In January I was given the extraordinary opportunity to travel with a young group of World Vision volunteers. Over our ten day trip we would visit World Vision’s Phnom Penh Urban Area programs, a series of NGO run programs and services, and the rural area programs of Chulkiri and Ruhk Kiri. Visiting the people in these communities, talking to them, discussing their stories gave us first hand insight into the lives of some of the Cambodian people we met.
When visiting the World Vision area program known as Chulkiri, our group split into small factions. We were invited into the homes of families to discuss some of the difficulties they faced in the community that they lived. My group talked to a mother of four. She lived in a wooden shack, raised above the floor on stilts. A water pump was placed in the corner while her children ran around playing. Before this pump, the woman and her family would have to walk several kilometres just to get water, water that could often make them sick. When one of her children got particularly ill and had to see a doctor, it made it even harder for them to find enough food to eat and to give their children. That afternoon this woman sat with us for an hour as our translator asked her some questions. Her husband was out for the day fishing. He would be gone for some time, sometimes staying by the water long into the night if he couldn’t catch enough fish. He made about US $1 a day at best. One of the family’s children was at school when we visited, their eldest. We were told she went six days a week. She loved it there and was studying hard but her mother was worried about what she would do when her children were to start high school. She couldn’t afford to pay for their bus rides and the school was kilometres away. While she spoke, her youngest child pulled at a necklace around her neck, he writhed in her arms, reaching for the dog to play with while she cradled him and continued to discuss the small amount of rice they would often have to borrow from their neighbours when they didn’t have enough. She told us about looking for vegetables growing on the side of the road to sell at market when the children were at school.
I was astonished at the kindness and compassion this family had given us. Allowing us into her home was a very humbling experience for me as I’m sure it was for all of us. After these visits, hoping back onto the bus, we all had stories to retell. Every family living through different experiences and under different circumstances, but all of them having to deal with issues no one should have to live with. We witnessed World Vision’s work and its generational impact on these communities but perhaps most prominently for me, this trip further visualised a worldwide truth. International aid -like World Vision – has drastically contributed to international community change. It gives Cambodians the tools they are rightfully owed to build upon their successes. So much progress has been made… but there is such a great deal much more to be done.
Please consider donating or sponsoring a child with World Vision today so that these communities can continue to grow stronger.
All photos by Estelle Van Hoeydonck.