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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - American returns to Cambodia to forge a future for orphans

American returns to Cambodia to forge a future for orphans

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Photo by:
kyle sherer

David Biviano, adviser to the Cambodian Children's House of Peace.

WHEN David Biviano, PhD, heard that the Khmer Friendly House orphanage where he was serving as a volunteer was due to close in June 2008, he retuned home to the US.

But only long enough to sell his house and say his goodbyes, before returning to Siem Reap to sign on as official adviser to Hem Sathya, director of the Cambodian Children's House of Peace.

This institution was founded to take care of the 10 remaining children from the folded orphanage, but has since expanded to include another 20 children from Siem Reap province.

Just over a month after its official opening on December 27, 2008, the House of Peace, or Santepheap, is preparing to launch a weekly traditional Khmer dance show, to start on Sunday, February 1.

Biviano said that rather than bring in a professional dance troupe, the children at Santepheap could be encouraged to do the job themselves.

Luckily, 10 of the children at Santepheap are already trained dancers, due to a program at their previous orphanage. But for many of the children it is a new experience.

Biviano says, "We continued the effort to train the children in traditional Khmer dance. We are also going to provide them training in music".

Biviano hopes this will put the children in touch with their culture and attract supporters for Santepheap.

Biviano told the Post that "the main aim of Santepheap is to provide a safe and secure facility for poor children from the countryside to grow up with sufficient food, housing, clothing, medical care, education, and a place where they are supported to become good citizens of Cambodia when they leave at 18".

"They all go to primary school in the Cambodian system, and they live here, where we provide additional programs like sports, cultural development, spiritual development and English training. We also provide vocational, transitional training for the children," he said.

He added also that the orphanage has an emphasis  on spiritual development.

"Every evening ... in consideration of the children's Buddhist culture," he said.

"We have a five-minute silent meditation followed by a brief talk that I give on how we can live together in peace. 

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