Never before in my life have the winter-related activities felt as distant and attractive as during this time. The snowstorms, skiing and building snow animals described by my friends in Finland seem like an imaginary fairytale that make me sigh with wonder. Yet their stories describe the same cold and dark Finnish winter that I never quite enjoyed. After only four months in the heat of the tropics I feel like I'm ready for a change... isn't the grass always greener on the other side?
I will always remember a moment in India, in the ladies room of a fancy hotel, where I and an unknown Indian lady both took our make-up bags out in front of the mirror. Simultaneously we both started rubbing make-up on our faces, me putting some brown tanning powder on my pale skin and she whitening her bronze skin with snow-white powder. Watching each other in the mirror made both of us burst into big smiles.
Back to Cambodia. The Phnom Penh-based team of Children of Cambodia has experienced a lot during the last quarter of a year, from typhoid fever and a stubborn battle against corruption to the genuine happiness resulting from successful work and progress.
In the beginning, the peculiar situations in different offices, where we were directly and indirectly asked for a "financial contribution," made us feel amused and slightly awkward. Now our sense of humor is limited. Not that the situations wouldn't be funny anymore: Last week, I was seriously asked for 50 liters of petroleum and office supplies by an administrative officer in the Ministry of Social Affairs.
Our Finnish volunteer, Anneli Weiste, with a baby she named Marketta after it was found abandoned in a local market.
Surely the fact that we refuse to pay any corruption money has been able to slow our work, and the message: "you must pay if you want to help", doesn't feel good. However the real reason for the lack of humor is the dreadful effect of widespread corruption in the fields of our projects. For example, as the numbers of children forced into sex slavery rise, the number of victims rescued from brothels by the police is close to zero. Both the police and the justice system have been silenced by money and organized criminal networks are controlling the playground. Because of this situation we have been concentrating in establishing networks to start systematic raids of brothels. Of cource, you would hope - and you would think - that some more powerful and influential leaders would show more interest in the issue...
Children of Cambodia has recently negotiated emergency aid for the struggling Nutrition Center Orphanage. We can feed the children for a period of approximately 6 months from the emergency funding. Our goal is to get more sponsors so that when the emergency funding runs out we are able to continue the food program and provide volunteers. The need for volunteers is great. With their help we ensure that the food and milk purchased by us reaches the right destination- the children. With the help of volunteers the children can also learn various skills, for example how to play and interact. Two British volunteers who recently completed their work in the NC were replaced by an American and a Finn.
director of Children of Cambodia