I am Suzuka Mizutani, one of the "Reporters for Friendship" for spring break in 2013.
April 2 (Tue.)
We visited Phalla's house this morning. It is about an hour's drive from House for Youth where she lives with her uncle, aunt and cousins. It is not far to go back, but since she is busy studying she can go back there only once or twice a year. Some parts of her house were made of cardboards and this made me concerned of what kind of disaster might happen when it rains. She used to live there. However, as her life there was not easy, she went to a facility called Homeland and then decided to live in House for Youth. She now studies hard to become an accountant. She said she misses them, but has no regrets about her decision.
We visited Socheng's house in the afternoon. As his house is close to House for Youth, he can come back by bicycle whenever he wants to meet his relatives. His uncle, aunt and cousins live there. He used to live with them since his parents died of diseases. However, it became difficult for his uncle to support all of them, and Socheng came to House for Youth to go to school.
It was difficult for me to imagine that children of my age have to leave their homes in order to go to school. It made me think how lucky I am to live with my parents and go to school. Even though I am in such a favorable situation, I wonder if I study seriously. There are many things that I could have done more.
April 3 (Wed.)
We visited a prison in Battambang this morning. KnK also supports imprisoned youth and we saw sewing training, classes of literacy, English and arts. They were imprisoned because they were so poor that they committed crimes such as shoplifting. KnK works to help them become independent after they come out of prison. Many generations of people were imprisoned there. Among them were children of the inmates. I felt a little nervous as I have never been to a prison even in Japan. I thought that it must be a gloomy and sad place with criminals who never smile. After I actually visited there, I realized that it was completely different and they smiled a lot. When we saw each other, they smiled and that made me really happy. I was impressed with each of them seriously doing their jobs of farm work, cleaning, sewing as well as studying.
Then we went to House for Youth. We had to say good bye to our friends there. We interviewed Sreypheap again and asked her to tell us about her story in more detail. There were many things that I could not ask her last time at Angkor Wat, since .I was afraid it might hurt her feelings if I asked such questions and I ran away from my responsibilities. However, as one of the "Reporters for Friendship," I have to carry out my role as an interviewee. I asked many things that I could not ask her last time.
I asked her about her family, her mother and father. Her mother now works in Thailand and her older sister supports her family by doing farm work. Her father died when she was small, so she also had to support her family instead of her father. As she wanted to study, she went to Homeland and then to House for Youth where she could get support to keep studying. She told us her hard experiences.
I told her "Thank you for sharing your stories. You are so strong as you have overcome many difficulties. I think that's why you are so kind." She was crying. There must be more than one reason. She was always smiling since we first met her, but she was living with the painful past and loneliness behind her smiles. Those made me cry as well. She wiped away my tears, saying "Don't cry."
We had to say our last good bye. I was so sad and wished that I could stay longer. Our friends at House for Youth wrote letters to us. Many of the girls gave me hair accessories, stoles, rings and key holders. They are more memorable and precious gifts than the goods sold at shops. In addition to these gifts, they taught me many things; the importance of smiles, kindness and friendship. I wanted to say good-by with a smile, but I cried. They all told me "Smile! Smile!"
The four days staying there went by so fast. I cannot believe that it was only four days as I have experienced so many things.
"Okun (Thank you)."