The Movement On Own Feet - Centipede

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Visit in Wat Opot

Dear friends,

On Tuesday, February 21, 2006 I returned from Phnom Penh, where (except the working issues) I has the great opportunity to visit all the children that Centipede is sending its love and happiness to.
On Thursday I went with Mrs. Linda Vejlupková, who has been living in Cambodia for years and who helps the old and sick people, to Takeo province to visit Father Wayne and his children in the temple Wat Opot. The way by local bus took almost 2 hours and it was very interesting. Father Wayne expected us already and we spent a very pleasant morning together. Wayne was telling us how he got to Cambodia. He has a severe Asian experience from the war in Vietnam when he had to kill the potential enemies, including the 12 years old children; those belonged to the enemies as well... The time in Asia left bad memories in his mind that turned his life upside down. After years spent in Honduras, where Wayne took care of street children and worked in a clinic, he found the power to come back to Asia.

Wayne has been in Cambodia for 9 years now and he has found Wat Opot, a temple in a forgotten place of an almost forgotten country. He faced lots of pain, illness and suffering during that time, but he has succeeded to give lots of hope and help to the others. Almost all children who are in Wat Opot, are orphans, HIV positive and very very ill. They have at least their bed, helping hand that can please them and a nice word that helps them in their toughest times of pain (and unfortunately dying as well). An important part of the temple is hospice where the lives of the small and old ones finish – but in a decent and peaceful way.
Wayne fights with a huge ignorance about the illness, the prejudices and characters that are very often not that easy to understand for us, Europeans. They know that there is something like AIDS, they know that the illness is incurable and the people die of it… nevertheless, they reject that a man with AIDS (and the children are not guilty in any regard) is still a man…. Maybe the saddest story of all was the one about the boy, 15 years old, who came to the gate of the temple, half dead. Wayne invited him inside and took care of him for a long time, until the boy got better. The boy started to eat, speak and help others with the work in the temple. When he got better and started to believe that a “normal” life has begun for him again, he encouraged himself to go and visit his family to the village next to the temple. However, the door stayed closed… because he was ill and that is nothing to be forgiven. This hit him very much. For him, who fought his illness so bravely, this was far too much to bear. He hung himself…
Except these very sad storied that could be told on and on, there is a lot of hope, love and happiness in Wat Opot. The happiness of small everyday things, like fresh blossoms of the orchids, or fresh cut mango... Love for others, because a man is loved in this place... And you all contribute to this, because you send your greetings, love and memories and you are thinking about your friends across the world. You cannot imagine how happy and grateful the children are for the help you bring to them. I was happy too to see the children, playing carefree and make fun as any other children in the world.
On the way from Wat Opot we stopped in the suburbs of Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia... this memory will not go easy out of my head. I saw people who live in such an unbelievable poverty, the community of a couple of shelters that cannot be called houses. Each family has at least 5, but rather 6, 7 or 8 children and live as there would be nothing else in the world, but dirt, dust and garbage. And all of this just a couple of minutes from the main street of Phnom Penh. These children cannot ever be clean as there is no water... the water comes only in rainy season when it floods and destroys all their „houses“. So much desperation all around... I did not have the strength to think.... I only felt that „our“ children are so beautiful, merry and despite their fate they are happy to have us, have you, who are interested in them and will not let them fight their fate on their own. When I was walking through – I am not afraid to say – the junkyard where the people live with lots of children, I realized that it is not possible to help to all of them and the money of the world is not enough... and it hurt me very much. But thanks to your works there is a hope that step by step a happier live for the children will come. I was leaving the place with a very sad feeling.
On Friday, I took off for a trip to the sea, where the children from the House of Family were expecting me. After long 5 hours of travelling by bus, I came, early in the evening, to Sihanoukville in the South of Cambodia. I was very happy to meet after a longer time the Slovak team from the House of Family, wonderful doctors and workers who take care of the children and ensure the medical treatment for them. These people consider their work as a mission and are fully devoted to it. At this time, there is again the doctor, who stated the whole project and literally was driving around Cambodia and picking up the children from the streets. He, as all the others from this incredible team can be proud of the work they are doing. They substitute parents to these children and are everything to them. It is wonderful to see that the children pay them back with their gratitude, never ending effort to fight their fate and love that can be seen very much. For the trip to the sea, the Slovaks arranged a bus, free of charge and a small house that the children lived in, was offered by Don, a British man who knows the people from the House of Family and help to realize the wonderful weekend at the sea. Well, on Friday early in the evening, we prepared for the children the table full of fruits and waited for the children to come. In a while, the first ones appeared and I had once again the wonderful feelings when you not only feel, but also see that what you do is wonderful. The smallest ones in the front, followed by the older ones, with the boys and young ladies at the back. Every child had a flower in the hand and came to me to thank. First, they greeted us with a loud „Ahooooj“. My tears that I am not ashamed of, were the tears of happiness and love. For all of you. I recognized the faces that were singing their songs. Sophan, who was dying a year ago... he was smiling and singing, his hair grew again... little Hong, a little lady, was dressed up for the special event... and all the others, one by one, were beautiful and happy. I was thinking about all of you at that moment.
The weekend by the sea was really great, the children enjoyed it fully... they could not sleep in the morning and very early they were ready to run to the sea... they had wonderful swimming suits and the swimming belts (in the shape of swans ;o)). The sea was marvellous, the waves were exactly as big as they should be and the sun was doing its job really well. We were building the sand castles and other funny stuff... To get them out of the water was really difficult; they did not want to get enough of the sea. One forgot that they are ill and that their fate is the way it is; they were just normal kids that could enjoy the happiness of their lives. Some of the children, whose medical condition was not that good, were just lying and relaxing under the tree. But it was also clear that they were enjoying their „sea-time“and they appreciated the change, leaving the city for a while.

A common trip, you could say. But the way it refreshed the children and made them smile, is simply incredible. After we returned to Phnom Penh, I went to see the children again to their new house, in which they just have moved in. They decorated it in a very nice way and keep it perfectly clean. I got a beautiful present, a t-shirt decorated by the children. I will keep this forever.
To see the children, smiling and frolic, is more that all the money of the world. It is enough to have half a dollar for them to get the proper medicament that keeps them alive, food, and education. Half a dollar, that is about 3 and half Norwegian crowns.... Thanks to you, these 55 children in Cambodia and Thailand are much better than if they lived in the street and the sparkle in their eyes was slowly fading... Your work is amazing and you can see that even small amount of money can do almost miracles.
I thank you in the name of all children for the happiness that you bring to them. I thank to all the devoted people who live with the children and take care of them, because their selfless work is irreplaceable. And I thank for that I could meet you and thanks to you help to all who need it.
Thank you.

Truly yours,
Hanka Flanderova, Bangkok

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