3. LUCKY, The Backstory: Settling In

It wasn’t long before more volunteers arrived and the Cambodian pastor and his congregation moved to the same site. Soon these programs were welcoming neighboring children and the programs were sharing the church and field.  Volunteers from Charlotte churches began providing meals for the Wednesday and Sunday evening events and soon a program director was hired to oversee the activities for children. When the Scout Hut was refurbished and heated, the Boy Scout troop from the downtown church began using it, along with other groups.

As for the very energetic Cambodian kids, it took time to get them more truly interested in anything other than the basketball goal and the open field. That began to change when a surprisingly serendipitous outing started us in a  new direction. Having seen Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat some years before, I found I could get some reasonably priced tickets when it was presented at Charlotte’s community college, so I suggested it to the kids.

“It’s a play?” one asked with a skeptical frown, a skepticism the others apparently shared. But when a few said they’d go, the others came along. What proved truly serendipitous about the event was that kids discovered the star was a popular singer they all knew about. Game over. They loved the show!

From then on, we tried to program outings and events when we could, a major one the next year when the NCAA Final Four came to Charlotte, when we took them some of the activities surrounding that weekend. It helped that more volunteers had begun to participate, providing Sunday and Wednesday evening meals and sharing their talents: musicians who taught them singing and trained two drummers, a dancer who actually got them dancing and a former Naval Academy football player who helped with the Sunday afternoon recreation. Others worked with the Cambodian pastor and the children. When it was possible, we began ferrying the kids to off-site places, a Charlotte Hornets’ game when we got some free tickets, a visit to Charlotte’s Discovery Place, an afternoon fishing expedition to the pond on the site of the Methodist Retirement complex, and recreational basketball at area church gyms. We also began a music program.

The program was changing and the kids and the adult leaders along with it. We began to feel like they considered this their program now and were very much involved. And their parents began to feel okay about the program and soon let their teenaged daughters participate.

Our next big step came when we began to travel.