Ninety percent of Cambodians living in extreme poverty live in the rural countryside. Some of the poorest villages are located along the border of Thailand, which is where LWB is now working. Children in this region often live in remote villages, with little access to basic social services such as health care or a nearby school.
Last October, we made a commitment to the children of Sokhem Village, many whom are left behind all day while their parents travel to Thailand in search of work. Our new Believe in Me school was built right in the heart of the village and is now providing both education and nutrition to 60 wonderful kids.
Last month, Tiffany Bennett, LWB’s Cambodia Impoverished Student Support Manager, traveled to Sokhem Village. She graciously shared some personal reflections about her time there.
When you arrive in Sokhem Village, you are immediately besieged by a horde of eager children yelling “hello!” at the top of their lungs. They follow you throughout the village, jumping up in front of your camera and giggling as they pose for shots. They particularly love to make funny faces at the camera and laugh uproariously when you show them the photos.
Sokhem students love to smile for the camera!
On one evening of my stay there, a new family arrived at Sokhem Village: a father, two girls, and a little boy. The children’s mother had recently passed away, and the family was homeless.
As an agricultural laborer, this father can only hope to earn a few dollar a day, making it a struggle to support his family. They spent the night sleeping on the hard, dusty road just outside the village, without anything to eat. The next day, the children crept shyly into the village while their father headed out to find work in the fields. Never having had the chance to attend school, they peered with quiet curiosity through the classroom windows.
Before long, the beautiful, boisterous children of Sokhem had drawn the three siblings into their games, and the kind, generous village mothers of the LWB nutrition program had provided them with a hot meal.
By the next day, it was as if the three new children were long-time residents of Sokhem and close relatives of all the village children. The little boy, who had first appeared sad and fearful, was even beginning to show the occasional smile. Even better, the whole family was invited to stay with one of the teachers at the Sokhem Believe In Me School, and for the children to attend classes there. This story is an incredible testament to the generosity, openness, love, and strong sense of community that exists in Sokhem Village, despite all of its poverty and the daily struggle for survival with which its inhabitants must contend.
One of my other observations from my time in the village is that many of the children in Sokhem can be seen toting an infant sibling around with them at all times. While they are excellent, attentive little babysitters, taking care of younger siblings often means that they aren’t able to attend school themselves. This is especially true for the girls in the village, who often must drop out of school to care for their little brothers and sisters.
One bright, vivacious little girl has never had the opportunity to attend school, despite the fact that she is twelve years old, as she has always been taking care of her brothers and sisters. We are so happy that she is now attending some classes at the Believe In Me Sokhem School! She is an eager student and a quick learner, as well as a leader among the other children. She can be seen breaking spontaneously into song, practicing her English phrases on any visitors, or playing clapping games with the other children.
For this important work to continue, we are seeking partners to help us give the children of Sokhem renewed hope. All of us at LWB believe that the key to helping these children rise above their poverty is through the power of education. Your kindness and generosity will make such a positive difference in the lives of these precious children.
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