Happenings, News

Not a holiday, but what joy!

Building the footpath for the COSI children’s home. — Boys’ Brigade picture.

Not cosy, but 26 BB members, ACJC students grateful for privilege of serving Cambodian children at COSI home

A TEAM of 26 Boys’ Brigade (BB) members and Anglo-Chinese Junior College (ACJC) students has returned from a working trip to the Community Outreach Services Immanuel (COSI) children’s home outside Phnom Penh, Cambodia, grateful for the opportunity to have served the underprivileged children there.

For 10 days, the young volunteers toiled under the scorching sun to build a footpath over the sand, necessary during the wet season when mud hinders movement around the dormitories, bathroom and canteen areas, as well as a playground for the children’s leisure. A sum of $8,000 was raised to fund the cost of materials for the two projects.

Work was manual labour such as the transport and laying of hundreds of concrete slabs, digging up the ground in order to place bricks to steady the slabs and cementing the foot path. It was a novel experience for the youths unaccustomed to tedious menial labour.

The trip to COSI, which is 30 km from Phnom Penh and managed by the Methodist Missions Society of The Methodist Church in Singapore, was organised by the BB as a Youth Expedition Project and sponsored by the Singapore International Foundation. The team visited Cambodia from Dec 7 to 21.

Another first-time experience team members encountered was communal bathing. They also had to live with the lack of facilities such as television sets, computers and mobile phones, so common in our pampered life in Singapore. There was also the issue of getting adjusted to the multitudes of insects roaming the area and soon all became used to insects on the mattresses and bath water.

But more important than these were the interactions with the children in the home. Energetic and friendly, these children left the team with good memories of fun and laughter. Never failing to jump into games with the team members or a conversation of broken English and Khmer or even giving a shy smile, the children were definitely the most cherished memory of our trip.

With the children always present on our minds, the work took on new meaning — it was not just doing charity work, but it was also helping to spread the love of God to these children. By enriching their lives we hope we have helped to give these children the better future they deserve.

During the last three days of our stay in Phnom Penh, team members engaged the children of neighbouring schools in friendly games of soccer, volleyball and captain’s ball and a telematch as an exchange programme to bridge the language and cultural barriers between the youth of Cambodia and Singapore. This was a successful undertaking, with both the children and team enjoying themselves thoroughly as both sides tried their hand at communicating with one other, sharing their diverse experiences as Cambodians and Singaporeans.

On the last night of the stay, the team held a Christmas party for the children, with a barbeque dinner as well as games, a Nativity skit and carol singing. During the evening each team member partnered a child and at the end of the session, the team members gave their partners a Christmas present. For the team, it was a happy occasion during which members were able to share a little on the true message of Christmas.

The team also had sharings by Singaporeans working in Cambodia, including missionaries. A highlight of the project was a dialogue with the Singapore Ambassador to Cambodia, Mr Verghese Matthews.

Kenny Tay, of the 12 (Independent) Singapore Company of The Boys’ Brigade (sponsoring church, Barker Road Methodist Church), was a member of the team that visited Cambodia.