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Photographer's Note

Day 10
As you might expect, in an area where people are still being killed and maimed from UXOs (Unexploded Ordnance) left from the Secret War,(see the theme on the left) there are more than the usual amount of orphans. We were told we were going to an orphanage. If I am honest I was preparing myself for something harrowing. When we arrived, the view of the place (see in the WS) was not what I had been expecting. A fairly new set of smart bungalows set in well tended gardens are built round a playing field with the usual children’s play equipment. This was an SOS Children’s Village. The first such village was set up by Hermann Gmeiner in Austria in 1949 to look after children orphaned in WWII. Today it is an international organisation,
In each of the houses there are 12 children of varying ages replicating a real family; siblings are housed together. They are looked after by a “mother”. The “mothers” are single women who have given up a personal life and who train for 3 years. As much as possible the children live life as a real family, with the “mother” performing as a real mother would. After school age they stay at the village until they have a job and somewhere to live. They are supported in what they choose to do.
When we were there the children were at school and we were shown into one of the houses. It had a good sized kitchen, a bathroom, several bedrooms with bunk beds and a communal area with a low table for eating. It is a world away from the wooden houses in the tribal villages we had visited. All fixtures and fittings appeared to be of good quality and everything was spotlessly clean and tidy.
We went to visit the nursery, unfortunately just as the children were being settled down for a nap. However they let us go in and of course the children were curious and didn’t look as if they had any intention of going to sleep. They sung a song for us and we were asked to do the same. We sung “If You’re Happy and You Know It”, a British nursery classic.

I left here feeling strangely uplifted. Of course nothing can compensate for the love of real parents, but here they were doing all in their power for the health and happiness of the orphaned children to provide as good a start in life as possible.

This photo was taken outside the nursery. It is the custom in SE Asia that no-one goes indoors with shoes on their feet and I was struck by the order of the tiny shoes on the step. “So what?” I hear you say. I like it for what it represents. Firstly, take note: these are mostly shoes or well-made sandals, compared with the tribal village children, who either wear plastic flip flops or even go bare foot. Secondly, those of you with nursery age children will know how difficult it is to get them to leave any of their things tidy. These very young children are growing up with order in their lives.

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Additional Photos by Kath Featherstone (feather) Gold Star Critiquer/Gold Star Workshop Editor/Gold Note Writer [C: 7646 W: 399 N: 14391] (51130)
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