STORY AND PICTURE
BY PETER TEO
IN PHNOM PENH
SINGAPORE'S Ambassador to Cambodia,
Mr Lawrence Anderson, has paid tribute to the many Singaporeans
involved in different forms of assistance, support and welfare
programmes for needy Cambodians.
One of the most satisfying aspects of his job, he said, is when he is invited to witness projects that involve Singaporean volunteers, church groups and non-governmental organisations (NGOs).
"Since I arrived in Phnom Penh over a year ago, I have been pleasantly surprised to find so many Singaporeans involved in different assistance, support and welfare programmes for needy Cambodians.
"This is only right because Cambodia is one of our neighbours and one of the great religious principles we learn from early childhood is that we should always love our neighbours, as we love ourselves."
Mr Anderson was speaking at the official opening of Emmaus Women's Centre on Sept 1 which was set up by the Methodist Missions Society (MMS) in Cambodia's Beung Anchagn Village in Toul Prich Commune.
The opening was preceded by the centre's Dedication Service at which Bishop Dr Robert Solomon shared words of encouragement from the "Emmaus Experience", which speaks of two travellers making their way from Jerusalem to a village called Emmaus when the Risen Christ drew near and joined them in their journey.
Mr Anderson said: "I first came to Emmaus with my wife and son in June last year. We visited COSI Children's Village next door, while this new centre was under construction. Now it is completed, I must say it looks impressive.
"But, this is the physical structure of the buildings. Even more important is its spiritual heart -- the faith, dedication and vision of its founders and staff."
To Mr Anderson what is special about Emmaus Women's Centre is its focus on helping women from poor and needy families, many of whom face hardship or crisis. Besides providing food and a home, the centre teaches the women practical skills like dressmaking, computer training, dance and serving skills so that they can support themselves.
This is all very commendable, he said, adding: "I would like to think Emmaus Centre was built on the faith, hope and love of its founders and supporters. I believe that these tenets will also guide its residents as they seek to build purpose and meaning into their lives."
He said over the past 17 months he had come to know people like the Rev Philip Lim, the Country Coordinator for Cambodia, and his wife, and Ms Betty Ng, the Manager of Emmaus Women's Centre.
Paying tribute to them, he said "so many others like them have shown great patience, commitment and dedication in their desire to help the Cambodian people and I truly admire them for this".
"They have also taken the right approach by actively working with the Cambodian Government and the local authorities in the provinces, civic groups and NGOs. This will improve their efforts to reach out to the disadvantaged people here.
"Most of all, I would like to commend the staff at Emmaus Women's Centre -- the manager, teachers, chaplain and other members for their faith, courage and professionalism."
The centre was opened by Mr Ith Sam Heng, the Cambodian Minister of Social Affairs, Veteran and Youth Rehabilitation, who in his speech, said he is "very pleased and thankful to Community Outreach Services (COS) and the Methodist Missions Society and all those who are supporting the work of Emmaus Centre and COSI Children's Village".
We will remember
"I'm really impressed and thankful to the director and staff of COS for their hard work in raising funds and building up this Emmaus Women's Centre. Through this centre, many young women can come and learn skills so that they would be able to have a job to support themselves.
"The people of Cambodia, orphans and women of Cambodia will remember this kindness in our heart," he added.
About 350 guests turned up for the back-to-back dedication and opening of the centre, which is strongly supported by the General Conference Women's Society of Christian Service (GC-WSCS) of The Methodist Church in Singapore.