The Kids of Anjali House

BY CARMELA MENDOZA
Nov 11, 2010
*Special to asia!

Next time you queue for a theatre ticket, think for a moment. Your 50 dollars can provide a nutritious meal for 80 kids in Cambodia.

There is a moment in Angkor which every visitor hopes for, when the scenery speaks to him more than the captured clicks of the camera and that which he remembers with absolute clarity. This is when humanity stares right back at him in the anguished yet hopeful eyes of a child who holds his palm out for a few pennies.

Children on the streets of Cambodia illuminate the country’s reality: poverty is extreme and the vast majority is still illiterate. From every one thousand students who begin primary school, only twenty-seven will graduate from secondary school.

At present numerous non-profit organisations are working to educate these children so they can improve their standard of living, Anjali House is one. Established in 2006 under the Angkor Photo Festival Organisation, Anjali House is a thriving centre that offers free after school programs for youth to keep them off the streets.

All of the kids at Anjali attend public school regularly but as soon as school ends at noon, they head to the centre for more curricular activities. Sounds like a burden for some, but what the centre offers is an enriching experience that the kids can never get in the streets or even in school.

The main centre in Siem Reap has several classrooms, a sports court, an outdoor arts and crafts area, a vegetable garden and an IT lab where computer literacy is taught. Programs and activities at Anjali House benefit over 80 youth of all levels that help them learn new skills, and develop into responsible adults. Classes cover subjects such as language (English and Khmer) reading, technology, math, science, history and the arts. Free meals, professional dental and medical checkups as well as family counseling are regularly provided by the staff and its team of volunteers. Anjali House also supports 47 families through its financial assistance programs, which covered food, house repairs and even funerals.

Believing that a child’s development is not solely dependent on books and traditional learning, Anjali House provides children with different avenues of creative expression through dance, visual arts, sports and photography. This November is the sixth year of Angkor Photo Festival, where the students partner with tutors for photography workshops. The children’s heartwarming images have been exhibited in over three countries, and can be found in an online shop.

Anjali is proud to have 12 of their young adults registered at the Future Bright International School for further English studies. One of their students has also started an apprenticeship with Artisans d'Angkor.

Children at the centre may have found a refuge – a safe place to spend their day and meet friends – but because of their humble economic status, students are prone to dropping out of school and labouring in unhealthy, low-paying jobs to pay for bare necessities. The books have to take a backseat when the kids return home. The staff often have to deal with truancy, domestic abuse, runaway kids and life threatening illnesses.

“What good will school do for them? What will they become?” Sam Flint, director of Anjali House, says this is the common mindset of parents who themselves have not attained any form of schooling and only do menial work. “The family needs the income now and that is more important than caring for a child’s future.” In a poor country where traditional family remains strong, the children do not have a choice but work to augment the family’s income.

Instead of peddling trinkets in tourist thoroughfares, collecting rubbish and begging, the students at Anjali are given the opportunity to embrace life as kids, to dream and achieve happiness. “The parents need to realize that without these opportunities, these kids will never have a future. They will never see that there is more to life than just working to survive.”

 

For $10 USD you can provide 20 meals for the kids, $80 provides breakfast and lunch for all the children at Anjali. If you would like to help support the goals of Anjali House, please click here.

Carmela Mendoza runs everything "behind the scenes" at asia! She's also a content creator for mobile phone books and applications. She previously worked for education and ICT initiatives in the Philippines.

Contact Carmela