“Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” Helen Keller
Just back from a quick missions trip to Cambodia. Since moving to Bangkok I have become involved with a wonderful ministry that was started up by one of my fellow ICS colleagues. Construction of Hope, who partners with Lifesong for Orphans, was started up in 2012 because the need was so great to care for children of migrant Cambodian construction workers in Bangkok. Since then, connections have been made with local pastors and leaders in Pnom Penh, Cambodia, and recently in Takeo provence, near Pnom Penh.
This weekend the family and I took the hour or so flight over there to visit both the Cambodian sites, help paint a mural in a new building at the Takeo site, and fellowship with the kids after church at the Pnom Penh site. As I write this, my family is actually still there – the trip was cut short for me due to some medical issues that required I return to Bangkok earlier than planned – I’ll save that for another post though!
The short time I was able to spend with the local program pastors and leaders was inspiring – they have such a heart for the kids they work with. Not all the children are orphans. Some have been abandoned by parents who need to leave to find work, and the kids are left behind and vulnerable. Some have a family member trying to support them, but just are not able to do it. It’s hard as an American to fully understand this – I don’t mean they can’t get a Starbucks for a day, or have to choose a cheaper cable plan. I mean they don’t eat. They have nothing. No shelter, or one that perhaps is leaking and full of mosquitos, with no electricity. No extra clothes. No place to feel safe and secure. They live in slums that we as Americans can’t imagine; they make our stateside slums look like palaces. I couldn’t get many photos of these areas since I was ill and couldn’t walk around much, or was zipping along in a bus. Google it, and you can see.
Above you can see the two new buildings that the rural Takeo site built a few months back. The building on the right is where the amazing art teacher from my school in Bangkok planned out and helped the kids paint the Hope mural this weekend. The kids loved taking ownership of it, and we pray it will be a source of inspiration for them every time they see it.
The time at this site today was also used for bonding and fellowship between the kids from the Pnom Penh site and here. So aside from doing the mural together, they had a blast singing, dancing, listening to the pastors, and they were also treated to a visiting actors group, all sharing the Gospel with them. The kids grabbed our American kiddos and had them join right in, and even though it was all in Cambodia’s native language, Khmer, our kids had a blast.
As I rested in a hammock (again, some health issues) I watched three beautiful ladies cook lunch (and later dinner) for all the kids and us – around 50 people I think. Now, I am not a person who enjoys cooking all that much, just ask my family. I DO love camping. However, if I had to cook by wood fire EVERY day, and for EVERY meal, I don’t know what I’d do?! I admit, I would whine! When I am camping, I use my jetboil! These amazing ladies whipped up the best food in these huge pots, and did it while sweating in the already-hot Cambodian country-side.
I mentioned Takeo is rural, so there’s no running water. They do have a well, and they have many rain barrels (the clay jugs you see) around the property to take advantage of the rainy season. Again these ladies who live at the site and care for the children amaze me – I should really never complain about doing dishes again in my house kitchen – even though I need to boil the water here in Bangkok, it is a heck of a lot easier than what these ladies had to do to clean all the dishes. And they do it three times a day!
The area that the Takeo site sits in is beautiful. It’s hard to wrap your head around the extreme beauty of the nature there because it is contradicted with the ugliness of poverty I observed in my short time in Cambodia. The people are part of the beautiful nature, God’s creation. He created the mountains surrounding the area, the trees growing there, the water that flows through the land. He created us, humans, his masterpiece, and it is painful to see people barely surviving. How is it I was blessed to grow up in middle class America, and these kids have struggles from day 1? But there is Hope, as the mural we painted boldly states. Construction of Hope is helping out many children, and the children need sponsors from blessed people like us. (I say “us” because it’s likely that if you’re reading this, you aren’t trudging along in life at poverty level yourself, you probably even have money to spare at the end of the week.)
Yes, I am encouraging you to check into the possibility of being one of the people who steps alongside one of these kids. My family has sponsored a Tanzanian boy for the last 6 years, and although I love getting his letters and learning about how he’s doing, it’s not likely I will ever get a personal update from someone I know visiting him. There’s no one I am connected to there whom I can ask questions about how he’s doing. I’ll never meet him. But these kids from Cambodia? I will see the ones based in Thailand’s site (precious kids of migrant construction workers) once a month when I go there to teach them English on a Saturday. So I could send you selfies! The adorable kiddos in Cambodia itself, well I may or may not get back over there any time soon, but Jason, the founder of the projects, is in constant contact with the pastors and leaders, he’ll be there again in October. This project, these kids, are his passion. I HAVE PERSONALLY MET THE KIDS YOU WOULD BE SPONSORING!
They are also looking for a full-time person to oversee the Cambodian sites, which is a position that could be based out of Bangkok potentially, especially at first. They are in the process of planning to put in a “western” accommodation (sleeping room, private bathroom, etc) for just such a person at the beautiful Takeo site. Maybe you’re the one for this job (need to raise your own funds though) or know someone who is.
Have any questions? Leave them in the comments. If I don’t know the answer, I will ask Jason and get back to you ASAP.