SINGAPORE – In July 2007, the Society of St. Vincent de Paul (SSVP) from Church of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour raised $154,934 for the education of children in Cambodia. Members of the SSVP spent five days there in December 2007 to find out more about the projects organized by Father Olivia Schmitthaeusler, MEP and the SSVP in Cambodia.

In Takeo village in Phnom Penh, Father Takeo has been inviting students to listen to the Gospel every Sunday since his arrival in 2000. Many of them have gone through the Rite of Christian Initiation for two years. Today there are about 75 Catholics there. Father Takeo has also started numerous projects including the building of a Church of Our Lady of Smiles, a school, a day care centre and a university.

In the village of Kampot, Father Olivier has built a day care centre with three classes for 60 children, aged two to five, who are dropped off at the centre for the day before their parents go to work. He has also set up a mulberry plantation to help villagers to be self-sufficient. The village supplies raw silk to Father Olivier’s Silk Weaving Centre in Takeo that provides work for the poor women in the village.

The SSVP members also visited SSVP supported projects like the Youth Hostel and Missionaries of Charity.

The trip also included a visit to a floating village at Chong Khnies in Siem Reap where the people live in boats with the barest of necessities.

"We celebrated Mass at one of these boats that had been converted into a floating church. It was a humbling opportunity for us to experience this celebration among the poor and to realize the Lord hears the cry of the poor even in the remotest of areas," shared Renaldo Raquiza.

Deanna Koh, 17 found the trip meaningful because "it allowed me to see first hand, the face of poverty and loneliness".

"To see child looking after child was painfully enlightening and it became increasingly evident (on the trip) that the children of Cambodia experience a wholly different set of growing pains and problems than those in Singapore," Deanna said.

"They are thrust at birth into adversity and independence, into an environment where needs are scarcely met, much less, wants.

"It has also given me a new-found respect for the many missionaries who leave their comfortable lives and country to take care of the poor, giving with no expectation of anything in return. These heroes’ noble vocation to bring Christ in word and action to the less fortunate is what impresses and inspires me." n

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