phnom sruoch district, Kompong Speu province – Dozens of children and staff gathered under the corrugated metal roof of a simple orphanage building Monday to receive the first donation of rice supplied by The Cambodia Daily Rice Crisis Campaign.
The orphanage, run by director Moeun Chamroeun, 46, was on first impression a fairly desolate place. But that faded as the children, finished with their morning classes at nearby Phlek Thirung primary school, trickled home, each one of them pressing their palms together to make a polite sompeah.
Monday’s donation of 7.2 tons of rice from the rice crisis campaign comes at a crucial time for the children of the orphanage, Moeun Chamroeun said.
Recently, support suddenly stopped from an overseas donor that had provided $700 per month for the orphans’ upkeep, while the center’s monthly food costs have continued to rise.
The donated rice will help provide meals to the 89 orphans, who range in age from 2 to 18 years old, for at least six months, Moeun Chamroeun said, adding that he intends to buy protein-rich meat for the children’s meals if donor support resumes from overseas.
Founded in 1999 on land donated by the military, the Orphan Care and Training Organization provides food, shelter and education to orphans from surrounding villages as well as provinces farther away, Moeun Chamroeun said. Four of the children are HIV-positive and need to be taken to Kompong Speu referral hospital for anti-retroviral treatments, Moeun Chamroeun said. However, for the past two months, that has not been possible as financial pressures meant the orphanage could not afford the cost of transporting the children for treatment, he said.
“I am happy to live here because it is close to my old village,” said Thy Mao, 16, who said he moved to the orphanage in 2002 after his parents died of AIDS.
Three of his seven siblings live at the orphanage. Thy Mao said the orphanage is also a short bicycle ride from Treng Trayoeung secondary school, where he is an eighth-grade student.
Though the rice donation should tide the orphanage over the next months, Moeun Chamroeun said he expects hardships to continue if the cost of food and transportation remains high.
“But we go step by step,” he said. “Although we face problems from outside, we have harmony inside [the orphanage]; this inspires me to solve the problems.”