Wearing the traditional outfit of white shirt, black trousers and Khmer scarf (Khro’ma), 36 of us from Vattanac Golf Resort visited the Srae Ampil Pagoda, in a village on the outskirts of Phnom Penh. We intentionally chose this pagoda because of its somewhat rural location, feeling that our donations will be more impactful. Foods were sacrificed to the Monks whom are believed to be the mediators between our world and the spiritual world. The food donated is for the spirits of dead ancestors which is transferred to them by the Monks. At this time we, collectively, received our blessings inside the Pagoda. Following this, we made charitable donations to the ley-men or volunteers of the Pagoda who support the community in and around the village.
The final step of the day was performing a rice ceremony which is the gesture of placing rice inside bowls which are kept outside the Pagoda. It is believed that the spirits whom committed sins during their lifetimes cannot enter the Pagoda to enjoy the food being sacrificed, so this act is to ensure those spirits do not go hungry and are appeased, not wishing harm on their living descendants. Alongside this rice giving, the placing donations in sand cleanses one from sin as a form of penance.
A major theme of the whole visit from start to finish was the giving of small amounts of money. Be it to local children whom take care of shoes outside the Pagoda while people pray inside, to the charity boxes placed inside and outside full of small denomination notes. It was an incredibly humbling experience for all of us to see the generosity of people giving to those less fortunate than them, knowing that those whom are giving may be struggle to make ends meet themselves. To see the difference these small donations make to people’s lives and to see the reactions to a donation of 500 Riels (approx. 12 US-cents) was an incredibly humbling experience which gave each of us there a newfound appreciation for what is important.