It had a been a bumpy road travelling south from Phnom Penh, the capital of Cambodia down to Kampot, known for its pepper and southern beaches. Our itinerary had stated we were visiting a music school and watch a performance of traditional Cambodian dance and music. OK, that sounds entertaining I thought.
We were ushered into a sparse hall, cracks appearing on the walls, tiled floor and a few rickety chairs lined along one end of the space. There were a few puddles of water in one corner – the roof had leaked in recent rain and an eerie silence settled around the walls – a silence that I had come to notice seemed to be part of Cambodia.
For the next 30 minutes or so we were entertained by a group of children – young girls dancing, boys playing traditional music instruments, traditional puppets moving along with the music. It was hauntingly magical. Slowly we realised that the children were afflicted with blindness, or other disabilities.
The Principal of the school then spoke to us. The children were orphans, abandoned by parents who could not look after their healthy children, let alone ones that could not easily contribute to the household or family business.
There is no government assistance in Cambodia, no access to education for the blind or facilities to help rehabilitate them into society. They are neglected and abandoned.
We then found that they were struggling to even feed the children, let alone fix the leaking roof or the crumbling walls.
We were heart broken.
The blind children opened our eyes. We saw how privileged we are to enjoy a meal, see a sunset, read a book, spend time with a family in the safety of our home.
Day Two of my Advent calendar for Making a Difference is the Kampot Traditional Music and Dance School for Orphaned and Disabled children, Khmer Cultural Development Institute (KCDI)
Its vision is to reach out to the most vulnerable children whilst at the same time providing them with complete residential care at our school, scholastic education from infant school to university and high-quality training in traditional Cambodian performing arts.
You can read more and consider donating at: