Choom reap soo-a! We’ve been visiting the family! 10 parish members have just returned from 17 days in Cambodia, mainly visiting SVAY SISOPHON but also four other church centres in the Diocese of Battambang, and the sense of ‘extended family’ was very real, especially in our twin parish.
Although very enjoyable, it was emphatically NOT a holiday and certainly in Sisophon we followed an action-packed programme for each of the six days we were there.
We admired the new hostel for boys, now complete and partly financed by our parish: we saw the farms, now four in number, including the new land at Dai Lo Village, also partly paid for by our parish; we ate corn cobs, fresh from the original farm at Pongro and took an exhilarating 15k ride
in the back of a pick-up to checkout the latest acquisition, a rice field.
At Svay Hospital, we visited the Maternity Ward and cooed over the latest arrival, only 5 hours old; we met the HIV/AIDS patients who receive a daily rice meal through the church, courtesy of the Catholic Medical Association . The hospital’s Medical Director was kind enough to give us an interview and we now know exactly what medical supplies the hospital could use if we can acquire them.
The toiletries we took out with us were warmly welcomed: half went to the student hostel at the church and half to the Sisters of the Sacred Heart at Poipet [also in the parish] who work in the villages around this very rough border town 25 miles from Sisophon.
Three of us were lucky enough to visit Svay Prison – this was a ‘first’ for us – and although we were only given the picture the Governor wanted us to have, it was a useful experience. Their great need is for reading glasses for the prisoners – something else we could easily help with.
Sunday was a truly memorable day: an 8am breakfast on the bus [french fries, Laughing Cow cheese and mangosteens!] before
Mass at Poipet followed by a look round the rapidly developing church compound there. Then in the afternoon, parish Mass at Sisophon at which four beautiful girls took their ‘first step’ along the road to becoming Catholics. The young dancers from Pongro Village performed beautifully at Mass and were presented with named gift packs containing a white shirt, pencils, toothbrush and soap, all donated by Support Cambodia.
And then the farewell party with dancing, flowers, presentations and photos, only rivalled by the ‘United Nations’ welcome party we’d had on the first night with representatives from Korea, India, Japan, the Phillipines, Cambodia and England all doing ‘turns’ for an increasingly raucous audience. A wonderful way to end a successful and inspiring visit to our extended parish family.
NEWS OF THE OTHER CHURCH CENTRES:
In KOMPONG CHHNANG we marvelled at the nearly-completed
Parish Centre dedicated to St Peter the Fisherman and the corresponding New Humanity [Catholic NGO] Day Centre for the Disabled. In BATTAMBANG we offered incense in memory of Bishop Michael and Father Ben Grist and visited ‘Paloma’ ,the new home base for the disabled students: It was the first visit to PAILIN for most of the group and, apart from sampling the legendary cooking of Brother Francis, we were able to appreciate the impressive work being done in another very difficult border town by theMarist Brothers and the Sisters of Charity. And although our stay in SIEM REAP was mainly for R & R, we still had time to spot a very Cambodian version of the Year of
Faith logo at the church centre: look out for a copy in our three churches here in Norfolk! Choom reap lee-a!