C.O.S.O, Cambodia Orphan Save Organization is located in tiny Sra Shrang (Pool of Ablutions) just east of Ta Phrom. We had learned about this newly established, non-profit, non-governmental and non-political organization 12 km from Siem Reap Town but still within the walls of Angkor, while dining at a community aware café in PP. A small black and white flyer was taped to the bathroom wall and it caught my attention by one small but hugely significant sentence ” YOU DON’T NEED ANY SPECIAL QUALIFICATIONS, JUST A DESIRE TO HELP OTHER PEOPLE AND A FEW HOURS TO SPARE”. That was enough for us to make the trip. C.O.S.O.’s main objective is to offer food, shelter, education and safety to local street kids living in extreme poverty. Their orphanage resemble a makeshift wooden shelter with a tiny open air dirt floored room acting as a school house. The children are barefoot, dirty but are content and cared for. Their wish list – rice, food, sleeping mats, mosquito nets (Dengue epidemic killing 1000s of children), blankets, medical and school supplies, clothing, shoes which is sadly a far cry from most of our kids wish lists – iphone, ipod, skate board, watch, new laptop… and the list goes on. C.O.S.O provides Khmer and English lessons, 3 square meals a day, a safe place to sleep, evening traditional Khmer dance training and love. We are keeping our eye on this one too for future involvement and hopefully by next summer we will be back with a group of interested yogis ready to invest a bit of their time and love. Website: www.coso-orphanage.com
With good karma and Vishnu for protection we survived our biking adventure (quite a miracle!) had the most delicious swim in the River Garden’s newly installed pool and then off on tuk tuk to listen to Dr. Beat Richner, a true saint. If you have never heard of him and are depressingly down on mankind check out his web site: www.beatocello.com. You will be inspired and your life will never be the same. This tiny Swiss-German man of little charisma nor power has humbly moved mountains, those large than the grandest. With a dream and a determination stronger than the political corruption that he constantly encounters, Dr. Beat Richner has successfully opened 3 children’s hospitals saving close to 8 million Cambodian children in the past 15 years. All medical services are free of charge and they even pay the transportation to and from the hospital. Yearly they receive 600’000 visits with 55’000 admitted for severe illnesses and accidents, they perform over 9’000 surgical operations, inject over 100’000 inoculations and deliver over 5’500 babies a year. Without these hospitals, close to 3000 children would die each month. Dr. Beat Richner has a staff of 2’600 qualified doctors and nurses and best of all all but 2 are Cambodians and paid between 250USD -1000USD! What is humbly amazing is his down to earth approach and presence. Every Saturday evening at precisely 19h15, Dr. Beat Richner shows up at the Siem Reap auditorium to play his cello for donations only. He begins with ” We need your help. It costs 17 million USD to run our hospitals per year. With 7% of donations coming from Switzerland another 3% from the Cambodian government we depend on individual donations. If you are old give money. If you are middle aged give money and blood and if you are young give blood.” It was as easy as that. No elaboration or exaggeration just hard cold facts that make your blood rush and your heart tear. He then beautifully stroked his cello, talked a bit more and showed an inspirational documentary on his work. One cannot leave unaffected! There is so much to be done but remember ”small acts with a big heart” go a long way.
P.S. We did end up dropping by the last hut at the top of the road just before the park. The crooked wooden door hung loosely on its rusty hinges, a pair of pink tattered children’s slippers were scattered on the stone floor and the sound of cartoons whispered from a small T.V. A young man in his early 20’s met us at the doorway. Our friend had left after the death of his wife just a few months after our departure last December. Saddened, we sent warm thoughts his way and hope that our paths will cross again one day soon.
P.S.S. Internet connections failed so this portion of our journey is an aftermath but still so real.