As we entered the slum area of Mondul 3, in Siem Reap, the children sitting by the side of the road greeted us with waves and ‘Hellos.’ The rocky, uneven surface of the roads slowed down our pace which provided a young boy just enough time to be able to jump on the back of the vehicle and come along for a ride. With the wind blowing in his hair, and eyes, he laughed, with a grin so wide that one couldn’t help but join in with the laughter, too. The further into the area we travelled the bumpier the ride became until, that was, we came to a halt and as I placed just one foot on the ground my hands were gripped by tiny fingers pulling me along to come and play. Surrounded by smiling faces I became a human climbing frame, with a child on my back and one swinging from my arms and one clinging to each leg. This was, without question, the friendliest, happiest greeting I had ever received and I instantly felt overwhelmed with joy. Some of these children had been born with HIV, some of them had parents who had tried to sell them for as little as $100 out of sheer poverty and desperation. Yet, despite all this, they were without doubt the happiest children I had ever met throughout my travels.
The young woman working for the charity gave a speech to explain the work they do however the children were more interested in distracting their new playmates and the sounds of their cheers and laughter drowned out the poor girl’s voice. We did our best to listen, however paying attention isn’t easy when your arms are swinging children up in the air and there is a child climbing up on to your head to try and reach the tree. After the unheard introduction the children performed some songs they had learnt during their English lessons and we were all soon joining in to ‘Heads, shoulders, knees and toes’.
When it was time to leave, in order to visit the new school building, we had to physically peel the children away from our bodies, which was hard as they were obviously having so much fun and didn’t want their new playmates to leave. Seeing the amazing work being done here was so uplifting, but there is still work to be done. If you are interested in helping this charity you can find more information at www.newhopecambodia.com