During our stay in Siem Reap, we were invited to visit the ACODO Orphanage. The children from the orphanage perform a concert at 6:30 pm most nights. We were asked to arrive an hour early to check out their programmes and facilities. Chris and Natalie, two of their current volunteers, showed us around. Lots of the kids came up and spoke to us during our tour. Although extremely basic, it seemed a wonderful environment for them, with dormitories, school room, stage area, library and music room. Several other rooms are ‘works in progress.’
The staggering thing is how they provide a safe, nurturing environment for 76 kids on a shoe-string budget and no government support. They are entirely funded by donations, which is where the concerts come in: to attract exposure and possible donors. We were surprised to see that one of the prominent contributors is Goodwood Primary School from our home city of Adelaide in South Australia. Hengchhea Chheav, the Cambodian founding president, set it up in 2008 by selling his house and car. He rose from poverty to become a university lecturer. They rely on volunteers to run the programmes and have great plans for the future, including a school for up to 800 and a self-sufficient farm out in the country. The current group of kids are among Cambodian society’s most vulnerable: from impoverished families, single or no parents, disabled, victims of AIDS/HIV etc.
The concert was brilliant. You could tell by the intensity of their movements and joy on their faces that the kids were right into it. They were clearly enjoying their chance to perform. Backed by a band of fellow students, children performed a range of items, based on Cambodian culture. They did a wonderful job! After the show they happily mingled with the audience. Donations were sought but there was certainly no pressure or hard sell.
This is a highly deserving organisation!! Any money received is put to extremely good use. For example, they can feed the entire school community of over 80 for just $160 a day. The school for 800 that is planned could be completed for less than $100 000. The money spent just to improve my school in Australia could fund 50 new schools here!! The number of volunteers passing through, and the fact that many return, is testimony to the wonderful job they are doing. We were amazed by the lovely feel and sense of community there.
1. If you would like to volunteer there, we highly recommend it.
2. If you have any spare money, donate it through their website. (For example if you could spare $1 per day you could fully sponsor a child, receive their school reports, emails, updates and so on.)
3. If you have a spare $89k you could buy a whole school!! Now wouldn’t that make you feel good!
See their website for further details: it will warm your heart! www.acodo.org