Redemptorist Br Albert Khoo feeding a young boy.Redemptorist Br Albert Khoo feeding a young boy.A team from Novena Church gave rice packages to 1,000 families and fed 4,000 children in six Cambodian villages

For some 30 lay volunteers from Novena Church, the last Christmas season was an experience of charity and humility as they spent time serving the poor in Siem Reap, Cambodia.

From Dec 27-Jan 4, the volunteers, led by Redemptorist Brs Celestine Toh and Albert Khoo, distributed rice packages to 1,000 families and fed 4,000 children in six villages.

The mission team also visited a hospital, an orphanage and a prison

Besides entertaining the village children with Christmas carols, the volunteers also distributed food and gifts to each child. Some kids also received a haircut and a brand new outfit.

At Preak Toal, one of the villages the team visited, lay volunteer Luo Yanqi recognised some of the children she had befriended the year before.

Ms Luo, 30, who was taking part in this mission outreach for the second time, said the children gave her a warm welcome upon recognising her.

“This year, I am reminded in the faces of the children … that we are not just helping a faceless crowd, but truly making a difference to individuals – the future of our world,” she said.

Jesuit Fr Stepanus Winarto, parish priest of St John’s Church in Siem Reap, said he was grateful for the generous support of the Singapore donors, who made the Christmas season a life-giving experience for the local people.

“A lot of poor families and children not only received rations and gifts, they also got to experience the joy of Christmas even though most of them are non-Catholics,” he said.

“I believe that God always sends His good people to strengthen our little Church.”

Of the donations, which came from the family and friends of the Singapore mission team, some US$5,000 (S$6,123) were contributed to expanding the Cow Project, one of the many initiatives of St John’s Church.

The money will allow the church to purchase 10 cows over the next two years, enabling more families to take ownership in raising the animals for agriculture or produce.

For lay volunteer Colin Sim, 37, this trip changed his perspective on life.

“Throughout the trip, it was disturbing to discover how a fellow human being could survive in such dire conditions. Yet, it was amazing to see how contented one could be,” he said, adding that it was definitely a “humbling experience”.

By Phoebe Pong

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