Some new friends of mine took me on a 30-minute tuk tuk ride outside of Phnom Penh, where we found the Sunflower Family orphanage. It’s a small center that houses and helps about a dozen children and teens. What’s interesting is that all of these kids are HIV positive, almost all of them contracting the virus at birth. We spent a hot, dusty afternoon at the Sunflower home, taking a tour, playing with the kids, and talking to the gentleman who runs it. I was happy that we’d brought about $100 worth of rice, cooking oil, chicken scraps, detergent, soap, and other staples for the center.
I was really impressed with Sunflower, and everyone there looked happy and healthy. I’m going to do my best to help them out. But there was one thing I found remarkable, and worth noting:
The center wasn’t just inhabited by the HIV positive kids that lived there, but kids from the neighborhood. In fact, there were dozens of kids, playing a physical game of soccer in the dirt road, playing with dolls on the floor of the family room, and just sitting and chatting on the swings. A grandmother from the neighborhood sat in the shade with us outside, coddling a little one.
After a while, I had no idea who lived there and who didn’t.
It turns out that Sunflower has a deep connection with the community it’s in, and the local parents are happy to send their kids to play with the HIV positive kids there. Those neighborhood kids knew no difference, of course, and loved having extra friends and playmates to hang out with.
Our fear sure is learned, isn’t it? Some of the kids at Sunflower were orphans in the true sense of the word, but most of them had been shunned and cast out by their families because of their illness, left to live on the streets if it wasn’t for the orphanage. But here, they’d been adopted by the surrounding community; with love, as some their own.
They don't even have a website or Facebook page yet (I'm going to do that for them), but contact me if you'd like to help the kids at the Sunflower orphanage.