By Ariana Tosatto
We spent last night gathering supplies for our visit to Anjali, a registered non-profit in Siem Reap that offers education, healthcare, and food to underprivileged street children. Their organization fills a great need in a community where many children do not receive an education, having to instead sell goods or beg on the street to help their family survive. As we prepared our materials for our visit to Anjali, I found my mind replaying the many interactions I have had with street children since our arrival in Siem Reap. Their voices have echoed over and over in their mind, “please lady you buy something”, “three for one dollar, three for one dollar”, “please lady, I don’t want money, need milk”. In each of these interactions I have felt helpless, knowing that giving them money provides further incentive for them to be on the street and not in school. Being a privileged tourist I have had to grapple with the realization that I am often seen only as a potential source of money and thus survival. The insatiable need of the children in the streets, approaching us one after another can be overwhelming and testing of the human heart. The one interaction I have played over and over again in my mind was with a ten-year-old girl named Enji who I met outside a temple at Angor Wat. Enji is a tiny child with deep brown eyes and short dark brown hair. Her lankly body rests on dirty bare feet and her skin nor clothes seemed washed recently. Enji was persistent following me at least twenty feet as I walked to the bathroom repeating over and over “three for one dollar” as she held bangles out in her hand. Unable to hear her desperate calls any longer I stopped and turned to her asking her name. She thought for a minute before quietly responding, “Enji”. I began asking Enji questions and told her my name and where I was from. I found out that Enji loves elephants, she goes to school in the morning (or so she says), her favorite subject is literature and she giggles a lot when asked a new question. Enji does not ask me for a few minutes to buy anything. Maybe Enji hoped I would buy something if she kept talking to me or maybe she genuinely liked being asked questions. It is hard to say. For me the interaction was an ember to my heart as for a moment I got to see the giggling carefree child within Enji.
We will be spending the whole day at Anjali house teaching the kids how to make shadow puppets (a traditional Cambodian art form) and handmade journals. All of the children were at one time working on the street and are now instead receiving an education. In order to compensate for the lost income of the children no longer working, Anjali provides each family with 4 kg of rice a week. We look forward to sending the pictures of the kid’s artwork and sharing what is sure to be a memorable day!