“I wanted to work with children. So one day I searched on the internet on “Children” and Volunteers”, and the first thing that came up was “Children of Cambodia”, says Sanna Backman. Every year the organization sends three volunteers from Finland to work in the public orphanage in Phnom Pehn. A few weeks after her arrival Sanna started looking for a child to adopt of her own.
Chose a Child
‘It’s now it,’ spells the green letters on her yellow t-shirt. And that was exactly how Sanna felt sitting in her appartment in Helsinki. “I have always wanted to be a mother, but for some reason it never happened to me,” says Sanna. “I don’t think it is so important if you have made the baby yourself or not. When I found out it was possible to adobt by going to Cambodia I felt that now was the right time to do it. I want to give a home to someone who needs a home. By adopting I can save the life of a child and become a mother at the same time”.
According to Finnish law it is legal to bring a child to Finland if you live in a foreign country and has adopted the child according to the local laws. A couple of weeks after Sanna came to Cambodia she started looking for a child. She visited a few orphanages and had almost made up her mind about a baby boy. But the manager wanted 2.500 US for the baby.
“I though that was a lot of money and I asked him if that was normal. He said: ‘This is the money I need. If you want the child give me the money’. I had a very strange feeling about that man, so I went to talk to the human rights organization Lichado to ask them how I could know if the boy is really an orphan. I don’t want to take somebody’s child. Later someone told me, that the former manager of the same orphanage is prison for human trafficking,” says Sanna. The new manager was so angry with Sanna for involving Lichado that he refused to let her adopt the boy on any terms.
Lichardo gave Sanna the numbers of a few orphanages in Phnom Pehn with good reputations. “I went to one that had three babies. But how can you choose a child? There were two boys and a girl. They all look cute. What is the difference,” asks Sanna. “I did not really decide, but somehow I just started being more with the baby girl. And now I have her,” she says with a smile. “They called her Somnang. It means lucky.”
Sanna work half day at the orphanage and spend the rest of her time with Somnang. With 150 children and very few adults hands to take care of them Sannas dream of working with children came true. But the sad situation of the children of her daylight hours sneaks into her nightly dreams. “After a few weeks everybody here have night mares. All the things you see during the day they come into your dreams,” she says. “After a couple of month is gets better. You start to understand that you cannot change it. You can only do your best. That is how life is here”.
More than half of the children in the orphanage are handicapped. According to Sanna the conditions are especially hard for these children. “Nobody wants to adopt a handicapped child. Some of them are left because the parents think, that the children must have done something bad in a previous life, to be born with a handicap,” she explains.
Sanna thinks that the staffs at the centre are not trained well enough to take care of handicapped children. “People here think they don’t understand anything and that it doesn’t matter what you do with them because they are handicapped. “The handicapped children are treated very bad. I think animals in Europe are treated better sometimes than handicapped children in Cambodia”. I
In spite of the tough situation and Children’s facilities at the orphanage, Sanna has chosen to keep working here. “This orphanage is poor and it has handicapped children. So I thought this is the place where I can really make a different. This is where I should be”, she says.
But only for a While. In December she is going back to Finland with her daughter Somnang. Sanna has mixed feelings about leaving Cambodia.“Actually I am a bit afraid to go back. Because then I might starts thinking about what is actually going on here in a different way. Then the nigh mares might come back,” she says. “But I am glad I have my own girl now. Some how that makes it a bit easier to leave all the others,” she finishes.