Reflections from an Orphanage Visit
It may happen that there are times when you might not be happy with your life. If you have ever had the experience of visiting an orphanage or a refugee camp, you will notice immediately that there are many people who are in much worse circumstances and are in great need of our help and support.
During this trip to Cambodia, I visited five orphanages. I visit orphanages quite often. Having met with so many orphans during my visits, I experience several emotions felt within my heart.
I encourage you to remove yourself from the comfort of your daily environment and to spend time with people less fortunate than us. This will help you fathom the reality of others’ suffering. I encourage you to step out of your own space, to read more, to learn more, and to have more communication with people from all walks of life. Sometimes it is necessary to talk with some people at a high level, and sometimes it is also necessary for us to communicate with those from lower social backgrounds, such as beggars, the disabled, homeless people, and farmers in poverty.
When I was in one orphanage, I asked a child how he felt about his current situation. He told me that he felt a sense of inferiority. The reason was that when he was very young, both of his parents died while fishing and he could only live with his grandma without any support for basic living needs. Besides the meals provided in the orphanage, he doesn’t know what else he can expect or what kind of future is awaiting him.
Later on in the day, the children in the orphanage sang an old song from Sihanouk’s time which touched not only myself but also our tour guide. Although he takes lots of travelers to visit all kinds of attractions all day long, he was really touched by these children, and on the way back he kept weeping in the car. I myself also felt deeply sad. So I suggest all of you focus not just on the bright side of society, but also be aware of the dark side. By doing this, you will find out how sunshine can penetrate the darkness and furthermore how much darkness still lurks behind the sunshine.
In Cambodia there are many opportunities for us to help others. There are many families and communities currently suffering. In some villages, families of men, women and children live in terribly poor sanitary conditions. These families deserve our attention. We also need to concentrate on the people living in floating villages, those who fled Vietnam and became refugees and can only make a living on boats. When these refugees fled Vietnam by boat, the Cambodian government condemned them to not settling ashore. Further, the government also ordered the arrest of any non-conforming refugees and those caught evading the regulations would be sent to prison. Refugees were also stripped of their national citizenship, which prohibited them from returning to Vietnam. As a result of the war, many lost their families, they lost access to their homeland and many were left to fend for themselves. Today, these refugees who live in the floating villages eat raw fish and drink cold water to survive. Such is their current situation.
There are also many refugees in other parts of Cambodia. If we look at the entire world, today the number of refugees has reached 45.2 million. You can imagine the life of these refugees who have lost their nationalities, lost their freedom, lost members of their families, and even worse, have no support for basic living needs. It may be necessary for us to travel to places such as Afghanistan or Africa to see and appreciate how difficult it is for refugees to make a living.
Sometimes you may feel that the food you are eating may not be so delicious, and you become slightly fussy. Or you may feel that your clothes don’t fit very well. Such things may happen, but you needn’t take them seriously if you have sincere compassion towards others. Instead, you will be aware of so many less fortunate people around you and you will genuinely care about them and offer your help.