AT 6: 30am, Srel Sreng, 30, has to show up at Mary Knoll so that she can prepare breakfast for small kids. She told me that she thinks of the kids as her own children.
Sreng, who has worked for Mary Knoll for 5 years, is responsible for taking care of small kids infected with HIV. These children have been adopted from various communities by Mary Knoll.
When I arrived around 8:30 a.m., I saw Sreng preparing lunch for the small kids. She chit-chatted with me while she chopped chicken that was leftover from dinner the night before. She revealed that she has to give the small children HIV treatment pills in the morning and evening before she leaves at 6:30pm.
She said that Marry Knoll is divided into 7 houses, each of which can contain around 12 children or less than this based on how big the house is. Her place houses 12 children ranging in age from 7 to 15 years old.
Sreng also told me that normally on Saturday and Sunday, both Khmer and foreign Mary Knoll workers visit the little kids in her house. However, when I arrived on Sunday, I did not see anyone visiting. I just saw the kids chatting with each other and sometimes watching TV. She said she did not know why they did not come that day.
It is quite hard to look after small kids infected with HIV because they get depressed easily and they argue and fight with one another often. But Sreng still wears a smiling face. She said that besides her, Mary Knoll has 4 staffers who work in the house – 3 people work in the morning and 1 works in the evening.
She told me that when children get depressed, she tries to console them. If it’s serious, she informs the director of Mary Knoll to talk with them one more time.
“Though I talk to them about what makes them feel upset, I have to inform the director because I am afraid if they get down more and more, I need to protect them.”
In case those children get sick, Sreng has to play the role of their second mother and send them to the hospital.