Monday, 30 March 2009

Giving Children Wings

It was the best of times (to half quote Charles Dickens) the day Phnom Penh International Airport and Société Concessionnaire des Aéroports (SCA) opened their arms to the children of Who Will, a local NGO based in Phnom Penh, which is supported by CamKids. The request was for a tour of the airport and its various internal divisions in order to give the children an insight into what career opportunities are available. What they were given was much more.

They were met at the Welcome Desk by Monirath SOK, Secretary to the Operations Manager and Samnang CHEY, Assistant Manager – Operations. Each child was given a bright yellow Visitor jacket and an airport pass and then all were taken to a briefing room where Florent de WARREN, Deputy Operation Manager – Airport Services, told them the itinerary and the ‘rules of engagement’ – be conscientious of other passenger, stay together, don’t run, etc.

They were taken to a Check In desk and each given a boarding pass on Flight WW001 of Who Will Air. From here they were taken through Security, into the VIP Lounge and then past Immigration onto a bus driven by the patient and informative Naro YOU. which took them to the Control Tower.

Here they were briefed by Bunkong NOV on all the instruments, the operation of a control tower and what requirements were necessary to become an Air Traffic Controller.

Boarding the bus they were taken to an aircraft of Indo-chine Airlines – a 737-200 – where they were awaited by two pilots Sivanthan DOUONG and Sophea UY. Each child was shown his or her seat, according to the boarding pass, and given the opportunity to sit in the co-pilot seat while being briefed on all the instruments by Sivanthan DUONG who never wavered in his professional, pleasant and repetitive narrative. They had the opportunity to walk through the aircraft, look at the galley, ask many questions and even use the toilets.

They were then driven to the Fire Department, stopping on the way to watch an aircraft land and see all the machinations that occur to ensure people disembark and eventually receive their luggage.

At the Fire Department they were met by the crew led by Sunday SEN, Safety and Rescue FFS Manager, shown the fire engines and allowed to climb inside and ask questions. They were then given a demonstration of the power of the water hose (3 00 litres per minute) and all then headed for the bus to be taken to the VVIP section.

The VVIP section is the separate section of the airport reserved for kings, presidents, prime ministers and other special envoys. They were taken to the reception lounge where each child was given a gift of a cap with the insignia of Cambodia International Airport and a booklet. They were then, by special permission, given the opportunity to visit the premier lounge and, for a while, imagine what it would be like to be a king….

It was then back into the bus to be taken to the terminal building where their journey had started three hours previously. They had been accompanied throughout by Monirath SOK, Samnang CHEY and Florent de WARREN, who had responded to the myriad questions and looked to the comfort and safety of a bunch of boisterous children – Florent also being the photographer of the day and had taken over 150 photos.

There is something about a bunch of happy children that affects everyone that comes into contact with them. And so it was this day. Passengers that normally sit sullenly or morosely waiting for the seemingly interminable hours to pass before boarding their flight, smiled when the children walked past, some even greeted them.

The effort that was put into this trip by the management and staff of Phnom Penh International Airport has ensured that the dreams of a number of children have been realised and their horizons broadened.

You can find out more about CamKids' work with Who Will HERE.