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HOME IS WHERE THE HEART IS

Geraldine Cox & The Sunrise Children's Village

Geraldine Cox's Home Is Where the Heart Is

The text on the back cover of Geraldine Cox's book puts her story in a nutshell. It states, "more than anything, Geraldine Cox wanted to be a mother. Her dream came true; just not in quite the way she had expected. Home Is Where the Heart Is is the deeply moving story of a woman who found her true purpose in caring for Cambodian orphans - the tragic victims of three decades of war and destruction. Geraldine tells with warmth and humour of an extraordinary life that, while it never lacked excitement, sometimes lacked fulfilment before her involvement with the children of Cambodia. Her story begins with her Adelaide girlhood in the 1950s and 1960s, and includes her time working for Foreign Affairs in Cambodia and other overseas postings in the 1970s and 1980s.

However, the place closest to her heart was always Cambodia. In the mid-1990s Geraldine returned there to live. As one of the few foreigners ever to be granted Cambodian citizenship through Royal Decree, Geraldine paints a vivid picture of the country, and of the risks and joys of living there. Most importantly, though, she introduces us to her unforgettable children and shares their stories. Inspiring and uplifting, this is a book about how a mother's love can make a difference, and the surprises life has to offer."


Geraldine Cox - courtesy of The Age Many people will not have heard of Geraldine Cox. An Australian in her mid-50s, Geraldine Cox went to Cambodia for the first time in 1970 on a posting with the Australian Foreign Affairs Ministry and now devotes her time between fund-raising and running the Sunrise Children's Village (formerly the Australia Cambodia Foundation Orphanage) in Phnom Penh. She co-founded the orphanage in 1993 and it now looks after the welfare of up to 60 children of varying ages. Ms Cox was the subject of a highly-acclaimed documentary, 'My Khmer Heart', which won a major prize at the Hollywood Film Festival in 2000. It was last year that she also published her first book, an entertaining, humourous, challenging, tragic and heart-warming read entitled Home Is Where the Heart Is. The book is published by Pan Macmillan in Australia (contact: pancustrel@macmillan.com.au) and is definitely worth getting a copy. It's a thoroughly good read and tells the story, warts 'n' all, of an extraordinary woman.

What is even more sensational is that Ms Cox tells me that she has just signed a contract with Danny Glover, the Hollywood actor and head of Carrie Productions, to make a feature film based on the book. In her words, "what a wonderful opportunity to raise awareness of the needs of Cambodian children. You can't get much better than that and I thank my lucky stars for this opportunity. It will be at least a year before the screen script is done and an investor found, but it will happen!" Great news for Geraldine Cox and her orphanage, which all too often finds itself sailing close to the wind as far as funding is concerned. In addition to the proposed movie, which will be preceded by a fund-raising auction dinner for celebrities in Hollywood on 24 January 2002, the documentary rights to 'My Khmer Heart' have been bought by cable channel HBO in the US and will be screened at the auction dinner event for the first time.

The excellent Sunrise Children's Village website is now up and running, as is a benefit website called Cambodian Heart, dedicated to the orphaned and disadvantaged children at the orphanage. I visited the orphanage myself in November 2001 and read about my few hours with the children here. You can also read about a visit to the orphanage by a group of Australian teachers, here.


Being a 'Big Mother' to 54 orphans

by LARRY SCHWARTZ Sunday 11 November 2001

When she was in her 30s, Geraldine Cox was so desperate to have a baby that she came close to kidnapping one. "I had a hand on the pram," she says, "and I had to really pull myself together not to do it." Now aged 56, Ms Cox has plenty of kids. At Sunrise, the Phnom Penh orphanage she runs, she is known as "Madai Thom", or "Big Mother". The facility is home to 54 children. Ms Cox has run the orphanage for close to a decade. Her aim has been to keep children in Cambodia at a time when baby trafficking and fraud in adoption procedures is rife.

Just last week the US embassy in Phnom Penh refused to issue visas to 12 children adopted by American citizens, in a clampdown on suspect adoption procedures. "A lot of people ask me can they adopt children in my orphanage," says Adelaide-born Ms Cox, whose story is the subject of a best-selling memoir and a documentary film, My Khmer Heart. Her answer is always the same: no. "There is just so much corruption surrounding adoption in Cambodia at the moment." As an example, she tells the story of four children in her care. They came to the orphanage after it emerged that their mother had sold a fifth child for $US30 ($A58) to an adoption ring. The illegal trade in infants stolen from parents or bought for a pittance is widespread in a country where a teacher earns $US15 to $US20 a month. Would-be parents in America are willing to pay up to $US20,000 for a Cambodian infant.

Ms Cox is not against adoption, she points out. In fact, she adopted a Cambodian child in 1971. The girl, whom she christened Lisa Devi, had been found as a newborn baby in a cardboard box on a street, surrounded by dogs who thought they'd chanced upon a meal. Ms Cox, who was then working for the Department of Foreign Affairs, adopted the rescued child, and returned with her to Australia. As she grew older, it became clear that Lisa Devi was no ordinary child. She was profoundly handicapped, suffering deafness, cerebral palsy, epilepsy, diabetes and autism. Ms Cox struggled to raise her until, in 1978, things reached crisis point. On the brink of poisoning her child and then killing herself, she realised she needed help. Lisa has been in a home since. After putting her adopted child in special care, Ms Cox took a posting to Thailand. She also worked in the Philippines, Iran and the US, but Cambodia always called her back. In 1993, she helped found the Sunrise Orphanage, which was owned by Princess Marie, wife of Prince Ranariddh, who became Cambodia's first elected prime minister the same year.

At the time, Ms Cox was working as an executive assistant at Chase Manhattan Bank in Sydney (she'd left foreign affairs in 1987), and was finding it difficult to juggle the two commitments. "My boss would come to work on a Monday morning and the whole fax machine would be taken up with faxes for me from Cambodia," she recalls. "He didn't get his New York figures. Clearly my mind wasn't on my job and I quite deserved to be fired." That was 1995, and the obvious solution was to move to Phnom Penh full time. There she arranged for a teenage boy called Yoth Riddith, who was suffering a rare blood disease, to be flown to Sydney for treatment. But as his condition deteriorated, he told her he wanted to die among his own people. Back home, Rid died in her arms. "I swear to God he's on my shoulder most of the day in Cambodia," says Ms Cox. "I feel his presence around me all the time."

Recently, Ms Cox was granted Cambodian citizenship by Prime Minister Hun Sen. It was quite a turnaround in their relationship. Following the 1997 coup in which prime minister Ranariddh was ousted, Ms Cox denounced Mr Hun Sen as a "bloody killer" who would "take this country back to communism". Faced with the imminent closure of the orphanage when Princess Marie announced her intention to pull out last year, Ms Cox was forced to swallow her pride and ask Mr Hun Sen for help. He responded not just with the citizenship but also with a new location with 10 hectares, rent-free for 50 years. "When we moved the orphanage, he gave us 20 military trucks and 40 soldiers," says Ms Cox. "He went to the trouble to send a directive to the colonel in charge to instruct all the soldiers not to wear military uniform because the children had been very frightened of soldiers in the past and he didn't want them to be upset. I thought that was a very sensitive gesture."

Danger is everywhere in Cambodia, a country where people still routinely lose limbs by standing on landmines in rice paddies, and where gangs roam the streets. "Just before I came to Australia this time, a hand grenade was thrown into the National Assembly about 400 metres from my door, and two Chinese hotels were bombed by the local Chinese mafia 400 metres the other way. So when your number's up, your number's up." But Ms Cox has some defences in place. She is a bulky woman whose orphans delight in her ample form. And she finds some reassurance in local folklore. "One of the reasons I always keep this amazing shock of red hair is because they have a witch in Cambodia that everybody knows about," she says. "She's very powerful and she has red hair and she has the power to shrink a penis to the size of a pea if she's dismayed with you. So I figure that's a fairly good tool to have."

Fame is a kind of shield, too, though it's not one she's particularly comfortable wearing. In Australia to help promote the documentary and the Sunrise Orphanage, she concedes she is not exactly at ease "sitting in the cinema in pantyhose and high-heel shoes. I'd much rather be putting eczema cream on some kid's broken foot than sitting here, to tell you the truth." American actor Danny Glover has bought the rights to her recent memoir, Home Is Where The Heart Is. She will meet him early next year to discuss a feature film that he plans to make on her experiences. It won't be her first trip to Hollywood. Ms Cox attended an awards ceremony there recently at which My Khmer Heart had been nominated. "That was a surreal experience," she says. "I never thought it was possible to smell money and diamonds but I did." It's all a far cry from the few moments she spent on the steps outside the orphanage one evening last year with 11-year-old Pro. "He put his hand on my knee and we watched the sun go down," she remembers. "And he said, 'Mum, the dark in Cambodia is very big. When Mum's here, it's not big.' "When people say, 'Why are you in Cambodia?' I like to tell them that story. Because that says it all. To have those kids depend on me so much is a rich gift."

2001 The Age.com. All Rights Reserved.


Orphanage Diary Extracts by Rosanna White

Rosanna White and some of the older kids at the orphanage in Phnom Penh. Photo courtesy of Rosanna White.

Rosanna White surrounded by some of the older orphans at the ACF Orphanage in Phnom Penh

To give you a glimpse into life at the Sunrise Children's Village orphanage in Phnom Penh, resident volunteer and administrator Rosanna White from Australia, who has returned to Phnom Penh to spend the next ten months with Geraldine and the children, keeps a diary, extracts from which I have reproduced here with her kind permission:-

28 June: The big day! Arrived on time and quickly thru immigration, baggage and customs. Ended up coming out of the departure tunnel instead of arrivals (this is Cambodia all right) and had been standing around for 20 minutes till I realised that Geraldine would be at the other end of the building waiting. Walked across and there was her red hair in amongst a sea of black. She saw me coming and as I got to her and gave her a huge hug, this body threw itself at me and hung on for dear life, it was Saboeun. I didn't know who was squeezing who the hardest or who was the happiest, it was so wonderful to see him again after 4 months. As we headed for the city center, the smell of frangipani, petrol fumes, food smells from street stalls made me feel at home again, just like pulling on a familiar pair of favourtite slippers.....

30 June: Was wide awake at 3am, couldn't get back to sleep so read, did some washing anmd got ready for Geraldine to pick me up at 8.30am. Set off for the orphanage with Geraldine, Kylie, a lady who is here doing a spread for Bulletin magazine. She is photographing the children and showing where they would be if not here with us - working as prostitutes, rubbish dump scavengers or dead thru some disease.....When we arrived Geraldine pulled up outside and made me walk in first and there were the children in rows holding up letters of the alphabet they had drawn and coloured, saying 'Welcome home Rosanna, we missed you and we love you.' It was so good to see them all again. Some of them have shot up a couple of inches and look more grown up. The littlies all clambering over me and lots of hugs. Monitha, Phlean, Sok Kan, Mr Soth, Sopheun the new housemother, and Mr Chea's son, all glad to see me back too. Feels great to be back amongst them all.....Geraldine gave me a tour and showed me all the wonderful play areas Alan and Sue, the volunteers who just left, had installed for the children. The children now sleep in hammocks to keep them off the floor as we think it will flood with heavy rains.....Geraldine tells me the Vietnamese builders working on a property next door have burgled them while they slept a few weeks ago. They apparently came in during the night and took clothes from the line, a case under Mr Soth's bed and stuff from the volunteers room while Sue and Alan were asleep - nobody heard a thing. I can hear a flea sneeze so have a sturdy hockey stick next to my bed just in case.....

1 July: .....We are picking up 4 new children today, 11, 8, 6 and 2. They live near Mr Soth in a wood and plastic humpie. The father ran off with no 2 wife. When we got there we went to the pagoda and spoke with the head monk who told us about them and asked if we could take the 4 children. She also has a week old baby that she will keep. She is 38 and looks 50 and has that awful resigned, hopeless look in her eyes that so many people have here. We bundled her and the children in the car with us. We brought 10 of our children so they wouldn't be scared as well as the housemother, my Saboeun and Mr Soth. Got to the orphanage and gave the children a mol tuk (shower) put them in clean clothes and we all sat down to lunch. The new children were all agog and soon playing with tricycles, balls and our children were cuddling and taking care of them. Sopheun gave the mother a tour of the house and showed her where her children would be living and she knows she can come and visit them later if she wants to. She then left on a mototaxi and said goodbye quite calmly and said she would cry when she got back to her house.....It really has been an emotionally draining day, my heart goes out to that poor mother, thank god at least she has her baby to look after and not returning to an empty hut.

2 July: .....Children back from school at 11am and we all had lunch. Mr Chea, Thierry and Monitha (the music and dance teachers) arrived and lots of hugs all round. Mr Chea brought me 4 mangoes from his trees, as he knows how much I love them. Geraldine arrived a little later with Kylie and we took some of the children to the new land to do some photographs. Back in time for dinner, then the Khmer teachers arrived to give English classes. They are from the Lincoln School of English in Ta Khmao and they come to teach three different classes. They are excellent and the children need to have English grammar explained to them in their own language to be able to understand. I watch a few classes and see if they would like me to help at all with pronounciation.....

3 July: .....Geraldine arrived at 10.30am with the monks and 2 of our older boys who had been sent to stay at the pagoda for a month for consistently breaking the rules. In Cambodian culture this is one of the ways that families descipline their children and Sopheun suggested we did this too.....The monks were given lunch as they had to eat before 11am, then we had the chanting and blessing ceremony. Geraldine and I were sitting on the floor in the front row and I don't know if the monks thought we needed to receive extra special blessing to get rid of our sins, but with all the holy water they flicked on us from large urns filled with water and flower petals, during the next half hour we were absolutely drenched. The monks came from the pagoda at Khmounh, the site of our old orphanage so they know us well and they invited the children to perform at the pagoda there for a special feast day they have on Thursday.....

4 July: Sleep of the dead and woke at 6am. Watched the BBC news on tv then Nouch, the young man that works as driver/messenger for Geraldine took me out to the orphanage; it was raining cats and dogs. Worked all day at the computer responding to volunteer enquiries. By the afternoon water was nearly ankle deep in the yard around the house.....

5 July: It was actually cold last night and I had a light blanket. Up at 5am, breakfast at 6am then helped to get the children organised with their costumes and instruments to go and perform at the Khmounh pagoda.....The children returned from Khmounh and we had dinner and the electricity decided to die, so we had to sit in the dark for an hour or so, unfortunately the mozzies can still find me even in the dark!.....

6 July: .....At lunch time Nouch arrived with Michael (from Perth) and he worked on the computers with Saboeun and Sitha. We now have two second-hand laptops that have been donated and the boys need to check to see if they are working properly. Michael also took some photos for the website, so he can update it.....One of the older boys has decided he wants to leave the orphanage and become a monk. We have all talked with him to make sure he is certain of his choice as it means he will not be able to study English and computers anymore and if he later decides to leave the pagoda (which they often do), he will have very few skills with which to earn a living. He was quite adamant that this is what he wants to do.....At 8.30pm, Geraldine and I went to the Royale Hotel for a cup of tea and some airconditioning. I noticed there were many Japanese tourists at the hotel and also in PP. The film Tomb Raider with Angelina Jolie, which was shot in PP and Angkor Wat, has stirred up a lot of tourism worldwide.....PS. If you have heard news about 3 bomb blasts in PP, it's true but all is well. It appears to be a Chinese mafia vendetta, nothing to do with coups or the like. Three people were killed and it was two hotels near where Geraldine and I live and the Ministry of Tourism.

7 July: Slept til 7am, watched the news on tv and then went and did some grocery shopping. Also got some hair clips and trinkets for Sary, the little girl with polio that had the operation. I am going to visit her in hospital tomorrow. Went round to Geraldine's room at 4.30pm and found Michael working away at the new website.....

8 July: .....My first time behind the wheel driving 'Larry' (our new second-hand 4WD which was donated) and the traffic and mad drivers are still the same. Got to the hospital and Sary came scurrying across in her wheelchair when she saw me and I got a big hug. I gave her little gifts and she was delighted. She excitedly wanted to show me how she could walk in her calipers/brace - so proud of herself. It brought a huge lump to my throat to see this little girl in the brace that goes around her chest and back to keep her upright, fitted to a plastic cast into which her leg fits from thigh to foot to keep it rigid and with a half leg and foot 'boot' for her other leg. At least she can now be upright and able to walk with crutches and can aspire to get a job. She can still use her wheelchair to give her a rest but at least she doesn't have to crawl around on all fours like she used to. She is such a little trooper, nothing phases her which is good as she will need all the spunk she can muster for her future.....

9 July: Busy morning working on the list of dancers and musicians going to Australia for the Adelaide Festival of Arts next year......Geraldine arrived later and we did some work on the website input. Looked out of my window and saw two of our middle boys on their knees in the yard with their hand in the air - Sophoun the housemother was punishing them for leaving their clothes lying around on the ground. I have to admit it is so much better now having a Khmer housemother to set the punishments as the children accept it more readily and also it's not always me pulling them up for bad behaviour.....

10 July: After breakfast, Mr Soth took the 4 new children to have blood tests for Hep A, B, HIV and TB. I emptied the medical cabinet of all the medicines as it was all out of order and I couldn't find anything. I labelled all the shelves and put the medicines in order, antibiotics, stomach pains, diarrhoea, eyes, ears, fungal infections, tinea, etc, etc, so it doesn't take me forever to find the correct medication.....

Rosanna White and her adopted son Saboeun. Photo courtesy of Rosanna White.11 July: .....Geraldine picked me up at 12 noon and we went to the Aussie Connection lunch. Ladies all remembered me and welcomed me home. Good place to network for jobs for the children as either they or their husbands work for big NGOs or international organizations. After lunch, Geraldine and I went back to the orphanage to meet some visitors, showed them round and the children dancing and sent them off with a handful of brochures and a copy of Geraldine's book. We then set off for PP as tonight we are having dinner with Hav Bunse, the Advisor to the Prime Minister for International NGOs. He is a lovely man, very well educated and very supportive of Geraldine, the children and I, and most importantly has the PM's ear. He picked us up at 6.30pm and we went nearby to a restaurant called Topaz and had a lovely evening.

12 July: .....The truck from World Food Program arrived with our rice supply. As the driver tried to back into the front yard through the gate, he took the turn too tightly and nearly knocked the pillar holding the gate down. He managed to wedge himself up against it and when he tried to move forward, bogged himself into the deep sandy soil. Some of the bigger boys and I proceeded to unload 46 x 50kgs sacks of rice and lay them on the floor for counting, as well as 12 cases of tinned fish and 12 cases of oil.....Phalla our computer teacher came later on to assess what we need to do for the arrival of some second-hand computers from HK. He looks well and was very pleased to see me. After dinner, Sophoun and I gave out some shampoo and toothpaste to the children.....

13 July: Up at 5am after a sticky night. After breakfast we did some more work on the list of children for Australia. Sent off emails, then after lunch had a catnap. Geraldine arrived with Anna (an Australian lady who is living in PP with her husband working on a 2 yr project). After watching the children dance we went to the new land to see the new fence that is being built. Two sides are up and all the posts, it should be finished within a week or two......Syavouth and Vanda were at the orphanage when we returned. Syavouth is a counselor to the children and he came to talk to them about discipline and how they must be good children. Had dinner, the he left and the children had their English lessons. I asked the teachers if the knew someone who could give me Khmer lessons and they will let me know. Children then watched tv til lights out.

14 July: Was wakened at 3am by the noise of the cats playing in my room. When I switched on the lights two kittens were each playing with a cockroach!!.....At 1.30pm I caught a moto to PP and Geraldine's. We went to see Sary at the hospital and brought shampoo and other things she needed. She was very happy to see us. In the bed next to Sary was what has to be the most beautiful little girl I have seen in a long while. She is 12 years old and has withered legs and I think spinal problems, as Geraldine tells me she's been there since March and is unable to do anything but lie in her bed. It would break your heart. She has the most beautiful smile and lies there quietly without a complaint. Also met a lttle boy whose legs curved backward in an almost half circle, another with horrific burns and a 2 year old boy who lost half his leg to a landmine explosion. Really puts our aches and pains into perspective.....

16 July: .....Met Saleha, Bunna and Geraldine for a sandwich then went to the SMEC meeting at 3pm. Everything looks good and if we are able to start building in November/December, we should be moving into the new place by end of next June. If it isn't finished by then the guy from SMEC says he will run naked down the main street in PP - and I'm going to keep him to it too! It is all very exciting, fingers and toes crossed for the HBO launch of the documentary and the Danny Glover fundraiser in Hollywood - this is where we hope to get the big money.....Nouch then drove me to the orphanage and Saboeun (pictured above with Rosanna) and Sitha got a lift back to PP to attend the first night of English classes at the Australian Centre of Education (ACE), the best English school in town. I am sending Saboeun and the other boys are being sent by their sponsors. Had dinner then the English teachers arrived. I am starting lessons in Khmer on Wednesday with one of the teachers. They will give me 1 hour at 5pm 3 nights a week before teaching the children English. I am determined to learn how to speakly correctly.....

17 July: Restless night and up at 5am. After breakfast answered emails and did some admin work. Together with Saboeun I finished the list of dancers and musicians for Australia with all their details in English and Khmer.....After dinner during English lessons, Saboeun came to my room and we chatted about his new English course at ACE and his teacher. He enjoyed his first lesson and commented on how all the students are wealthy.....He also helped me with Khmer pronounciation and gave me tips on the best way to learn his language. Panha came in for a cuddle as did Beng, Ping and Knee the new boy and then they all went off for their moi tuks (showers) and I did the same. Read for a while but there are so many flying insects around attracted by the light, it's not very enjoyable.....

18 July: After breakfast got Saboeun to load Quicken onto the computer in my room so that I can do the accounts while Geraldine is away. Then got a lift into PP and went to a few of the big hotels with gyms to see if they need any extra help on weekends with sports and deep tissue massage. Thought this would be a good way to earn a few extra dollars so that I can help Saboeun do his extra courses and set him up in his rooms when he leaves the orphanage and starts work.....Back at the orphanage and prepared for my Khmer lesson. Did an hour with the teacher, my pronounciation is good because of my Italian, now I just have to crank up the old memory cells and remember it all. We had a lovely shower tonight which cooled things considerably but brought the flying insects. We don't have any frogs here to eat them up like at the old place!.....

19 July: .....Back at the orphanage and I studied some Khmer before dinner. Teacher arrived at 5pm. Learned that 'duck' and 'candles' sound almost the same so have to be careful I don't tell people I have pet candles in Italy! Also it is rude to call John Smith - Mr Smith. You should not use the family name here, but call him Mr John.....Talked to Saboeun for a while then did the rounds of the dorms and talked to the other children. The girls all putting stuff on their faces for pimples and the boys too. They believe banana skins help and it is so funny to see them with strips of blackened banana skin stuck to their faces when they're in bed.

21 July: Great sleep. Nouch picked me up at 8.30am. Went to Russian Market and bought some lovely blue and white crockery for my room.....went to see Randy May the carpenter and he is going to do a drawing for my portable massage table and give me a quote. Met Saleha for a coffee then round to Geraldine's and met David King from Price Waterhouse. 5 hours later we had set up a bank spreadsheet, cash spreadsheet and all the various links for all our needs.....

23 July: Up early, Geraldine picked me up and we went to the Reyum Gallery to pick up some clay for the children. Klara a lady who lives in PP, is going to give them clay modelling lessons.....Geraldine arrived at 4pm to talk to the music and dance teachers about punctuality and working their full 4 hours and not leaving early. It's a big problem over here, employees arrive late and leave early without batting an eyelid, or if they're sick just don't turn up without ringing or advising.....

24 July: Busy night. Girls still had lights on at 11.30pm so had to go down and get them to switch off. At 12.30am the baby was crying as he has a cough and fever and needed medicine. At 1.30am heard this loud squeaking noise under my bed and when I switched the light on found one of the kittens who had cornered a little mouse who was screaming his head off in fright. Did a rescue and put them both out of the door to work things out. Finally got to sleep at 2am and when I awoke this morning we discovered thieves had been in and stolen two bikes. Nobody heard a thing.....After breakfast did some admin til lunchtime. Geraldine arrived at 2pm with visitors and stayed til 4pm before taking them back to PP. We moved the cabinet with all the costumes and masks up to the music room on the first floor as being downstairs we are a bit worried they might get stolen. Dinner then after English, played with the kids til 9pm then got ready for bed and did the rounds.

Rosanna White and the adorable Srey Mao. Picture courtesy of Christine Dimmock.25 July: Up at 5am and after breakfast worked from 6.30 to 11am on the computer checking the new website information, new brochure and newsletter. Had a bit of lunch, too hot to be hungry and then finished off my emails.....Left for PP and went to see the drawing for my massage table, it looks great and ordered some business cards. Also scanned a couple of photos to send to a friend in England who has set up a website on Cambodia and is featuring Geraldine and the children and also some extracts of my newsletter (website author - that's this webpage!).....Back to the orphanage in time for dinner and my Khmer lesson. More work on the computer then went down to check the camp beds set up for the two boys who will sleep near the bikes and rice sacks. The bigger boys will take it in turns to sleep there with the yard light on to deter would-be thieves like they did at the old orphanage when the water pump was stolen.

26 July: Was awakened by the sound of two alarm clocks at 5am.....After meditation I helped the boys wash the floor in the music and dance area as the monks are coming this afternoon to perform the remembrance service for the children from the orphanage who died.....After breakfast Mr Soth went off to get the necessary bits & pieces for the ceremony, mats for the monks to sit on, candles, flowers, incense, soft drink, cigarettes (I know it sounds funny to give monks cigarettes but they do smoke). Rented some silver coloured 'blessing water containers' (like big punch bowls) and painted canvasses of Buddha. I worked on the pc til lunchtime and sent off the newsletter. Geraldine and two visitors arrived at 2pm. They went to see the new land whilst Geraldine and I waited for the monks to arrive and perform the ceremony with all the children. They were monks from the local pagoda who hadn't been to the orphanage before and they were amazed at how well the children knew the chanting off by heart, thanks to Sopheun.....

27 July: Great sleep. Round to Geraldine's at 7am and we worked all day on a list of things that I have to do whilst she is away, organising a weekend to the beach, collecting the second hand computers from the freight forwarder, monthly accounts, etc. We worked through to 6pm by which time we were both exhausted but had covered everything.....

28 July: Up at 7am, passed by the French Bakery and collected a couple of brioche and went to Geraldine's to have breakfast. Syavouth came down and said he'd managed to get my visa altered to a business visa through his friends at the Ministry of Tourism. When I arrived I paid for a business visa but on checking, they'd stamped it tourist and pocketed the difference in price. He is also hopeful of getting me a 10-month visa so I don't have to worry about getting it renewed so often. Nouch then took me to the orphanage and I worked on a pile of emails and work til 4pm when visitors arrived to watch the children dance.....

29 July: .....Got a call from Jo who I haven't seen since last year....she's working for an NGO in Kompong Cham, Monday to Friday and only comes home on weekends. Met her at the National Museum and walked to a little eatery. As we walked along the riverside, we heard a screech of brakes and saw a car hit a moto with two boys on board. They weren't badly hurt but I think one of them may've broken his ankle. The driving is crazy over here and if you are a 'barang' (a westerner) and someone hits you it is always automatically your fault and you have to pay for medical expenses and everything else they can think of.....out for a meal with friends.....met them at the Goldiana Hotel and we drove to the River Side Restaurant. Lovely evening, good food and conversation. I was asleep by 10.45pm.

30 July: Nouch picked me up at 8am and I picked up some papers from Geraldine's then headed out to the orphanage to get things ready for the salary payments this afternoon. When I arrived Mr Soth and Sopheun told me they had a problem with one of the older boys and girls having an argument.....It apparently developed into pushing and shoving and the girl ended up with a black eye. The punishment for fighting is to spend time in the pagoda working with the monks, so the boy will go tomorrow with Mr Soth for a couple of weeks.....The technician from Telstra Bigpond arrived and installed my email account. Its much cheaper to use than my Yahoo account....and costs only US$5 a month plus time on line. I receive a lot of emails from volunteers, work that Geraldine copies to me, etc and its a much cheaper option.....After lunch Geraldine arrived and we paid the salaries. We deducted $1 per working day from the music and dance teachers' salary as per the discussion we had during the week about them only working 2 hours a day instead of 4. They refused to accept this and now say that they'd only been at most half an hour late, which of course wasn't true. Geraldine and I had to stick to our guns or else we would have no credibility or control over staff issues and had to leave for a meeting with SMEC.....after hours of re-explaining again and again, they finally agreed and went home. By this time Geraldine and I were so exhausted we were in fits of laughter.

31 July: Was awake before 5am so much running around in my head. Nouch picked me up at 7am and went round to Geraldine's to pick her up and go to the airport. At check-in we had the inevitable trouble of trying to explain that Cathay had given Geraldine excess baggage allowance....eventually 1 hour later they agreed to let her on and she finally got through all the red tape and set off at 9.30am for KL and Perth.....Nouch drove me back to the orphanage.....Have come down with a cold - ridiculous in this heat - caught it from the children no doubt as a few of them have it too. Had my Khmer lesson tonight but have been so busy didn't have time to study. Mr Soth took the boy to the pagoda this afternoon for his two week sojourn and hopefully he will learn not to fight, especially with girls. Just heard from the boy who works with our farm manager on the new land that his friend whom he had gone dancing with on Saturday night, has died from a stab wound. Apparently after our boy left and went home, fighting broke out between two groups of boys from different villages and his friend was killed and one other injured. There is still a lot of violence happening in PPenh, the papers are full of robberies, murders, revenge killings, etc.....

1 August: Terrible night. Woke at midnight and didn't sleep a wink till I got up at 5am. Think it was a mixture of the cold and lots of things on my mind.....Got a call from the garage doing a service on Larry our car, to say the engine needs a major overhaul, piston rings, gasket, fuel injection, belts, etc - a cool US$650 worth and 5 days off the road. A horse and cart is starting to sound very attractive to me and you can't hug a car! After lunch did emails and admin till dinner. Then my newsletter and sent it off. Feeling very tired tonight.

2 August: Slept through till 4am. After breakfast packed some things for the beach and caught moto to PPenh.....At 2pm met Kurt and Kathy from Hawaii at the Last Home GH and we discussed plans for tomorrow and where to meet in the morning. Got a call from Geraldine while there, she is running around like a mad woman in Perth......in bed by 10.30pm.

3 August: Up at 6am, met the bus on the corner at 7am. Picked up Annette, Nita, Kathy and Kurt by the Independence Monument and drove to the orphanage to pick up the children. Everyone ready and waiting by the gate and we were loaded up in about 5 minutes flat and on our way, leaving Mr Soth behind to guard the house, dogs and cats. Sang karaoke most of the way there, good bus for a change, the air-con, brakes and speedo actually work even if the gears were a bit crunchy. We arrived at the house in Sihanoukville at 12.30, the children got changed and we ate lunch which the cooks had prepared this morning, and then everyone headed for the beach for the afternoon. Children having a wonderful time, swimming with inner tubes and playing ball. We went back to the house at 6pm and sat outside and ate. Children got ready for bed by 9pm as they were looking pretty tired. I have the bedroom at the front of the house which has a view of the sea which is lovely. It's a pity the house is suffering from dampness from the flat top roof and the window wall is covered in green moss from the damp, but it's still nice to feel the sea breeze and hear the waves. Had to put up a mozzie net as they are fairly fierce down here.

4 August: .....At lunchtime we all piled into the bus and went to eat at the market eatery.....we almost filled the whole restaurant with 63 of us! Children all behaved beautifully and we left an hour later to go back to the house for a siesta. Met up with everyone on the beach at 3pm.....took the children back to the market place for dinner.....did a traditional Khmer dish called Lok Lok which was delicious.....There was diced beef with a spicy sauce and deer with the same sauce and also a dish of sauteed eel and vegetables. On the way home they played disco music and soon most of the bus was bopping away. Got home and we all collapsed into bed at 8pm. Children had a wonderful time and so did we adults.....

5 August: .....Sophoeun arrived with bread for breakfast which was gobbled up quickly, the bus packed and off we set for a waterfall about an hour away on the way home. When we got there the waterfall was in full flood with very fast rapids all around. I nearly had a fit at the thought of the children being swept away.....At lunchtime we sat in the shade on some mats and ate the lunch we had brought with us, then took some group photos and piled into the bus to go home. Half way home we struck a huge traffic hold up and guessed there must be an accident up ahead. An hour later in a village, we passed a car that had been cut in half lengthwise, apparently in a head on, and three people had died. The driving is so bad over here it has to be seen to be believed.....

6 August: .....Mr Peng arrived this morning with a shipment of computers and printers from our friend Tony Herd with Cathay Pacific. Children helped unload them all into the computer room with Phalla our computer teacher, who had a grin from ear to ear.....Cooler night tonight as it rained for a little while, few frogs hopping about the yard.

7 August: .....Mr Soth arrived at 5am as usual with breakfast. The electricity broke down this morning at 9am and didn't come back til after lunch. Very sticky and hot with the fans. Got a call from Geraldine in Sydney to say hi. She sounded very tired and has been doing up to 3 functions a day. Also got a call from the hospital to say Sary is ready to come home, so I will go and pick her up this weekend when I have the car back from the garage.

9 August: Didn't wake til 6am, that's nearly 10 hours sleep, wonderful!.....Moto back to the orphanage and had a visit from three ladies from the UK who came to see the children perform. After dinner worked on emails and helped Soboeun with his homework until lights out.

10 August: After breakfast did some emails and made a few phone calls. Will pick up Sary tomorrow from the hospital and bring her home..... After lunch got a call from Vanda to say that her husband had gotten my passport back with a visa valid until March next year.....

11 August: Up and around at Geraldine's by 7.30am. Checked the emails and there were 177 of them!.....we drove out to Kien Kleang Hospital and there was Sary all packed up and ready to go, with a big grin on her face. Put all her things into the car, including the new wheelchair and set off for Ta Khmao.....When we arrived the dining room was decorated with balloons and Sophoeun had bought the soft drinks and put out the biscuits I had gotten for the children to celebrate Sary's return. The children all made a big fuss of her and we then sat and had lunch.....

14 August: .....Checked emails and it took forever to download them as there were so many and the line kept dropping out half way and I had to start over again and again - so frustrating. Tracey, who was a volunteer nearly two years ago, called in for a visit, she is in PPenh for a few days on her way to Ireland.....

16 August: .....After lunch Ivy Peterson and Chris Wagner from Singapore arrived to see the children and bring all sorts of goodies. Later about 11 doctors who were in PPenh with them and visiting a hospital doing some surgery on hair-lips, burns, etc came out to see the children and watched them perform and handed out some of the things they'd brought with them. Rained all afternoon so water was everywhere in the yard.....

18 August: .....Came back to PPenh at 4pm, it was pouring and the rain was coming down so hard it was actually stinging my face and eyes, by the time Sakop dropped me off at my room I was drenched to the skin and my face was all red from the rain.....When I went to my wardrobe to get some clothes I discovered there was water dripping from the ceiling inside the built-in wardrobe and it had wet and stained my clothes. Something upstairs must've sprung a leak so I called Nary the landlady and showed her the problem.....

20 August: Up at 6am, washed my hair and went round to Geraldine's and checked email. Drove to Ta Khmao and rang the owner of the house so he could ring the electricity company and get them to install a new meter box and wiring so we can get PPenh city electricity. At the moment it is local and not very reliable and they are going to stop supplying.....

21 August: .....Got a call from the Wildlife Conservation people to say they would like to come out on Friday and give books and play games with the children and bring out a baby Gibbon monkey.....

22 August: ....Back to Ta Khmao, had a small amount of soup for dinner then went and worked on my emails. Received a very funny one about a mad cow with sound from my friend Karen in China which I showed to the children and had them in fits of laughter. Cool night again which is great. There has been a lot of flooding in some provinces and the river here in Ta Khmao is very high with water coming from Lao and Vietnam becuase of all the logging, but strangely other provinces are suffering drought.

23 August: ....At 9.30am, a company called Iron Works (that is teaching young homeless boys to make things in wrought iron and run the company which he will hand over to them when they have enough experience) delivered a set of bunk beds that had been ordered by a visitor to the orphanage as a gift. We will eventually need to buy beds for the place and this type will probably be the ones we use. After lunch a group from the Wildlife Conservation organisation arrived to play games and give out books and also show them a baby Gibbon monkey whose mother had been killed to take the baby to sell. Whn it was brought to them it looked as if it wouldn't survive but it is now strong and healthy and living with other rescued monkeys. The aim of the visit is to teach the children how important conservation is and the best way to stop poachers is to stop buying the animals as pets or for eating.....Nary tells me that the leak from the ceiling can't be fixed.....It looks like I will have to find another room if it can't be fixed or my clothes will be ruined.

25 August: Woke at 7am, had breakfast then my new teacher Morivan arrived and I had my first Khmer lesson, much better than before.....At 2pm the computer man came to take Geraldine's computer away to replace the hard disk which is corrupt.....

26 August: .....Mr Soth rang at 7am to say the heavy rains had caused flooding in the yard and water had seeped into the computer room and girls bedroom whose floors are about 15 inches below ground level. The yard doesn't have any proper drainage and therefore it turns into a paddling pool.....Met Saleha after lunch and we looked around the streets for 'for rent' signs and I will call them tomorrow and see how much they cost, etc. Back to my room and studied for a while then had a snooze. Had some fruit and had an early night.

27 August: Nouch picked me up at 8am and we went to have a look at a place for rent nearby. It is reasonable if you can live with all walls and ceiling painted baby pink and with baby blue tiles on walls to head level! Will wait and see what else is available.....Mr Soth and I and some of the bigger boys set to digging a trench going from outside the gate to the road and put in a pipe to carry the rain water from the yard to the drain and out to the road. Will see what happens when it rains now.....

28 August: .....After lunch, emptied the PO box and there was a letter for Tola from her sponsors Julia and Russell. Paid the Ta Khmao phone bill and took my letters outlining my massage business to 4 hotels that don't have gyms/saunas on site.....

29 August: Nouch picked me up at 8am and we went out to the orphanage and checked emails and did some admin.....Felt very queasy in the tum and about five minutes later was again sick as a dog. Went round to the Naga Medical Clinic and who should be standing there but our lovely Dr Mong, just back after 6 months studying in Bordeaux. He arrived back on Monday and his baby son was born on Tuesday - that's what you call good timing!.....

30 August: .....I checked my emails and cleaned up a few cuts and scrapes the children came up to show me. At 3pm, went to the Monorom Villa Hotel and met Chris Ho the manager and he is keen to advertise my massage to the Malaysian female executives he has coming to his hotel.....

1 September: .....Back in my room at 5pm, had a snooze as feeling a bit weary rushing around in the heat and my tum still not 100%. Gerald rang and we are going to meet tomorrow with Saleha and go out to the centre she is involved with doing volunteer teaching, then go out to the orphanage to see the children. Watched a bit of tv then bed.

2 September: .....Met Gerald, Roath and Saleha at 12.30pm and we had a quick lunch at the little Khmer place round the corner then set off for the LCDI Centre. It's a centre for poor young boys and girls from the provinces who have dropped out of school for any reason, money, family, etc. They stay for 6 months and do an intensive English course, no-one is allowed to speak Khmer from the time they arrive except when they go out and have free time. They also learn marketing, interpersonal skills, confidence building, correct attitude and work ethics and mind-set development and many other life skills. After six months they are sent out to the provinces for six months to teach what they have learned to other young people, they receive no salary but their food and board and travel. They then go and do traineeships with various companies to learn a trade. They are from all over Cambodia and live at the center full time.....They now have 8 centres in the provinces with about 80 students in each centre. We were warmly welcomed by the students who proudly showed us round the centre and all that they had done and will be doing when they have the funds. It is all very basic with dorms built from donated wood with a ground level and another raised level above where the boys and girls sleep on mats.....They asked us to sit and talk to them and we had a question and answer session and we were all astounded at the level of their English after a few months and the calibre of their questions and answers. They are all so positive and eager to learn and say their moto is 'helping the needy, not spoiling them'.....

4 September: .....Gerald arrived at 3pm and I suggested that we have a meeting with Mr Soth and Sophpeun to discuss enforcing good behaviour and making the children obey the simple rules you need to run any large group of children. Personal hygiene, clean rooms and living area, punctuality for meals and classes, bed times, etc. It's their jobs as housemother and housefather to keep them in line and not allow thye children to be disrespectful towards them.....Headed back to PP and went out to the LCDI centre with Gerald and Saleha to meet all the students and see them at lessons. English lessons were in course with the senior students teching 400 lovcal children and monks English. We sat and talked to Singh and got some great info on how to help our own children study better and also with discipline, etc.....

5 September: .....Sabouen is interested in a job with computers with the opportunity to go back to school as well.....he will need to be enrolled in a school nearby the business so he doesn't have far to travel and also find accommodation for him to share with Sarouen who currently lives in a horrible little wooden shack miles away from town. He will also have to do some extra classes on some subjects as the level of teaching is very poor and teachers only teach the very basics, telling the students they need to pay to have extra classes to be able to understand better. The salary of a teacher is $20 a month and they cannot possibly live on this so they are forced to earn extra money.....the poor children whose parents cannot afford these extra classes are failed even if they know their subjects, so the poor stay illiterate with no hope of bettering their lives with a good job. Until the govt realises that they must give their teachers a liveable wage this will never change.....

9 September: .....Drove out to the orphanage and waited with the children for Tommy and Serena and some other visitors to arrive as they are arranging games and prizes for the children this afternoon. They arrived laden with food, drinks, jumpers for the girls, biscuits, chocolates, soy milk and brought food for dinner. We had the sack race, the 'lemon and spoon' race, water games and feeding each other blindfolded. The children had a wonderful time, then we all sat down and ate fried rice and chicken.....

10 September: .....returning to Geraldine's room there was a letter from the Council of Ministers with a directive from PM Hun Sen to say that all the occupants of the apartment block where Geraldine has her room, have to vacate by 11 November. The govt has decided that the building will be given to a welfare organization and that most people that live there rent free and work for the govt, must move. 99% of them have their own houses elsewhere that they rent out, so I guess it is a good and fair thing they are doing. Unfortunately it means that Geraldine will have to find another room.....

12 September: Went round to Geraldine's at 7am, checked emails and rang Lynne to see if she's got any message about Geraldine's room.....she told me all about the dreadful attack in New York. What can I say, it's impossible to put these sort of feelings and emotions into appropriate words, or to imagine the repercussions it will have on world peace. Once again, humankind has revealed its worst traits, greed, power, hatred and political dominance.....I rang the children who had heard what had happened on their little radios.....I asked them to include all the people that have been hurt and their families in their prayers tonight and also asked Saboeun to put our Khmer and Australian flags at half-mast as a sign of respect.

At lunch went to the Aussie Connection meeting and there was an interesting speaker talking about the garment factories and how the owners are working with the govt and agencies to implement the health and safety regulations and paying better salaries. There are some 200,000 people, mainly girls working in these factories in Cambodia, who are able to send home $20 a month to feed their families in the provinces. She explained how vulnerable these girls were as they had always lived at home, a very sheltered life, watched and chaperoned and not even allowed to ride on a moto with a male that wasn't family. How they were easy prey to men when they came to PP who promised them all sorts of things only to leave them pregnant and more often with Aids. How they are carrying out workshops to teach the girls about safe sex and how so many of them don't even know where their various organs are in their body let alone how they function. Very enlightening talk.

14 September: .....I noticed that Saren one of our older boys who is now working in PP was here and had stayed overnight. The children who have left are welcome to come and visit on Sundays at any time and spend time with the children, but we have explained to them that they cannot come during the week when the children have school and classes and that they cannot stay overnight. We have nearly 20 that have left and are working and leading their own lives, and if they all dropped in we wouldn't have enough food and the space is so cramped. Also they must try to become independent and set a good example for the other teenagers alomost ready to leave....At 6pm we had chanting in the dining area and all the children were telling me they were praying for the 'Americans'. I explained to them that there were many people from all over the world who'd died and not just Americans.....

16 September: .....Rang the children to say I couldn't make it back today because of the computer problems I was having. Chris Dimmock, a sponsor and friend called to say she is in PP for a little while and will visit the children on Tuesday. Back to Geraldine's and tidied up the filing, etc for when she returns next week.....

18 September: .....headed out for Ta Khmao. Children all grinning and waving when I arrived and offering me sticky rice parcels that they have for the Pchum Ben festival. Did my work and caught up with administration. Chris Dimmock arrived at 9am to see Tey and is going to take her out on Sunday.....Big rain storm tonight with lightning, we had water up over our ankles in the yard.....

20 September: .....Drove back to the orphanage and a big storm broke loose, could hardly see the road ahead, very spooky. Got a call from the Sunway Hotel, a big 4-star hotel that could be interested in my therapeutic massage for their guests......Hundreds of little bugs everywhere tonight attracted by the lights and the computer, felt like putting on Mr Soth's motorbike helmet! Gecko's having a feast......Rounds and bed at 10pm.

I hope these extracts have given you a taste of life helping the disadvantaged of Cambodia.


My Khmer Heart

Geraldine Cox and one of her children, taken from My Khmer Heart

An interview with Leonie Lowe, the film's Executive Producer by Suny Lay:

Sometimes fate just takes over. At least, that's what Leonie Lowe, executive producer of the award-winning documentary, "My Khmer Heart," believes after three years of incredible filming which led from the dusty red roads of Cambodia to the glamour and glitz of the Hollywood Film Festival.

Three years in the making, "My Khmer Heart" tells the story of Geraldine Cox's orphanage and its struggle to survive the political turbulence in Cambodia both during and after the 1997 coup. The film won the Hollywood Film Festival's award for best documentary and is a finalist in the Montreal Film Festival. Not since "The Killing Fields" has a movie about Cambodia received such critical acclaim. The film's success was anything but predictable, however. Watching it, we can't help but wonder how these filmmakers knew that a dramatic story of loss, violence, hope, and betrayal was about to unfold and how they happened to be in the right places at all the right times. We feel privileged to witness certain events in the film, recognizing that, as a documentary, all of the scenes are real and not acted out.

In an interview a few days after winning the Hollywood honor, executive producer, Leonie Lowe reflected in sheer disbelief, "Janine and I look back and ask, 'What were we thinking when we decided to do this documentary? It was just supposed to be about this nice woman and her orphanage in Cambodia.'" As it turned out, Lowe and Janine Hosking, the film's director, ended up following Cox all over Phnom Penh and even to Thailand as Cox defended the orphanage's cause before Prince Ranarridh and Prime Minister Hun Sen.

The partnership between Hosking, Lowe, and Cox began in 1997, when Hosking heard Cox giving a speech for Auscare, the Australian national refugee organization. As one of a handful of westerners who remained in Cambodia during the coup, Cox became the primary point of contact for Australian media who were reporting on the unfolding political events. With regular broadcasts in the evening news, she developed a very large, recognizable humanitarian profile in Australia and brought her orphanage to international attention.

Hosking and Lowe, both with backgrounds in television, not moviemaking, originally planned to shoot a forty-five minute documentary for broadcast on Australian television. As the orphanage's drama and tensions escalated, however, so did the pair's plans for a documentary. "We weren't sure when to stop filming. Every time we filmed something, events would take a new turn. The film kept evolving and we just didn't know where to cut off." Eventually, according to Lowe, they decided to stop where the film would have a happy ending, just in time to submit it to the film festival. "We literally finished the film three weeks ago (two weeks before the festival). We sent a VHS rough cut and it was accepted; I'm not sure if the judges even saw the final cut," says Lowe.

"When Janine called me to say she heard from the festival's director, Carlos de Abreu, saying we were finalists and asking us if we wanted to premiere in Hollywood, we couldn't believe it. Janine was screaming into the phone; it was unbelievable. We never expected this," remembers Lowe with shining eyes.

Success at the festival has brought welcome publicity for both the filmmakers and Cox. Hosking and Lowe are trying to find distributors for their film, while Cox tries to drum up funds to construct new buildings for her orphanage. Lowe remarks, "The more people we show it to, the more people who know about Cambodia and the children. Winning the award has opened doors for us. Just today, I've received two unsolicited calls from producers interested in our film; last week very few people returned my calls."

These filmmakers are not biting at just any offer that comes their way, however. They are being very careful about choosing the hands into which they will hand over this emotionally told story. "We want someone who will handle this documentary correctly, who cares about the humanitarian issues and not just about turning a profit," says Lowe. "If, through this film, we can help just one person understand Cambodia and the children better, our effort will be worth it."

Making the movie was a "surreal experience," Lowe recalls laughingly. "Geraldine wasn't sure she would get the audience with Hun Sen, and we certainly didn't expect that he would allow us to film it." At times, the film's political outcomes raise questions about the role of the cameras in those meetings. "Ranariddh ended up looking pretty bad, while Hun Sen came through for us in the end," concedes Lowe. "But if our cameras being here helped Geraldine get ten hectares of land for fifty years, then I'm proud of it," she declares. "But you do have to wonder what Hun Sen's motives really were in allowing us to film the meeting."

Cox's willingness to go to both political parties to seek resources for her orphanage reflects her priorities and her survival instinct. "Geraldine Cox is about the kids. She just wants what's best for the children, without a doubt," says Lowe. Cox's love for them shines through in the documentary and the children make no secret of their feelings for her. Piled on top of and all around her, Cox has clearly earned the children's love and affection at "Maday Thom-thom," or, as she has entitled her autobiography, "Big Mum." Cox is currently on tour in Australia promoting her book.

In one of the funnier clips of "My Khmer Heart," one of the boys at the orphanage describes Cox as a hefty woman with overwhelmingly ample proportions. But instead of becoming angry, recalls Lowe, Cox was unexpectedly moved. "The film crew was trying so hard to keep a straight face. As soon as we turned the cameras off, everyone burst out laughing. But when Geraldine found out, she was so moved that one of her kids felt comfortable enough to be so honest that she had tears in her eyes. She wasn't angry. She knew that he wasn't being nasty, he was just being honest about her. She has no kids of her own, you know, and that's why loving and winning these kids' love and trust is so important to her."

Despite the film's success, Lowe, Hosking, and Cox still worry constantly about the plight of the orphanage. "We chose to end the film at a happy point, but what people forget is that life goes on. Geraldine still needs money to construct buildings on her land, and she's trying so hard to raise funding." The documentary's success will undoubtedly bring publicity to the children, especially if they can find a distributor to buy their movie. Lowe just hopes that the funding isn't too far behind.

Review of 'My Khmer Heart' by Chakriya Phal:

'My Khmer Heart' is a spellbinding documentary, which numbs the senses, the mind, and lingers in the memory. As the title suggests, it is a film about an emotional journey through the struggles and triumphs of Australian native, Geraldine Cox, to insure the survival of Khmer orphans. This film contains all the elements of a documentary which opens windows into the heart, and spiri