christian academy in japan, tokyo
“I love you, teacher.”
I couldn’t hold back my tears. He hugged me and said a final farewell to me on the last day of class. Before I left, he gave me a plastic flower that he found on the ground. For a boy who had nothing to himself, even a dirty object was valuable to him. This 9-year-old boy named Chan was one of the children whom I taught and built a close relationship with last summer on my volunteer trip to Cambodia. When I visited his house, I found out that he was abandoned by his parents and lived alone with his 12-year-old cousin. Despite this, he was incredibly hardworking and eager to learn, hoping that one day he would achieve a better life with sufficient food and a home surrounded by loved ones. At that moment, the flower from Chan represented love and care; to me, the dirty plastic flower was beautiful.
As our van drove away, all the children chased after us. I spotted Chan, tears streaming down his eyes. I felt his pain surge through my nerves, as if I somehow understood how much help and support he needed.
When the figure of the small child faded in the distance, all I could think about was the plastic flower. I started to see it in a different way. It had not been planted, nor nurtured to grow. In a way, this flower embodied many children who I taught. The important seed of education had not been planted widely in Cambodia. With limited qualified teachers, the children have little chance to transform themselves and their country out of ravaging poverty. This moment became a turning point in my life. My heart was on fire to continue serving these people.
The trip to Cambodia was more than just teaching the kids, meeting the Khmer teachers, and getting to know the other volunteers. It was also about building intimate relationships with the Cambodian people and sharing the true form of love with them. During the trip, I took action and provided the Cambodians with education, medicine, clothes, and donations. However, I strongly feel like I’ve received far more from the Cambodians than I gave during the trip. Not materialistic things, but things that are more significant: love, care, warmth, and intimacy. I had only met the Cambodian children and teachers for the first time last summer, but to my surprise, they immediately became like a family to me. As I continue to be a part of TASSEL, my hope is that more people would share this true form of love with the Cambodians by planting and nurturing the seed of education in this underprivileged country, allowing them to truly blossom.