Cambodia: Part Five
Over the last few days I have shared part of my experiences from Cambodia and some of the real challenges that impoverished children face in this region of the world. While some of the issues are similar to those we face in China (malnutrition, lack of medical care, “left behind” children fending for themselves), others are critical problems we haven’t faced before. I know most of us have read about the atrocities of child sex trafficking, but to hear the stories in person and to learn that many of the families I met have been impacted in some way was truly sobering.
Also sobering was seeing the enormity of child labor and knowing that without some sort of assistance, a lot of the beautiful children I met would soon find themselves doing manual labor, often by the age of 9 or 10. It was a lot to take in.
That is why on the last day of our visit, we knew we needed the children to do nothing more than have some good old-fashioned FUN. My new friend Leng asked me what I had in mind. So many of the best memories I have as a mom involve sitting around a kitchen table with my kids, eating a great meal and just feeling happy in being all together. I’m sure all of you know what I mean. And so I asked Leng if we could gather the children we met in different villages and have a party, with round tables and plenty of hot food. Somehow, he magically made it happen.
Since our arrival in Cambodia it had been pouring down rain, but the morning of the party we woke up to cloudy but clear skies. I took that to be a sign of a truly great day. We headed out at 7:30 in the morning to the celebration site, where I soon realized the entire party had been brought in by one large truck, from plastic chairs and tables to a huge awning and even a few balloons.
The children in the villages would have had too far of a walk to the event, so we hired tuk tuks to bring them in for the day. I learned you can put up to 20 children on just one tuk tuk!
By the time we arrived, there were almost 200 children who had gathered together, and the kids were so excited they looked like they would burst.
The party began with many groups of children singing and dancing for us. All the kids clapped and cheered with such gusto that I knew everyone was having a great time.
The remarkable teens with the MERCY initiative served as emcees. We were treated to acts from “Head, Shoulders, Knees, and Toes” to traditional Cambodian dancing (which was so beautiful).
Then it was time for the food. You have to remember that so many of these children eat just one meager meal of rice each day (if even that at times), so as they brought the steaming trays of vegetables, meat, and more to the tables, my heart felt so happy seeing the elated looks on the children’s faces. They ate, and ate, and ate some more.
And just when I thought it couldn’t get any better, the dancing began again, this time to pop music. Wow — did they all have fun!
All too soon it was time for us to head out as we had a plane to catch that night in Bangkok. You could tell that no one wanted the fun to end, as the children lingered and asked for just one more dance song.
We saw a few children actually leave in tears as they didn’t want the day to end, but thankfully most headed back to their homes with huge smiles and lots of laughter. It was a day I will carry in my heart forever, one where we could put aside the hardships they often face each day and just celebrate the joy of being a child. It was a wonderful way to say goodbye to our newest friends.
The moment we crossed the border back into Thailand, we began discussing how LWB could make an impact in this border region. There are enormous needs, from providing quality medical care and working on the immediate nutrition issues, to of course the essential need for children to get an education.
But there are also grim issues from which we can’t turn away, such as the number of children who have been rescued from brothels in Thailand or rounded up by police for begging on the streets and then dumped across the Cambodian border to often fend for themselves.
How can anyone turn away from that need?
We are already in the beginning stages of setting up a safe house initiative, similar to our current foster care program in China, where we can identify kindhearted women who would be willing to foster these children while we work to identify their families and see if reunification would be possible.
We also learned there isn’t an orphanage in this region, so babies who are abandoned must be sent to orphanages in the bigger cities far away. I am of course wondering if family care would be an option for some of those infants as well.
Love Without Boundaries has already made a commitment to build schools in both Rangsei Village and Sokhem Village to protect the wonderful children there and give them a safe place to get an education. You can learn more on our website. I would be so grateful to anyone who wishes to join with us in these important projects.
We have already started the enrollment process, and many wonderful children and teens are now listed on our sponsorship page who need your support. For just $25 a month, you will be making an investment into the life of a child which will have a long-reaching impact. Just like with our current projects in China, sponsors will receive monthly updates on the program, so you can easily see the results of your kindness.
I want to thank you for taking the time to read my blog series on my trips to both Uganda and Cambodia, and I hope you’ll share in our excitement that Love Without Boundaries is now expanding our outreach to other countries.
Today I’m giving thanks that out of all of the people in the world, God led me to meet Innocent in Uganda and Leng in Cambodia. Their commitment to helping children in their communities is truly remarkable. I know that by LWB working alongside them to bring hope and healing to vulnerable children…we will all be changed for good.
~Amy Eldridge, Chief Executive Officer