Cambodian orphans visit UWP campus and Pioneer Farm

July 28, 2003

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A Cambodian orphan pets a calf at the UWP Pioneer Farm while on a visit to Platteville.

PLATTEVILLE - Half a world away from their homeland, three orphaned teenagers from Cambodia toured the University of Wisconsin-Platteville and Pioneer Farm. The students were visiting the United States with the housemother of Asian Hope Orphanage, Jill Fisk, whom they lovingly call "Mom."

The group was staying in Platteville with Jill's brother, Jay McDermott, and his family. When asked why Jill brought the orphans to the states, she said, "We want the children to see what life can be like. We want to give them hope and goals to strive for."

Cambodia is a Third World country where the people are very poor and these children were no exception. The visiting orphans included Tirua, a 14-year-old boy, who came to the orphanage with his two brothers in 1999. Their parents had died and they had been living alone except for an uncle who would stop by occasionally to steal their food. Another visitor, Borah, a 14-year-old boy, was taken into the orphanage in 2000 with his two sisters. His father had died, and his mother had remarried into an abusive relationship. The abuse extended to the children, so the mother abandoned the children. The third child visiting was Srey Noch, a 16-year-old girl. Srey Noch and her sister were living alone in a shack. Their mother had died and the father was unknown. A church had been helping the children as much as it could, and they were able to place the girls in the orphanage.

Jill Fisk, her husband Steve and their three children, founded the Christian-based Asian Hope Orphanage in 1998. The organization is governed by a board of directors here in the United States. The orphanage is funded primarily through individual donors and some church support.

As part of their visit to the U.S., the children were able to milk a cow and pet the calves and piglets at Pioneer Farm. They also took advantage of a tractor ride. Technology was the biggest surprise to the visitors. As Fisk stated, "These children haven't even seen an elevator or automatic dishwasher, much less large farm machinery."

The students also toured the UWP campus where they found the new cadaver lab especially interesting. Since Srey Noch hopes to be a nurse someday and Tirua dreams of becoming a doctor, the cadaver lab allowed them to actually see what medical or nursing school would involve. It made their dreams seem more tangible. Jill stated, "These are very bright children. They attend our Logos International School and do very well in their studies. Our hope is to give them the opportunity to attend college if they desire."

While visiting campus Jill remarked, "We hope to build relationships with colleges in the United States not only for our students to attend, but also to possibly recruit teachers for our school. We are looking for certified teachers or student teachers who would like to do missionary work." Most of the teachers for Logos International School are teachers from the U.S. who stay for a school year.

Logos International School, part of Asian Hope, was created due to the growing need for quality education in Cambodia. The school provides quality education for many who could not otherwise afford it. Jill commented, "The government schools in Cambodia are very corrupt. The teachers in these schools only make about $20 per month and resort to selling tests with the correct answers after school in order to make ends meet at home." Fortunately, the Fisks have an education expert to help with the school. Jill's mother-in-law, Nancy, is a retired teacher and school administrator from Davenport, Iowa. Nancy now spends the school year in Cambodia teaching and helping with the school.

When asked about the visitors, host Jay McDermott commented, "The children are so polite and well-mannered. It's amazing how mature they are and their English is excellent." He concluded by saying, "Not only has it been a learning experience for our guests, it has also been a great cultural experience for our family."

The visitors plan to stay in the U.S. for a couple more weeks before heading home to Cambodia. For more information about sponsoring an orphan or to learn about teaching/missionary opportunities in Cambodia visit Asian Hope's website at www.asianhope.org or email asianhope@bigpond.com.kh.

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