Today we had a 7am breakfast to get ready for a day visit to the village of Taom. After an hour and a half drive to the village, we were greeted by Thon, the parish coordinator. Taom is a village of around 1000 people, and around 300 families. The main church here remained untouched by the Khmer Rouge due to it’s use as a storage facility for their rice. To start off the day, we split into two groups. One group went to prepare rice soup, a weekly meal where children receive a bowl of rice soup from the church. The other group played with the children of the village through games, singing, and dancing. We played games such as duck duck goose, musical statues, and the hokey pokey. We danced to Justin Bieber and One Direction as well as taught them the Macarena, the chicken dance and YMCA. The girls who were cooking, were taught by some of the local village elders how to prepare the rice, pumpkin, chicken, carrot eggs and more for the 65 odd children at the church. Once the food was prepared, we were sung songs of thanks by the children and were able to introduce ourselves. We then served the children their food, enjoying the amazing food prepared by Polly, Molly, Charlotte, Sophie, Mia and Mrs Del Moro. We were then given the chance to eat our own lunch before resting for an hour. After this, we said prayer with the local residents within the church. We heard prayers in Khmer, as well as a variety of songs. Then, Thon took us on a walk around the village. We were joined by the village children who took the opportunity to hold our hands, talk to us and give us flowers. Along the walk we saw how the local people lived in their homes and witnessed the many different activities the children do in their spare time, such as riding bikes and swimming in the river. It was an emotional goodbye, as in the short amount of time, we had all grown attached to the children who were always happy and laughing.
It has been a privilege to guide the MSCW girls on their Cambodian journey so far. The immersion experience relies on our hosts welcoming the group into their community and allowing our young people to share their lives for a short time. It is this welcome and inclusion in the community that distinguishes an immersion from tourism. Inevitably there are times when our hosts need to alter plans made many months in advance. Today's visit to Taom was a great example of how the Lord closes one door and opens another. Spending only three nights in Pailin gave us the opportunity to spend a day sharing, serving and praying with the villagers of Taom and gave the MSCW girls an insight into a community that is quite different to Pailin.
I pray that God will continue to bless our trip tomorrow as we experience the Cambodian people's most sacred place, the temples of Angkor.