On Sunday I travelled out of PP by tuk tuk to Takeo Province. The reason for the journey was to visit an AIDS Hospice called the Wat Opot Community. The Wat Opot Community takes care of children who are effected by AIDS. It is suitated on a rice field behind a run down Temple, 47km outside Phnom Penh, The Wat Opot Project started out in 2001 as a refuge for dying victims of the Cambodian AIDS Crisis - Now its focus is children.
Many of the residents of the Community are children whose parents died at the Project. One third of the 65 children presently living on the site are HIV Positive as are all but two of the 20 adult residents who help with the care of the children. The Wat Opot Community is unique in that it does not segregate those children who are HIV Positive from those who are not. Wayne - One of the founders of the Project took us around the site. Much of the comunity was like other orphanages I had been too. The dining area, the homes, the play areas - Here however they also have an on-site crematorium for disposing of the AIDS victims once they die. He told us how the children would even assist in preparing the crematorium for those who die to assist in the grieving process. A shrine to the children and adults who have passed away is also very sad but at the same time positive that they had this hospice to turn to when they were in need and that they certainly have not been forgotten.
The visit to the Project was spured by a Community Art Project and an open day that took place today. I ended up buying 2 paintings done by children. One of them was from a boy who had proudly showed us his picture of the mountain and tree. I couldn't resist buying it. With my help he detached his picture from the temporary gallery made of wire and bamboo (that the child artists had constructed that day) and then, after politely saying thank you, ran off with my $5. He said he was 12 but my guess would have been 8 or 9. It constantly surprises me how old children are here in comparison to how old they look. Its best to guess and then add on at least 3 years.
After the tour I found the little boy to take his picture. He later presented me with a gift that he had just made - A keepsake box. It was emotional even if it was just a bit of cardboard he had shaped and covered with Barbie wrapping paper. He is an adorable child. The Project is an amazing place. I have no idea how the director keeps going with so many deaths.
Their website is: http://www.tsoham.info/index.htm - take a look! You can read about their art project here: http://www.tsoham.info/index_files/art.htm - The other picture I purchased is the one with the monks sitting looking at the view - Its on this website if you scroll down.
This little girl enjoyed loading her brush and then flicking it at the very large canvas set up for today. Very Jackson Pollock of her - Her Grandmother did not agree that she was a genius and was more concerned about the mess she was creating!!