Written by Yaiza Morales
Anjali is a Sanskrit word meaning “offerings,” and here we were on our way to Anjali House, to present them with donations, or offerings. This non-profit organization, located in Siem Reap, Cambodia, supports street children through education, healthcare, and the arts.
Unfortunately, many children in Cambodia have to work the streets selling flowers, bracelets, books, or anything they can, to help feed their families. It is their crude reality. This country has been shaken by its turbulent past; from a genocide of nearly a million under the hands of the Khmer Rouge, to a devastating civil war, followed by a period of desperation, famine, and poverty. Nowadays, the people of Cambodia struggle to overcome the aftermath of this tragic period. The children of what used to be one of the most powerful nations in Southeast Asia, are sadly paying the price as well. Luckily, there are organizations such as Anjali House, which support street children and provide opportunities that will help them find success and fulfillment in the future.
As we drove off in a “tuk tuk.” we stopped by the Old Market on the way to Anjali House. There we purchased two bags of rice for the children of the program with our first donation of $50. Our Khmer driver helped us carry the giant 50 kg bags (100 kg in total) that would soon feed 28 Anjali House families for an entire week! We also brought in a bag filled with school supplies, which had traveled all the way from Puerto Rico with us. Although it wasn’t much, we knew that even the smallest contribution could make a difference. We were overwhelmed with excitement!
As we entered the gates of Anjali, the sound of playing children filled the air with joy. Some were playing basketball and running around in their school uniforms. We presented our donations to the staff, and they were received with open arms and bright smiles. Samuel Flint, Director of Anjali House, gave us a tour of the center. Artwork and photographs taken by the children decorated the walls, and the active participation of students in their classrooms boomed through the space. Sam shared the program details and explained that creativity is at the heart of the center, as it was founded in 2005 by a group of photographers called “The Angkor Photo Association.” Anjali currently serves 110 students and their families. To receive the many benefits offered by the program, parents agree to certain terms and conditions. This way, stability and attendance to the program are ensured. Anjali House makes sure students attend public school, and provides transportation to and from the center. Social workers are assigned to each child, free healthcare is provided, and a weekly rice allowance is given to each family, as well as clean drinking water. Dynamic workshops such as photography, theater, and creative writing are also offered to the students each year. They believe “that all children have the right to learn, play, make friends, and grow, in a safe and happy environment.”
You might be wondering how the street children of Siem Reap become part of Anjali House. Fortunately, they have an outreach program that seeks out children who are working on the streets of Siem Reap. Then, they meet with their families and offer what many cannot refuse-the promise of a brighter future. Hence the name “Anjali,” offering street children and their families a new outlook on life.
There are many ways in which you can help support the children of Anjali House. Check out their website for more information on how you can volunteer for their program, or simply help from home!