Jointly established by an American Christian and a Cambodian Buddhist, the atmosphere of tolerance goes beyond simply religious acceptance. What truly makes the center unique in Cambodia is the rare opportunity for HIV-infected and non-infected children to live together as family, sharing homes and meals and playing together. This sets an example for the community, and its effect on increasing tolerance and diminishing fear cannot be overstated.
The children's center is staffed by local community members who are committed to raising the children to young adulthood, helping them transition back into the community, and supporting those who pursue university or vocational school once they leave. The center provides housing, nutrition, medicine, and education to the children as well as supplemental food, medical care, and HIV education to the surrounding community.
Volunteer Participants become part of the center’s extended family as they live, work, and play with the children, and bond with the local staff. Each volunteer is asked to organize an activity before they arrive in Cambodia for the children that will allow them to share their own passions and talents. Past participants have led dance workshops, artistic journaling classes, and a range of athletic, creative and other activities. Volunteers in this program may also have the option to teach or tutor English, as needed. GSC volunteers have a once-in-a-lifetime experience not only as teachers, but also as mentors and friends to the warm and loving children.
Despite the children’s unbelievably difficult histories, I believe that [the children's center] is the happiest place on earth. It’s a place without time, a place of acceptance, a place of second chances and a place where family is not defined by who your parents are or were. It’s also a place where children who would have otherwise been abandoned are being nurtured and told they can reach beyond the small dusty village they grew up in. I found the children were eager to learn, held a deep appreciation for any and all visitors, constantly displayed their love and affection, and demanded that I live with them in the moment. These kids took absolutely nothing for granted, and their love of life was infectious. Living there I soon became a part of their extended family. (Excerpt taken from the children's center website)