At each of the temples throughout the Angkor complex in Siem Reap, dusty, barefooted children ran up to sell things; “Madam you want postcard? Here I have one, two, three, four, five…..un, deux, trois, quatre, cinq….. ein, zwei, drei, vier, fünf, sechs…ichi, nii, san” and so on, in every language and with whatever phrase they could use to impress visitors enough to stop and buy. Some were only just old enough to toddle. Bamboo flutes in reed cases, charms, fans, scarves, cold drinks, coconuts…. It was difficult to say no when such young children here we clearly in such need and we seemed to have so much. They were adorable, smiley, full of chatter. They were all frighteningly practiced at the sales patter.

 

But all Cambodian chlildren are entitled to free education, and buying things from them just meant they would be kept away from school so they could earn money for the family. I struggled with this – while knowing that buying something from them might help , though only temporarily, a family in need. It’s an impossible and painful conundrum. The best option is controlled contribution. If you have the time, say, as a student in a gap year, you go there and do something to help out; help teach, or work for a support organisation. Or you give your money to a hands-on, local organisation such as Friends Without A Border (link www.fwab.org), who use funds directly to maintain the children’s hospital it built n Siem Reap. The hospital has a bust of Jayavarman VII standing in front of it, in keeping with the spirit of philanthropy and compassion he embodied over eight hundred years ago. By donating just a very smalll amount to FWAB, you can help to fight Cambodia’s terrible poverty, disease and lack of services and make a better future for these children. A tiny amount goes a long way here.

 

 

 

 

Vong told us that in the old days families had to pay for their children to be educated. So things have improved a great deal since then. “Much better” he said. “But you know? Angelina Jolie adopt Cambodian boy.” We know, we said. “Well, if she saw me first, I know she chose me, not Maddox.” But Vong, you’re 33, we said. “Doesn’t matter. If she see me first she defiNATEley choose me instead!”

 

We love Vong.

 

We can’t all adopt Cambodian children. But a fiver will go a long way too. Don’t forget – www.fwab.org