRDE on Wednesday, we were prepared for the worst. We went armed with ready mixed paint, newspapers and clearly outlined departments and leaders.

Boy was this for nothing. We explained to the children what we wanted as an end product and they took it from there. They agreed between themselves who was going to take which letter of the banner and which colour they each were going to use, and instantly got started, unlike LRDE where we were having to peel children off the banner because they wanted to convert the letter ‘k’ into an ‘o’.

SFODA has come a long way and we’re always impressed at the ability of the staff to keep things going so well, despite their many set backs. The place is looking great but more than that, the children are looking happy and this transcends into our lessons.

Above all though there is a huge sense of family and respect. Older children, boys and girls alike, continuously encourage and assist the younger ones in lessons. They were showing them how to paint well, where to place their freshly painted hands and feet and where not to! There is love and support amongst the children who have ultimately now grown to be one big huge family of 65.

Now its dinner time here and we’re down to four of us as the rest of the gang have fanned out across the country to explore. On Monday we get ready for another week of teaching, packed with new dances, fun songs and most importantly more madness. We can’t wait.

Chiara Hyzler


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