A few times on my blog, I mentioned my going to a childcare placement on my Saturday mornings. I spoke about it during my first weekly rewind, noting it as an incredible experience that I promised to elaborate on later. The following Saturday I went there again, and explained my frustration and complicated feelings about watching donors unevenly distribute shoes to the children there. And while now I do not always mention it in my weekly rewind posts, I still go there from time to time, wanting to again volunteer with a truly noble cause.
A country with extreme levels of poverty and wealth inequality, too often children in Cambodia are hungry and malnourished. Without proper nourishment, children become vulnerable to developmental problems and poor health. In a desperation to find food, children in these circumstances may beg on the streets or scavenge through garbage piles to find something to eat.
Les Restaurants Des Enfants (LRDE) began in 2010 with a simple, but honorable mission: to provide free food to Cambodian children in need. It provides daily hot meals, in addition to a place where children can be showered, get haircuts, and find clean clothes if needed. While a small staff keeps the operation running, it welcomes the support of volunteers to come and help serve food, wash, and play with the children.
LRDE runs largely off donations and the support of volunteers. With less than one dollar, it is able to feed one child and provide it with the nutrition and energy needed to start the day clean, with a full belly, and a strong spirit. Over the past few years, it has given more than four hundred thousand meals to the children of Phnom Penh, Cambodia.
The time I spent volunteering there, I peeled cucumbers, chopped meat, served rice, poured soup, played basketball, chased smiling little girls, and received more hugs than I can count. I was welcomed by the staff and children alike, overwhelmed by the amount of kindness and love given away from people who barely knew me and who had so little.
Whether to somehow reach someone with the ability to donate, or simple to spread the word, I wanted to share my experiences at LRDE to do what I can to help raise more awareness about this incredible cause. If you would like to know more about how you can help, please check out the LRDE website and Facebook, or feel free to contact me for more information.