Visit to the PCH

By Judy Goodwin (Ottawa, 2019)

I have supported ‘In Concert for Cambodia’ for about ten years, both as a donor and as a volunteer at many of the concerts. On a recent trip to Southeast Asia, I made arrangements to visit both Peaceful Children’s Homes (PCH). I saw for myself how very peaceful and well-run the Homes are. I am especially impressed that both homes are managed by very capable young people who grew up at the Homes: Veuk Chum is the Executive Director for both Homes, while Sok Sarin is the new Manager and Director of PCH 1. What is remarkable is their commitment to “give back” to the Homes, after completing their university studies and gaining valuable work experience elsewhere.

In Battambang, I visited PCH 2 whose young residents are now attending university. There I met two charming young men who are studying agriculture. Together with Veuk Chum, the Executive Director, they spent the day proudly showing us the area, while educating us about the turbulent history of Cambodia and the origins of the Peaceful Children’s Homes. The Homes were created in the 1990s to take in homeless children returning from the refugee camps on the Thai border. Since that time, the Homes have also taken in children who have been orphaned or abandoned, rescued from abusive situations and human trafficking, or who have escaped extreme poverty.

The Director and his staff are keen to make the Homes as self-sufficient as possible. The tour included a visit to the PCH farm about an hour’s drive away. I saw the duck operation in which ducklings are hatched and raised to market size. Then I was taken to the very large fishpond to watch the fish being fed. The PCH Director explained how the farm provides income for the Homes as well as ‘hands-on’ training for the agriculture students.

PCH Executive Director, Veuk Chum, (on the right) with Put Choeun, Bachelor’s degree student in Horticulture and Agriculture.
Put Cheoun, with PCH employee, Kim They (in the background).

Near Phnom Penh, I met Dr. Kim Van and his wife. Dr.Van is a former “PCH child” who studied medicine and is now a practicing medical doctor. I interviewed him in his tiny, gleaming clinic and was very touched to learn that his childhood dream was to become a doctor to treat the poor who cannot afford medical care. He came to PCH because his family was very poor and unable to send him to school.

Dr. Kim Van and his wife
The two young men who recorded the interview are Cheng Rithy (on the left), studying art and media at Norton University in Phnom Penh, and Thet Sokleap (on the right), a graduate in Media Studies.

When I arrived at Home 1 near Phnom Penh, where the younger children live, everyone was very welcoming and friendly. I immediately felt relaxed and ‘at home’, staying there for three days. The children from Home 1 attend public schools in the area. The younger ones are driven by tuk-tuk while the teenagers ride their bicycles eight kilometres to school. Applying my (retired) teacher skills, I was able to help fellow-Canadian, Luc Payant, with his English and computer classes. Luc had worked as a nurse in the Cambodian refugee camps on the Thai border in the 1980s. Over three years ago, through IC4C, he offered to volunteer at the Homes. He is greatly appreciated by the directors, the staff and the children.

As I wandered around the beautiful, shaded grounds, I observed the children just being happy kids – enjoying activities such as playing in the bushes with sticks, kicking soccer balls, laughing while gardening, excitedly feeding fish and lovingly caring for animals.

Luy Son, age 13.
Kim Lang, age 12, cuddles her favourite kitten.
Panha, age 12, plays very gently with some curious puppies.

Someday, I hope that Luy Son, Kim Lang, Panha and the 25 other children at PCH 1 will be able to attend university and become well- educated Cambodian citizens. Our efforts to fundraise through ‘In Concert for Cambodia’ will help to make this goal possible. I think this is a very worthy cause. Based on my stay at the PCH, I can definitely attest to the quality of care and education that these children are receiving – thanks, in large part, to your donations.

Judy Goodwin with some of the students.

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