The invisible scars of Cambodian kids

Cambodian kids smile. Not always maybe, but very often. Especially when they see some white faces. They love them, it might be because in the villages they live they don’t see them too often. Or because white faces often say hello and wave. A Cambodian wouldn’t do that. There is too many kids in this country – too exhausting. Nonetheless, there is more in a life of a child than white faces and a smile. It might be shown in their dark eyes. Rather sad facts. Malnutrition, child labour, child trafficking, death of a parent, … – you name it. And, even if it is – in comparison – only as “small” as the lack of love or attention or being neglected. It carves into their hearts and the older they get the deeper the cut will be.


There is treatment, though.
According to John F. Kennedy, former president of the USA, children are “the world’s most valuable resource and its best hope for the future”. Period. This is why we need to protect the smallest and weakest and give them back what the past of Cambodia – its war and genocide – had stolen years ago: Love. Recognition. Dignity. Belief in themselves. Attention. Faith. Encouragement. Hope. Childhood. An unending list.
You can’t buy these. But you can give them. That is, what we made to our mission at ICF Cambodia.

In our Kids Church, passionate Khmer leaders empower the youngest generation in many different ways. While some kids need medical care for their sores and enjoy the careful treatment of the First Aid Team, others are absorbed in playing soccer with an gymnastic ball or climbing around the tire playground. Some less energetic kids are having a great time drawing. A bit outside from this little chaos a group of children is taught a vital hygiene lesson. The teachers make this serious topic as interesting as possible, explain it well and ask the listeners to share the new knowledge at home.

Later on, they divide in two groups. The younger kids – some are as young as two years – continue with more fun and game and some storytelling inside the house. The majority though gathers under the vast roof and sits down on the simple bleachers. Those are the latest upgrade to our Kids Church. It had grown unstoppable to over 350 kids every week and it became impossible to see everything while sitting on the ground a few rows back.

The music starts, hundreds of children jump on their feet, dance and sing. Afterwards, they sit still while a little drama is being played and one of the leaders shares a story from the bible. Then, they have the opportunity to share in smaller groups about their experiences during the week, difficulties in their lives and what they have learnt. Some minutes later, all together queue up and grab lunch before they are being brought home by rented trucks accompanied by some leaders.

Our Kids Church leaders are mostly volunteers, thrilled to make a difference in so many children’s lives. Even though I am not involved in the Kids Church I love being there. People who know me, know that I am not much of a child person. However, these kids have stolen my heart and give so much love and thankfulness back – even when you only high-five them. To see the passion of the leaders, hear the joyful shouts of the kids, their excitement in their eyes when they are being picked up – it is indescribable. And then there is this other side. To see them eating as if they haven’t had food for days and even taking bags of rice back home to share with their family – it breaks my heart.