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Mike Duffy (Marist College '15) Recently Volunteered at the La Valla School for Handicapped Children in Cambodia

*originally published on Mike Duffy's Blog*

 

I stayed and worked with the Marist LaValla School located in the rural area outside of Phnom Penh. Among the devastating poverty that cripples the people bordering the capital city hides one of God's greatest treasures where you can hear the laughter and feel the joy of the children from beyond the gates. 

 

This amazing school was founded by Marist Solidarity Cambodia, an international non-government organization, an integral part of the mission of the Marist Brothers back in 2000 and led by Brother Terry Heinrich. The vision of the school is "to see an inclusive community in solidarity with children and youth with disabilities, where concern for individual human development and education is a high priority as the means of children and youth achieving their full potential". 

 

 

The size of the school population stays around 100 each year. Here the students live in dormitory style housing, are provided all of their meals and receive a Marist education with its dedication to excellence. The experience thus far has been breathtaking and you can feel the presence of God shining brightly upon the children and all those who make such a beautiful operation take place. In my time here I will be focusing on teaching English to the High School level students whom have graduated LaValla and are at the Marist community housing alongside Lavalla. My time was spent providing support in the Physical Therapy center, construction projects underway, media creation and spending time with the children through all hours of the day. 

 

As being a part of something so radiant with love, it overwhelms me to see the confidence and self esteem that each child developed here. Outside of the gates, these children come from tremendous poverty and often horrifying backgrounds and life situations. Most will be rejected in society and outcast from their families or communities, which is too often the case. Upon arriving here, a powerful sense of comfort must engulf each child as they are no longer different from the world around them. The children begin to understand that they are not alone in their physical disability and their confidence developes to a level in which they are openly embracing their setbacks that life has brought them. I am often moved to tears in watching the care that they express for one another being of such a genuine loving nature.Their energy, intuition, creativity, kindness and diligence is of immeasurable magnitude. Their gratitude in being a member of this unique family beams brightly in their everyday lives.

 

Each day the students (ages 10 to generally 20, average age around 13) fulfill their responsibilities of maintaining the dormitories and beds, laundry and uniforms by hand, setting the tables for all meals, washing/drying all of the dishes, cleaning the dining area, caring for the entire grounds and Saturday group clean up of the drains, gardens and pool with hardworking smiles of joy. 

 

     

 

I have obviously struggled to put into words the soulful beauty of life here, where God is ever so vibrantly present. It is something that I will do my very best to continue to share with you all, as this experience has already changed the man I am. With a filled heart and tremendous pleasure I am adding some pictures and soon a video to encapture Lavalla, the children and their joy to be alive.  (view the original blog post with additional pictures)

 

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