The thing I enjoyed most was seeing their adorable faces peeking out from behind the curtains, full of glee....
THERE was hardly a dry eye in the room at the Sydney Opera House last week after children from the Sunshine Children’s Village in Takeo presented their moving performances.
The 29 ecstatic but exhausted children arrived back home Tuesday after a week in Australia, where they performed Khmer dance, music and song at the iconic opera house.
Their ticket sales alone raised $75,000 for the Sunrise foundation, while donation boxes and merchandise sales took the figure to more than $100,000 for the night.
President of Sunrise Children’s Villages Geraldine Cox said she had been worried it was only motherly love for the children that had made her believe they had talent.
“It wasn’t until the curtain went up and I heard applause after applause after applause that I realised they really are incredibly talented children,” Cox said.
She said the trip was funded by 14 corporate sponsors, covering all expenses including airfares, accommodation and day trips for the children. Passports and airport fees were waived by Prime Minister Hun Sen, and the Australian Department of Immigration waived all visa-related fees for the children and staff supervisors.
Cox said the children showed Sydney Australians the “dignity and beauty of Khmer dance”.
“The love that just flowed over them at the concert hall was like a wave. You could feel it – and the children just loved every minute of being on stage,” she said.
The event was hosted by well-known Australian celebrity Ray Martin, and support performances included country singers Kasey Chambers and Beccy Cole, musician Jane Rutter, and singer David Campbell.
“The thing I enjoyed most was seeing their adorable faces peeking out from behind the curtains, full of glee – bursting with excitement,” said one member of the audience, Samantha Florence, 32.
The audience rose in a standing ovation as 13-year-old Chorn Chanvisal belted out the last few words of his powerful rendition of the song “Why”. Looking on from backstage, Chambers and Cole remarked: “With lungs like his, there might be some stiff competition coming up in the Australian music industry.”
But although Chanvisal said the performance was very exciting and happy, when asked if he would like to be a rock star he replied, “No, I’d rather be an accountant. If I become a pop star, someone might kill me.”
Outside of the performance the children with enjoyed a pirate ship cruise around the harbour, a wet but enjoyable trip to the zoo, and a day at Palm Beach.
Despite the excitement of the Opera House, for 12-year-old Thai Sreyleak the highlight of the trip was eating a hamburger and swimming at Palm Beach – despite the temperature hovering around a low 17 degrees.
Cox said in addition to the pride she felt during their stage performance, she was also quite pleased with their behaviour. “Not one event passed without people coming up and remarking on how well-behaved the children were,” she said. “They did Cambodia proud.”
Tracey Shelton has volunteered at Sunrise Children’s Villages since 1998 and assisted in supervising the Sydney tour. She is also the photographer behind a picture book about the children, titled We Can Be..., that was released at the Opera House.