I am eternally grateful for the opportunity to have participated in the Buds to Blossoms program in Cambodia. There I and my fellow volunteers lived at a rural AIDS orphanage for two weeks providing gentle massage to over two hundred thirty children with HIV to foster their health, well-being and development. A number of the children at the AIDS orphanage were abused, raped and enslaved before arriving there. The children's immune systems are severely compromised, and some have infections which cause painful, disfiguring sores to erupt on their skin. Only a narrow range of treatments for HIV are available in Cambodia, and the children are in danger of developing full-blown AIDS at any time. Newly-orphaned children come into the care of the orphanage on a regular basis and are sometimes emaciated and in the last stage of AIDS. Our volunteer group promoted the children's health and their chances of surviving HIV infection by providing them with the proven immune system-strengthening effect of gentle massage. The massages we gave also helped relieve the children's pain and anxiety and helped meet their emotional needs for nurturing contact with caring adults.
The experience in the orphanage itself was challenging and rewarding. Despite battling a bout of severe food poisoning, I still managed to be able to connect with these shining bright children. They were all so full of energy all the time and I almost forgot that they had any medical conditions. I was blown away by the joy and love they offered so freely. When we weren't massaging the children, we often played with them on the playground. A couple nights we even had dance parties. Those kids had some moves! I went through many emotional peaks and valleys as I learned about the children's histories. I couldn't reconcile the joy each child exuded despite the abuse that most of them went through. It broke my heart. I truly connected with each heart and was truly devastated to leave. Saying goodbye was rough. Through themI have experienced the depths of the resiliency and love of the human spirit.
However as I visited Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, I saw the worst of humanity in the depths of violence, poverty, and child exploitation. I could not walk a few steps without being visited by a bruised, beaten, and emaciated child begging for money or even worse a girl of no more that 12-14 years old being solicited by middle-age men. My skin would crawl and my stomach was in knots every single time I saw such lack of value for these precious souls.
I am so thankful for the life I am blessed with. With the little resources that I have, I will make a difference...I can and I will. Watch me! Better yet, join me.
Melissa Green, MS, MA is