A story by our AYAD volunteer Allan.
I’ve become somewhat of the unofficial photographer for Friends-International. It is an enviable position that allows me to travel and document many of the wonderful happenings of Friends. Several weeks ago I was asked to travel with the Olympic outreach team and take photographs of Mith Samlanh staff working during a routine field visit.
The Olympic zone surrounds the Phnom Penh Olympic stadium. Built in 1964 the stadium is now the venue for the Cambodian Premier League and (some) international pop acts. During the early evenings the stadium is filled with aerobic music, soccer matches, food vendors and a fine layer of red dust kicked up by those exercising on the rough, dusty track. It all transpires against a beautiful, deep red, setting sun. It is a popular and distinct Phnom Penh landmark.
After travelling through a maze of narrow streets I arrived to find the team settled at the end of a shaded lane. Children and staff were engaged in games and non-formal education tasks while others received minor medical attention. The children were attentive, engaged and seemed very happy. Children worked together to solve math problems while others sat with outreach members working on various educational problems. A council worker sat at a short distance away with a young woman. They spoke quietly and kept to themselves for the majority of time we were in the area.
At the conclusion of the lessons there were games for the older children while the younger children lined up for a Mith Samlanh hair salon treatment! Squatting in the customary Cambodian crouch, the children bent over a long gutter and waited patiently as fresh water was poured over their hair. This was followed closely by small amounts of brown shampoo. The children scrubbed wildly and called for a fresh rinse when finished. Suds gathered at a nearby drain as the children were rinsed one by one.
Once the children were cleaned and dried they lined for a serving of fresh rolls and fruit. With their bellies filled it was time to say goodbye. The children sang a song which included the lyrics Mith Samlanh (the only lyrics I could decipher) and jumped and clapped about in the shade. Girls combed their newly washed hair as we packed the equipment into the outreach van. The youngest of the children ran after the van as it left while the eldest stood back and waved sucking pieces of ripe mango.
The sweet smell of shampoo filled the air.