A Misawa family’s vacation: bringing smiles to Cambodia
MISAWA AIR BASE, Japan — Mary Chhlam, 10, wants a pair of shoes and school supplies. Sophen Som, 18, would also like shoes and an English dictionary. Three-year-old Samnang Roth is asking for a toy — any kind will do.
By Western standards, it’s a modest wish list. And it’s a wish list Sollars Elementary School fifth-grade teacher Michael Tate intends to fill when he travels from Misawa to Siem Reap, Cambodia, this week.
Tourists flock to Siem Reap to walk among the ancient temples of Angkor Wat. Not many notice the Sunrise Angkor Children’s Village, a small, two-story home to dozens of orphans, from tiny babies to teenagers.
Tate, his wife, Kathleen, also a Sollars teacher, and their two daughters traveled to Cambodia in the spring to see Angkor Wat but also to visit the orphanage. The Tates try to “give back” during their family vacations, said Michael Tate, who found out about the orphanage from its Web site, www.sunrisechildrensvillage.com.
During their visit, the Tates noticed the children at the orphanage slept on dirt or wood floors.
“We asked how we could help,” Tate said. “The director said, ‘If I had my wish, every child would have a bed.’ I said, ‘Consider it done.’”
Tate organized a dinner at a Japanese restaurant near Misawa as a fundraiser. Mostly Americans from the base attended and nearly $4,000 was raised through Sollars’ Parent Teacher Association. The money was wired to the orphanage for the director to buy 40 beds with individual storage compartments. Tate also asked for a wish list from each of the children. He’ll deliver 160 pounds worth of those items to the children Friday.
“On my next visit, I’m going to be Santa Claus,” Tate said. “Everyone’s going to get a gift.”
Sollars teachers and students donated personal treasures such as stuffed animals and dolls. Separate donations will be used to buy eight bikes for the orphanage while Tate is in Cambodia.
Tate is planning another fundraiser around Valentine’s Day — a total of 94 beds are needed. He hopes to reach out to local Japanese for that event, and will produce a Japanese video about the orphanage during his upcoming trip. Tate also plans to work with the orphanage staff to set up a program for Americans at Misawa to volunteer, intern or teach at the center.
“The children are starting life with sum zero. There is no American Dream for them,” he said.
Tate said he believes in the power of one individual to make a difference. He tells his students “much is given to you, much is expected of you.” He plans a third trip to the orphanage in the spring.
Contact Sollars’ Parent Teacher Association at DSN 226-3835 or Michael Tate at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information.