“Religion that God our Father accepts as pure and faultless is this: to look after orphans and widows in their distress and to keep oneself from being polluted by the world.” – James 1:27
Greetings from Phnom Pehn, Cambodia!! Denise and I are very excited about our newest and first signature MERCY program, the Chhem MERCY Orphanage, here in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. We have great vision for the orphanage and the 58 children that reside here. Since arriving early September to lead the orphanage we have made considerable progress improving the living conditions for the children, while solidifying plans for long term growth and development of the orphanage and the children.
Cambodia is a very beautiful country, rich with culture and history. Phnom Penh, the country’s capital, is the most populous city in Cambodia and was once known as the “Pearl of Asia” due to its vibrant, French-influenced architecture, which still attracts tourists from all over the world. However, by 1975, the country would undergo a ruthless and brutal four-year long regime under the dictatorship of Pol Pot, a Communist revolutionary and political leader. During his regime, approximately two million of the 8 million people of Cambodia were were tortured and executed. This included the country’s intelligentsia–teachers, doctors, lawyers, and government officials.
During this horrific regime, many children were separated from their parents, leaving them as orphans. It is with this history that General Chhim Chhem, a one star General in charge of Cambodia’s Military Police and an orphan from the Pol Pot regime, founded the Chhem MERCY Orphanage.
The Signing of the Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) marked the new partnership between the Cambodia Social Welfare Mission (CSW) and MERCYworldwide.
Denise and I have set our hearts and minds to solidify the partnership with General Chhem and the CSW Board, to develop a rapport with the staff, to build relationships with all 58 kids at the orphanage, and to set the direction for the orphanage moving forward. Along with Tieng Saman, the Executive Director and overseer of the daily administration of the orphanage, we have established three key pillars of development for the children in the orphanage, which will also serve as the orphanage’s foundation:
As part of our Education pillar, we are currently working on our “Champion a Child” campaign, a scholarship program for the High School and University students in the orphanage. All donations received specifically for this campaign will go towards tutoring and educational support for the High School students and a scholarship fund for the University students. The funds will also be used to support additional schooling costs, including school supplies, school uniforms, and food.
Within our Health pillar, we have already launched an initiative that we call the “Clean and Green Initiative”, a mindset-based initiative focused on sanitation and hygiene. It is through this initiative that we want to beautify the orphanage grounds, improve the living conditions, and raise the standards of cleanliness and hygiene. We have already completed a number of organizational and gardening projects around the orphanage, and our next big project is the reconstruction and rebuilding of the bathrooms in the boys dormitory. The new bathroom plan includes all new plumbing, ten new toilets, ten new showers, six urinals, and two long community sinks made from cement. Once the bathrooms are completed, the next phases focus on other areas of the orphanage, including the construction of a reading room and lounge area for the children, a playground for the younger kids, and an all purpose field for sports and outdoor activities.
We are especially grateful for the generosity of everyone who has donated to support these various projects and help us lay a solid foundation for the orphanage based on these three pillars. We are particularly grateful for the generous, $25,000 donation from the Sharon Wong Foundation, which will fund the reconstruction and rebuilding of the boy’s bathroom. We are very excited for the kids and what’s in store for the orphanage in the next 6-12 months. It is our vision and hope that, within the next 3 years, the Chhem MERCY Orphanage will accommodate 100 orphans!
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