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Saturday, August 19, 2006 

The children of COSI

I've been contemplating work in the missions field for a while now and apart from serving as a photographer in church, I haven't had a real go at an overseas mission trip. An earlier attempt at joining a church planting mission team to Cambodia 3 years ago ended in failure when I came down with dengue fever two weeks before leaving. Like many other churchgoers, I was initially apprehensive about serving. This was primarily due to uncertainty as to how I could contribute and whether I could devote enough time to make that contribution in an effective manner. I eventually found my calling when I picked up photography again some 3 years ago. Prior to this year, I've been focusing on work closer to home and my church but since then, the trips I made this year to Calcutta, India and Kupang, West Timor to photograph humanitarian organisations have convinced me that there are many areas in great need of help through publicity in the form of images.

The Methodist Missions Society (MMS) is the missions arm of the Methodist church in Singapore. One of its many concerns includes the Community Outreach Services-Immanuel Children's Village or COSI for short. COSI is located in the Ang Snoul district of the Kandal Province in Cambodia. It's a 45 minute drive from the center of Phnom Penh and set in the middle of a farming community.

I was presented with an opportunity to visit COSI a couple of weeks ago and decided to see what I could capture with my camera. If you feel compelled to contribute to MMS and its various causes, please visit their website or email them at mms@methodist.org.sg. MMS is currently in greater need for people to step out of their comfort zone and enter an area of service although funds would be greatly appreciated as well.

COSI is an orphanage catering to 6 to 18 year old kids. There are currently 117 residents which is close to the maximum capacity of 120 residents. It serves as a shelter and school to all the residents. A young student picks up her homework after grading by her teacher.

Classes are taught in both English and Khmer, and in various disciplines such as language, mathematics and sciences. COSI is currently understaffed and is in need of more educators and administrators. It is currently run by a full time missionary from Singapore who teaches and acts as an administrator. Under her charge are a handful of teachers and general staff, some double up as house-parents to the children.

Kids will be kids, paying attention to the photographer instead of lessons. Most of the children in COSI would not have had an opportunity at education if they had not been brought in. Many rural families are not able to afford education past a rudimentary stage and children are often required to help out in the farming work from as young as 8 years of age.

Many of the children form close bonds while in COSI. Most have lost their parents or were given up by families too poor to raise them. When COSI first opened their doors 6 years ago, there were initially more boys than girls. Cambodian families tend to prefer females as they are deemed more useful at household chores and as such tend to give up their boys instead. The ratio has somewhat equalized over the years although the orphanage still shelters a slightly higher number of boys.

In addition to classes, the children also learn about agriculture by working in a small field for an hour in the evenings.

The children help out with chores around the compound, everyone will have their turn at cleaning, cooking and washing laundry.

COSI relies entirely on public funds to operate. The monthly budget of about US$8,000 goes to food expenses, staff salaries, diesel for the electric generators, teaching supplies and a range of other needs. Though not a large sum, considering all this supports 117 residents and more than 30 staff members, there is always a need for more. Once funds and additional human resources become available, there are plans to create another orphanage and school in other provinces.

The Emmaus Women's Centre is located within the grounds of COSI and serves as a shelter for displaced women. Here they are sheltered and equipped with skills such as sewing and dressmaking so that they might be self-supporting.

Most of the boys spend their free time around the football pitch, several hours a day.

Some of the girls sharing their stories. Many are heartwrenching tales of single parents leaving their families, parents killed in accidents or suicide, abandoned by their families... the list goes on. Their tales all end on a similar note, one which speaks of the happy times spent in COSI and the prospect of looking forward to a brighter future.

Catching a ride to the padi field. Most of the kids willl spend their entire childhood within the confines of COSI though there have been some who have chosen to leave as they could not adjust to the regiment required of their stay in the orphanage.

Accomodation is basic with the boys and girls living in separate housing. The rooms are organised into "houses" with about 16 children in each house under the care of a set of house-parents. Outside the classroom, the children are under the foster care of their house-parents who often act as mentors and provide guidance and discipline when needed.

The children rely on donated toys and clothing. There's always a ready need for more. Many are deprived of toys which more fortunate children would take for granted.

In prayer during evening vesper service. It was heartwarming to watch as the children sang hymns and shared unreservedly amongst themselves.

My time spent in COSI was but a short one though it was enough to witness the abundant grace of God at work amongst the children and community of COSI. And as mentioned in the beginning of this post, there is always a call for more volunteers come forth and offer their time and services, whether full or part-time, to help out with a range of activities like teaching and maintenance. Not just in COSI but also with many of the other social concerns under the umbrella of the MMS. Again, please visit the MMS website for details and contact information if you feel that calling within yourself.


Impressive. No need to comment further.

glad u found ur calling, terence! impressive photos, as usual. ;)

It a nice series of photo ..

Pray the Lord will send more ppls over there for mission works

God Bless


Hi Mr Sanguine,

Wonderful photo documentary.


Very good photos and a worthy cause.

Something to do with the boys once they get a bit older. Maybe I should start them with doing the dishes...

Nice photo! Great to look at ur photo documentary.

i had the chance to visit COSI on a school trip in 2002 and it was one of the most humbling and wonderful experiences of my life. i'm glad it had a similar impact on you... those children are so amazing.


Dear Mr. Sanguine
How are u?
when u come COSI again ?

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