One of the greatest things about traveling without a plan is that you’ll find yourself in places you never expected to be.
About three weeks ago I was in Mui Ne, Vietnam and had a room overlooking the hotel’s pool with a shared balcony. The balcony seemed like a pretty good place to drink and be a bit rowdy at night, but the whole shared thing could easily put a damper on that if it was occupied by the wrong person. Having already met a few people who were looking to drink on the balcony, it was clear I needed to investigate this issue. I knocked on the door and decided to see what would happen. This is when I met Rob, who answered the door wearing his boxers.
It turns out that Rob and I have a fairly similar background, lived in around the same places, and found ourselves traveling for the same reasons. Although in Vietnam, he soon had to go back to Cambodia for a job that he accepted at a children’s school/sponsorship organization. (I really don’t know the exact words for the place and I’m sure he’ll correct me later…) We exchanged information before I left and established the idea that I may see him again later in Cambodia.
Well, I’m in Cambodia now – Siem Reap more specifically. Yesterday I went to visit Rob at Feeding Dreams Cambodia to get a look at the place he’s working. Although it would be a good first guess, he isn’t teaching English at the school – he’s serving at the Global PR Liaison.
At its core, Feeding Dreams is an education program for underprivileged children in and around the city of Siem Reap. It is the place you’re money goes to when you sponsor a kid “for only the cost of a cup of coffee each day.” While there I ended up teaching part of an English class, took a bunch of pictures, and carried four children on my back while running circles around a car. In addition to the language lessons, the organization does a lot of other things for children in the community – from getting children new clothes to rescuing them from environments where they will more than likely be sold. The key though, is the English classes. Remember that this is a country where, during the Pol-Pot era, anyone who even seemed remotely intelligent was kidnapped and killed at the various killing fields and prisons around the country. For these children, learning another language is the only method of upward mobility that exists to them. The longterm goal is that they can somehow get involved in the growing tourism industry within the country and eventually support themselves and their families with something other than their bodies.
Despite their situation in life, the children really are happy and rambunctious …children. They ran around with basketballs, jumped rope, and chased each other around the small courtyard at the school. (It should be mentioned that by school I mean all six of the classrooms are wooden huts with thatched roofs and desks that were probably made by hand no more than 10 minutes from the school itself.) Lunch for all of the kids was a half a baguette with some condensed milk spread on the inside, and the school sold snacks and drinks for what amounts to roughly 12 cents a piece.