March has seen an influx of new children into day-care. By the end of March we will have started 7 new children which is wonderful – that takes us up to 21, 19 full-time and 2 part-time. Our latest 2 are cousins who live nearby, we start day-care at 8am, but they were so keen on their first day, that they stood outside with their little backpacks on from 7.20am. Day one for them is never great when the realise their parent is leaving them and going away, it is made worse by the compulsory Covid test we need to do to ensure that they are well, but it is all soon forgotten, and they enjoy the games and playing with the toys.
It is lovely to watch the older more settled children helping the new ones settle in, especially the little girls, they are like little mummies reassuring and comforting the younger new children that day-care is a good place to be. Our 14-month-old boy has now stopped crying and enjoys playing with the toys, his only unsettled time seems to be going to sleep but isn’t he just a typical baby!
Because our building is so high (5 floors) we have been looking at better ways to ensure they are not on the stairs too often as many of the children do not have homes with stairs. In the morning we are now using the ground floor space to register them, let them have their morning snack, read them their Bible Story, and do prayers before we move them upstairs. They go straight up to the roof for play time which they love. We have a few bicycles, hula-hoops, and very large Lego bricks for them to play with. We would like in the future, to get more outdoor play equipment like a swing, small slide etc. This space allows them to play in the open air without the sun burning them. We are discussing other uses for the outdoor space, like doing lessons there, perhaps growing vegetables etc.
Our indoor space is also wonderful as we are able to separate the teaching areas from the play areas. The problem we have is trying to encourage the children to use the wipe boards and not the walls for writing on!! They do however love their art and they have just finished a canvas tree of all their handprints for us to put up on the walls.
When we look back at just what God has done over this past year – we have come so far, and it continues to amaze us. We have a building with 21 children who are safe, happy, and are gaining in confidence and in their learning. Throughout the remaining of this year and into the next, we will continue, by God’s grace to build on those numbers until we reach capacity.
As you may know, children say exactly what they are think. One of our girls said to one of our staff recently, “Nekru (teacher), your face looks ugly today, but it is ok, the children still love you.”
For me, I am smothered with hugs when I come into day-care. One little boy in particular for the past two years has been so difficult, disruptive, angry, not listening, hitting the other children etc etc etc. Now he is so loving, he is a beautiful boy, happy, helpful, listening and learning and runs to me with a big hug as soon as he sees me. What a turnaround!
I don’t know about where you live, but everything here that needs to be tied down seems to require Sellotape! I recently purchased 3 clothes rails for the day care washing and to get them back to day-care, they were sellotaped them to the roof of the car! I have seen washing machines, refrigerators, televisions, printers and many many other things sellotaped to the back of motorbikes, what would we do without it.
The Women’s Bible study with (3 men now), is continuing and they just love to ask questions. We have been doing crafts with them as well and they were so pleased with themselves after making heart keyrings. The men finished first and their work was as good as the ladies.
I am now going to have a conversation around fruit! Fruits taste so good here and locally produced pineapples, mangoes, and watermelons are not as expensive as back in the UK. I think I told you last newsletter about the price of strawberries from Japan $17.50 for 9 strawberries. Well, I was the shopping mall recently, and 20 strawberries now cost $79.90!!! I was dumbfounded. They must be dipped in gold leaf or something.
We also want to tell you a story about a jackfruit tree. Sokheng’s mother has a few jackfruit trees outside her home. She told Sokheng recently that one of her 3-year-old trees was not producing fruit and she would cut it down. Sokheng said to her “well did you try and pray for the tree?”. A few days later her mother telephoned her and said, “that jackfruit tree is producing fruit”, Sokheng said “what happened”, her mother said, “I did what you told me, and I went and prayed for the tree”. It now has 12 jack-fruits growing on it, how amazing, we just love how God works.
Our Staff member this month is Somira (Ra for short). Ra is 43 years old and cannot read or write. She lives in the village and is Sokha’s (another staff member’s) sister. She is responsible for our babies and does a fantastic job with them. We will let her tell you a little bit more about herself.
“My name is Ra. I am 43 years old, and I have four children. I came from Khmer Kraom province which is close to Vietnam border. I have 7 siblings in my family. When I was young, I could not go to school because family very poor and as I am the second oldest sister, I have to work every day – I went to the duck farm and looking after the ducks.
When I was 17 years old my family moved from our village to live in Koh Pich (which was a slum area). When we live in the slum, every day, for about four years, I was selling fruit. I had to walk around the city to sell the fruit from 8am to 8pm and make about £2-£4 ($3-$5) a day. After four years living in the slum, we had to move again to the village I live in now because the land was being developed so we could not stay in that area anymore. But thanks God, they gave us a piece of land to live on. When we first moving here, we had no job, no electricity or water. My husband is disabled but we had to go for fishing every day for food. A few years later they opened a garment factory near us, and I got a job to help feed the family.
In January 2022 I got a job at Child Haven Organization to work as a trainee daycare worker it’s the best job I ever had. I am so happy to work here, and I enjoy working with children. I love them same as I love my children especially my favorite one, a little boy 14 months old. I enjoy working with everyone and working from Monday to Friday so have weekend off and I don’t have to work extra hours like working in the garment factory. I thank Liz for giving me an opportunity to work here. I am now studying English 2 days a week after work with Liz. I really enjoy studying even though it’s difficult for me because I can’t read or write Khmer, but I am grateful, and my family is getting better as not so much struggling with money.”
Again, it is lovely for us to hear how God in bringing us to this village, has impacted lives. Ra comes in every morning with a huge smile on her face and is hearing and seeing God at work every day. Our prayer for her is that she makes the decision to commit her life to Jesus.
As Ra mentioned above, the Staff are learning English! Liz is teaching five staff members twice a week after the children go home. They are like teenagers, they talk too much, misbehave but we have lots of fun learning and they are keen. Pray for them that they will not become frustrated, will enjoy the classes and that they will gain confidence in themselves.
In July, after 2 ½ long years we are finally getting a trip back to Northern Ireland. We are so excited, we are going to spend time with our family (and finally meet our granddaughter), our friends and our church family. It will be a time of joy but also a time to enable Liz and I to say our goodbyes properly by visiting the graves of her father (who died a year ago) and Lady Dufferin.
We are fast approaching our third New Year (Khmer) so we will leave you with Bon Choul Chnam Thmey Happy New Year again!!
May God bless you all.
Until next time.
Mark & Liz…