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open mind, empty stomach

travel, food, and fun

My friend Kyle worked at the Future Light Orphanage, which is just outside of Phnom Penh, and arranged a visit for me while I was in town. Upon arrival, I received a tour of the grounds by one of the project coordinators. I forgot his name, but he is responsible for helping the kids get into university, vocational training programs, and find jobs after graduating high school. The story behind FLO is a great one. They have been operating for 16 years and currently have over 200 children living there and provide English and computer classes for another 100 from the local community. The residents come from all across the country and there is a very strict vetting process for admitting them. They typically go to FLO at age 6 and leave at 18-20. The children are either orphans or come from extreme poverty. While at FLO, I got to help with lunch service. They serve rice and one soup/curry for each meal. All of the children sit at a series of large tables under a pagoda. Cooking, cleaning and serving is done by the kids and a rotational system is in place. If a kid wants more rice, they raise one finger in the air and if they want the soup/curry they raise two. I got to be the ricer. I’m thinking the kids had more rice because a foreigner was serving. They were really cute and nice. After serving, I had lunch with the staff. They get their food from the town just outside of the orphanage and eat family style. It was really good, authentic Khmer food. After lunch, I got to help teach a remedial English class for an hour. The kids were between 6 and 15. We covered numbers, capital and lowercase letters, and played some games. It was really fun! Because it was a Saturday, there wasn’t much going on after class got out. The only kids that were around were the troublemakers who were doing manual labor as punishment. There are a lot of disciplinary issues at FLO, but they rarely have to expel any children. The little troublemakers reminded me of myself. I walked around and took some photos, then headed back to PP. It was a great experience and I’m very glad I was able to have done it.

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