Cambodian Heritage Camp was an experience that I still and will always cherish. It was an eye opener and an emotional ride from the beginning until the end... but that end is yet to come and I know that it is a long way from now. Heartwarming and inspiring, I am proud and honored to have been granted the opportunity to be a part of something special beyond the surface and the eyes. I met a lot of peers whom I grew to admire and some I learned to love. Each counselor contributed something valuable to the team that helped piece the puzzle together. We were definitely the Dream Team... built from all different corners of the United States!Those kids that you see up there... those are MY kids. You can only imagine what its like for them growing up... learning and knowing what adoption is, and realizing that they have been adopted from a country that is as unique as Cambodia at such a young age. I sometimes wonder what goes on in their minds or what questions they may have about their life. Unfortuanately, not all of their questions can be answered. In fact, most of their questions will be left unanswered, but they will always wonder what those answers could possibly be. Their childhood and adolescence is not going to be the same as everyone else's. Confusion and frustration will arise, and we're trying to teach them about their roots and discuss predictable curiosities that are to come. Hopefully each camp session benefits the children, their families, and even other volunteers in one way or another.
Three or four days is such a short period of time. Its hard to believe that you can fall in love and grow so attached to people. Well, BELIEVE IT! The group that I worked with were between the ages of 5 to 7. Probably one of my favorite age groups that challenge you more than you'd expect them to! Great group of kids, I must add. Each one has a personality that you just adore and can't help but fall in love with.
The whole experience was very rewarding. Tiring as it may, our days were filled with smiles, laughter, and excitement. I grew really attached to my kids and it was heartwarming and fulfilling to see that they grew attached to me as well. I was pretty shocked to hear from the kids, "You're like my big sister," or "I love you," or even ask you not to leave them. Speechless. Those words are so powerful and left me emotional to the point where I'd hug them and hold them, hoping that they wouldn't see my tears. I never realized that I can become so close and care so much for complete little strangers so fast. I can't help but wonder if they're going to remember me 10 or 20 years from now... but I know that I will remember them.
As you can see, it was hard to leave my awesome orange team. Actually, it was hard to leave any of the kids since we had the chance to meet kids outside of our assigned teams as well. Physical departure was difficult (see below), but emotional departure was even harder.
I hate the thought that I might not get the chance to see some of them ever again. I'd love to see each and every one of those munchkins over and over for years to come. For now, I am determined to make it back to Camp this summer. I made promises that I intend to keep. Promises to my kids, and a promise to myself.
And these two ladies with me here, they are two of the other counselors that are also my role models, my friends, and my mentors. They've stuck with me through my difficult and challenging times. Never once did they judge me or condescend me in any way. Some friends come and go, but few will stick with you and be there for you when you need them most. Few will be honest even when it hurts, and loyal to you even if they risk. Yep, these are the few. Lucky for me, I brought them home! :)