Festival of the Dead, known as Pchum Ben is the most important festival in the Khmer religious calendar. The Cambodian people consider Phchum Ben Festival seriously and have faithfully observed it every year. They pay their respects to deceased relatives and try not to miss a visit to the pagoda to dedicate food and offerings to the dead. They traditionally meet together at the pagoda, more importantly on the 15th day of decreased moon.
Also to celebrate the religious festival, AFESIP centers always encourage residents to leave the centers for family reunion and celebration and we notice that more than half of them leave the centers. Usually, they request to stay home at least 5 consecutive days. The centers send them home villages by AFESIP transportation, accompanied by our reintegration staff.
Children at Somaly House celebrated the Festival of the Dead
The residents who do not want to leave the centers, AFESIP helps organize them to go for the celebration at as many pagodas as it can. Somaly Mam, AFESIP Founder and President of Somaly Mam Foundation this year also participated in the event, as one of the Khmer Buddhists, along with the residents of Tomdy Center. She enjoyed the life with the groups of the residents, anywhere she can. We arrange transportation and food and have lunch somewhere at suitable locations together, after the pagodas and offering food to the monks.
Residents at Tomdy Center celebrated the Festival of the Dead
Twelve out of fifty-one residents decide not to leave the center to celebrate the festival, because they are happy when center staff take them to many pagodas during the festive days and can enjoy the days with many friends while being out in the van for a change of atmosphere. And furthermore, they are able to visit many temples they can.
A part from the 2 centers above, our cook and her assistants, getting up early in the morning go out shopping and prepare special food for the monks. The well-prepared food is kept in the containers and not allowed anyone to take even a spoonful before the monks do. In the containers, there are rice, soup and dessert. Each resident is given 4000Riels each day in order they can spend or do charity to the pagoda or whatever.
The residents wear in white and blue looking so happy and are taken away by AFESIP car with the staff straight to the pagodas. The food is brought and put in front of the monk and all the residents sit in front of him with their hands greeted to listen to the prayer. After that, they go to where they can see the monk big rice containers placed in order on the long table. The believers stand in line with each a plate of rice and a spoon. They place a spoonful of rice in each of the monk containers, while recalling the deceased relatives to receive this offer.
After this religious event, the residents always ask our staff to take them here and there depending on their choice, such as Angkor Wat Temples, Bayon, … The next days are done the same but different pagodas and different touristic places. They are refreshed after many days in religious actions.