Tuesday, January 18, 2011

First Official Day at Honour Village

After a couple of weeks of goofing off, we decided it was time to crack down and get to the business we came here for - volunteering.
Gordon now has orders for woodworking projects from three different places - easels for the kindergarten class that Steve is teaching at New Hope, a shelf unit for the medical clinic at Savong Orphanage, and long benches that will double as tables/desks for Honour Village.  On Saturday, he and a couple of our local friends went out to a 'lumber yard', which is nothing like our Home Depot.  I didn't tag along, so there are no pics, but try to imagine piles and piles of very long pieces of rough sawn lumber, and round, unsawn poles, all with seemingly no rhyme or reason as to sorting, and you might have a vague idea of what it's like to buy lumber here.  The price is also negotiated by the cubic metre, so it's not at all like back home.

Monday morning, Jan 17, we headed out to Honour Village.  Tee Tee went easy on us and took the good roads.  When we arrived, we learned that Susan, Chun Ly and the two volunteers were out at a nearby village collecting some more children.  I'd hoped to sit down with her and work out some ideas about what I could do there, and whether sewing classes would work, but instead I was left to wander about and just pick up whatever chore was at hand, which was just as good.

The first thing I noticed is the fantastic progress that is happening with the new building.  In just two days, the brick walls at the back are almost complete and the terracotta tile floor is about 1/3 done, where there was nothing on Friday!

Walls almost completely bricked and tile floor started
Bricklayer at work
Tile coming along nicely
A mountain of "Mountain' cement
So while Gordon was building some saw horses with Tee Tee's help, and getting his makeshift workshop set up, here are a few things I did.
A few of the boys watching Gordon at work
I helped with preparing lunch...a wonderful soup of fish, carrots, onions, wintermelon, pineapple, and some fantastic herbs.  One of the older boys helps too.
Thai washes the fish
The cook cuts the eyes out of a pineapple with a cleaver, and makes art.
What a talented woman!
I went out with Sovann in the tuk-tuk to collect the children from school.  In all, I counted twelve children - five on bicycles, and the seven littlest ones piled into the tuk-tuk with me.  I gather I was asked to come along to make sure they didn't fall out.  The little ones sang merrily and chattered away in Khmer, while Sovann's tuk-tuk followed slowly behind the five bicycles. We were a little convoy.  It is so reassuring to see these children being protected on their long trek back from school, since I know that most children here are just left to their own devices.
Four of the smaller children who rode in the tuk-tuk with me

The tuk-tuk follows slowly behind the children returning to Honour Village after school

Once back at Honour Village, the children lined up for their water.  It's a terrific program they have here to make sure the kids are getting properly hydrated.   
Lining up for water. 
Each name is checked off to make sure no-one is missed

Immediately afterward,  we got to the work of setting out lunch for 28 children.  Tables & chairs were set up, bowls and utensils set out and rice and soup dished out.  They ate heartily and we just kept filling up their bowls.  Afterwards, the children went up to their rooms for a nap, while a few stayed behind to help clean up.  Then the adults sat down to a meal.  We ate heartily.  I'm afraid if I keep eating this well, I'll be rolling home!
Eating lunch
The children clean up after lunch

While the children napped, I sat and chatted with Christina, a volunteer from Portugal.  She is on the last leg of a fascinating six-month journey, having spent 4 months in India, and the past two months travelling through Thailand, Laos and Cambodia, volunteering in every place.  I was joined by O.B. Happy, who is a big suck, and loves to be held and rocked just like a baby.

What's not to be Happy about?

When the children woke up, they found lots of things to play with.  Some of them are really good at the hula hoop.  Others happily played with the little cars that Gordon and I brought, and another small group constructed houses and cars and imaginary vehicles out of giant Legos.  It was fun just to wander through the little groups and watch the busy minds at work.
Hula hoop!
One little boy came over crying, with a nasty scrape on his arm, so Gordon and I got out his first aid kit and fixed him up with a nice big bandaid, which I'm sure he'll be proudly showing off to his buddies once the hurt subsides. 

At 2:30, Gordon had done all the work he could for the day, so we headed back to our guesthouse, with a feeling that we'd started on a good path.  I can't wait to go back tomorrow!

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