ON THE ROAD WITH ANN – River Kids in Cambodia

Do not feel sorry for these kids.

These pictures cannot fully convey their exuberance, their lithe gracefulness, their  playfulness, their ease with and kindness to one another, their inventiveness, and their quick responsiveness to gentle commands from parents or teachers, their squeals of laughter, play and surprisingly good efforts at English. They play with what’s at hand and with one another. They are comfortable on and in the water. They may sleep at a neighbour’s and not come home for several days. A real example of a village raising its children.

These children look healthy and happy and full of the wonders of childhood – without the benefit of anything plastic or electronic. Merlene, a pediatrician among us who has worked among poor children in Peru and Bolivia says these kids appear to be healthy. Being dirty is no indicator of ill health.


What strikes me most about the children of the river is their startling contrast to those back home with constant constraints put on their behaviour, movements through space and noise. Our kids are passively entertained and ferried by car from one organized activity to another and told many times a day to line up, sit still, be quiet, don’t touch, keep clean. In our efforts back home to provide our children with experiences, skills and knowledge they will need as adults, I fear we have inadvertently deprived them of many of the natural joys and learning of childhood.

I repeat, do not pity these children; a little envy is more in  order.



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