Patrick introduced me to Monica from France, who was here volunteering in a children’s charity, Touch A Life, and she took both him on the Saturday to also help out, feeding the children and families in the water-borne villages at the edge of the city, and then me the Monday for a day in the town where children came from school to eat the food we had prepared, cooked and served them with.
Groups of familiar faces to the charity, one or two new ones, babies and parents who took home whatever was left. One family, mum, daughter about 10 and baby about 9 months old, rode back kilometres on a push bike, both children on the back baggage rack!
On 26th Oct I went along with Monica to help prepare and com veg for children from poorer families, who come along after school for a meal four days a week, and they take it to the floating villages on Saturdays.
Arriving at 8 am I met Mavis who runs it, and Trevor, an Aussie who lives here now in retirement – the helpful handy man too! Also, two local girls who peeled and washed as we chopped ready for the huge pans. A local girl who translates as the children and young people, even the odd adult, who come along line up when its all ready to serve. She introduces us to them, some regulars, some new.
Thee are water bowls for washing and rinsing at the gate that they have to use with their dishes, say thanks and please. or no thank you, or Mavis pulls them up.
They are hungry, you can see, most if not all coming for seconds. I was on the soup, red with green beans, carrots, cabage, eggplant onions and garlic, morning glory and then rice, omelette with veg and morning glory.
A Baby, pregnant 20 year olds, school children in uniforms ( I learned it is only about $10 more for private school than state where teachers are paid daily by the families of students) and a mum of seven (no birth control or education), a boy of 17 with a fancy hair style, and a shy boy who sat separate to the others who arrived early.
As food ended the volunteers could eat so I tried the soup, delicious. The tables, cloths, crockery and cutlery cleaned and stored, and floors washed and swept. The baby got cranky, tired, and mum didn’t bother much so he was passed from child to child, person to person, so I Took him and rocked him to sleep on my shoulder, where we stayed for about 40 minutes. Giving him to mum so I could help again, she put him n a table then I found Monica had him.
When they left, after the leftovers were packed and handed out, mum tok her daughter about 7-8 and the baby on the back of a bicycle, likely for a hot ride home of about 20-30 minutes to a village. He seemed ok and safe enough, admittedly comparatively in Asia to the UK!!
It was moving, and eye opening although I’ve seen them so many times on streets and river banks, railway lines. At one point Monica came ver and asked how it was going, then my eyes watered but I couldn’t cry for them there, so she just squeezed me and said “emotion?” with her French accent and I recovered, continuing to offer soup bowls to be accepted or politely refused especially by younger children, maybe a little spicy for them. I tried to get all the veg options into each bowl so they got healthy food!!
Charity Touch a Life link here