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CEO’s blog from Cambodia

CEO’s blog from Cambodia – 27 Feb 2014

Day 1

Cambodia
‘My first day and first time in Cambodia is one I cannot ever forget. Leaving Phnom Penh behind, I headed out to three rural villages to meet some of the communities we support who are being transformed day by day. On each face of these beautiful friendly people, who live with so little and have so many challenges, one sees great hope. It resonates from deep within and brings light to their eyes. These are people who have embraced the Umoja programme run by Tearfund. A programme that supports them to pull together as a community to lift themselves out of poverty. To them this is a new approach to eradicating poverty. Tearfund does not give hand-outs, we provide support and training that allows them to use their own resources, skills and abilities to lift themselves out of poverty. This is a collective response, real unity in actin that is resulting in true transformation that will last.

I cannot wait for day two of this amazing trip!’

Day 2

M'lup Russey Cambodia‘I met twin girls aged seven today. Both were extremely shy, but manged to smile and enjoy some fresh mango with me as i visited them living with their emergency foster parents. The two girls’ mother has health problems and she felt they would get the right care and education at an orphanage. The children’s development, education and care is certainly not guaranteed by the orphanage, and in fact, the experience of a child in an orphanage can put them at much greater risk. Mum wants her children back and once her health improves they will be returned to her. In the meantime, their foster parents will care for them and when the time comes, the social workers will assist in reintegrating them back into life with their mother.

Please pray for the work of M’lup Russey as they bring life and hope back into the lives of highly vulnerable children and young people living in orphanages in Cambodia.’

Day 3

My third day in Cambodia was a day full of meetings with the management staff of the projects we support. I also had the opportunity to meet with country representatives of our partner organisations. While my first couple of days brought me out to the villages to meet with local people, today I had the chance to discuss the projects and explore the strategies and plans with our partners. We discussed the progress being made, some of the challenges as well as what is working well. We also discussed strengthening organisation capacity and developing the capacity of the church to reach out more to the community. At the end of the day I feel a strong sense of a united approach to our work in Cambodia. I feel encouraged and blessed by how the Lord uses His church and His people, the Body of Christ to bring His love and hope into the lives of the very poor.

Day 4

Pronje Rambo, Cambodiarice
Its time to pack up and head off to Poipet in the north of Cambodia to visit with another project, the Cambodia Hope Organisation (CHO). It takes most of the day to get there and when we do, we drop our bags to the hotel and meet with two of the CHO team, the manager of their community development programme and their business development manager. They have prepared a presentation for us and we watch a video. This gives us an overall sense of the extent of the issues of the most poor and the work of CHO in the border villages between Cambodia and Thailand. I am looking forward to learning more and going out into the field to see the work first hand and we agree to meet bright and early the next day.

Day 5

The morning is spent visiting families that CHO works with in rural areas along the border between Cambodia and Thailand. The families we visit are extremely poor. One family in particular had travelled to Poipet in search of a better life. A family in desperate poverty, that had, through the kindness of another family, built a makeshift home on the roadside. With the support of our partner CHO, this family was lifting itself out of poverty. On a small stretch of borrowed dry land, they have started to grow vegetables. They now have a much healthier diet. Previous to this they had experienced very poor health due to poor nutrition. Also, they have begun to sell some of their produce which was giving them a household income. With the support of CHO, this family has also begun to save. A considerable step forward, they now could save the equivalent of $1.25. This has been a very humbling day. To witness first hand the extreme poor living conditions of this family and at the same time the great progress they are making. They, rightly so, have a great sense of pride in having improved their situation.
PanPiep and PAn Rea, Cambodia
Please pray for the many families like this one, who live with many challenges in providing for themselves and their children, that they would continue to receive support from CHO and in particular, continue to be blessed as they seek to lift themselves out of poverty. They have such hope despite such adversity and many challenges. May God bless them.

After a long hot day, I am humbled, blessed and encouraged. Also, my respect has grown for the people of Cambodia, and for our partners who have such a challenge to reach so many in need. With the Lord’s help, they will continue to press on.

Day 6

The days starts early once again as I set off from Poipet back to Phnom Penh. With bags packed again the journey commences on a road that has more potholes then I have ever witnessed before. The driver swings the car from one side of the road to another to avoid the craters and oncoming traffic. We encounter vans packed with people, vegetables, furniture and people driving motorbikes packed high with produce.
Cambodia street
A brief stop-over at Siem Reap and I get an introduction to some of the history and culture of the people of Cambodia with a visit the temple ruins at Angkor Wat. Arriving late evening in Phnom Penh, I set about packing my bag for the trip back to Ireland while reflecting on the past few days. It seems like a lifetime since I arrived. I prepare to go home having learned so much about the lives of the people we work with and our project partners. There is great need here but also really good progress is being made.

Final Day in Cambodia

Before leaving Cambodia, I visited the Toul Sleng Museum. I had prepared myself for this visit as this museum was once a prison where out of 20,000 prisoners, only seven people survived at the cruel hands of the Pol Pot regime. It was a harrowing experience. That another human being could do what was done to another is too difficult to get my head around but it does put in context what the people of Cambodia went through in the not so distant past.

My final thoughts on leaving are that the people of Cambodia warrant our support. Life should no longer be about survival, but flourishing. As the Lord said, ‘I have that you might have life, and have it to the full’ John 10:10

The Choice - story of Sina

The Choice - story of Sina – 30 Oct 2013

See the story album

Sina lives with her husband and three sons in Tonle Batie village, Cambodia.
Cambodia’s government gives the poorest people ‘poor cards’ rated between one and three – one being allocated to the poorest of the poor. Sina has a poor card number one.

Sina’s family can’t afford to buy a ‘proper’ house or land, so they live in a one-roomed shack built with their own hands using scrap materials. There’s no electricity, no running water apart from the dirty tributary outside the house, and no sanitation – Sina and her neighbours use a nearby field as a toilet.

Sina strives to provide healthy food for her growing boys, but she can’t afford much. On the good days, they’re able to catch some fish or snails in the dirty river. Sina often goes without food so there’s more for her children.

Sina_food.png

Sina’s husband Bora is poorly educated, so there aren’t many options for jobs. At times, he must work away for weeks at a time, leaving Sina and the children alone.

But Sina has strength and determination, and for the sake of her children she holds on to the hope that the future can be better than the present. She’s powerfully motivated by the desire to build a safe and secure life for her children, and she has some ideas about how this might be achieved.
She would love to have land so she could grow vegetables to sell and cook for her children, and maybe raise some chickens to sell at market. But even these simple things are beyond Sina’s reach at the moment. Although she knows the way to go to improve things, she feels powerless to take this path.

For many families like this, things get harder and more hopeless, and children are pulled out of school in order to save on school fees and so that the children can contribute to the family income. This limits the future prospects of the children, meaning generation after generation is stuck in extreme poverty.

Pastor Ke Pich was born in Phnom Penh, but has lived in Tonle Batie for many years. He is well known, respected and loved locally. He has a real desire to help his village, especially the poorest people. With Tearfund’s support the local church in Tonle Batie has started an exciting new project.

KePich

The new church project in Tonle Batie is based on Umoja, also known as Church and Community Mobilisation.

This method of helping communities develop and combat poverty is rooted in the church and owned by the community itself. Things are not done for or to people; rather people are trained, equipped and supported to do things for themselves. This means the results are sustainable, and the change is permanent.

People are already benefiting. For example, people with no land have managed to borrow spare land to start growing vegetables together: a very new way of doing things in Tonle Batie. Others have started a chicken-breeding project, helping increasing numbers of people as more eggs are hatched and shared with others. Like Sina, those involved used to think they had nothing, but now they’re starting to see that they have more than they thought.

Because the Tonle Batie Church project is in its infancy, and so far only taking place within the small church community, people like Sina don’t have the option to get on board. This year’s harvest campaign is about making it possible for projects like this to expand successfully, so people like Sina can have the choice to join.

The more prayer and support we can raise, the more we can do to support Ke Pich’s project and others like it to reach out and empower people like Sina.

Please work with us this harvest, and raise support.

Walk for Hope this Bank Holiday Monday

You can also donate here.

For more resources (including prayer ideas and kids activities) on our project in Cambodia visit our Resources page.

The Choice - pull Sina back from the brink

The Choice - pull Sina back from the brink – 12 Sep 2013

SINA AND HER FAMILY
Sina* is 28 years old. She has three children: Yuth (aged ten), Bunton (aged eight) and Den (aged five and a half months). Sina is married to Bora, who is also 28. Sina is a warm, strong, dignified woman. She has a beautiful smile, but a lot to worry about. She’s open about her hopes and fears, and strong in spirit – she holds on to the hope that things can somehow be better for her children.
‘Sometimes I find it hard to sleep, because I have a lot on my mind. And sometimes I wake early in the morning with worry.’ (Sina)
Sina’s father died when she was a teenager, and she is now close to her mother Sokly and sister Sokha. Her mother doesn’t live very close by, but comes to stay with the family sometimes. Sina’s sister and her family live two doors down from Sina, and both sisters face very similar struggles.

HOME
Sina lives in a tiny one-roomed shack. The walls are made of dried palm leaves, and some sides are open, with just fabric hanging from the tin roof. The whole family sleeps on one raised wooden platform, and at one side of the shack is a fire for cooking. There is no electricity, running water or toilet – Sina and her neighbours go to the toilet in the field at the back of the house.

Sina’s small home was built by her and her husband with their bare hands, using scrap and second-hand materials. The family can’t afford a proper house or their own land, so the shack is built on government-owned land. This means Sina’s family could be moved on any day, and would have to start again.

POVERTY
Sina’s family is among the poorest in her village Tonle Batie. In Cambodia, the government gives ‘poor cards’ (officially called equity cards) to those least well-off – Sina has a ‘poor card number one’, which means she is among the very poorest (the cards are graded one to three, one being allocated to those in most need).

Rice is a staple food in Tonle Batie. Rice with vegetables is a popular meal for families like Sina’s, fish when they have it. Other meals eaten by the family include vegetable broth, fish broth, rice soup and dried fish – when they have those things to cook. Meat is extremely rare for families like Sina’s. ‘It’s very hard when we struggle to have enough food. I pity my children.’ (Sina)

Sina_food.png

Currently, Sina’s husband Bora is working as a security guard, and the family rely completely on his small income. Bora and Sina are both poorly educated and unskilled, so those few jobs available to them are extremely limited, insecure and poorly paid. Despite this, Sina is immensely grateful that her husband is in work. She is also grateful that, at the time of writing, her husband’s work is close to Tonle Batie village.

For many families like this, things get harder and more hopeless, and children are pulled out of school in order to save on school fees and so that the children can contribute to the family income. This limits the future prospects of the children, meaning generation after generation is stuck in extreme poverty.

THE CHOICE
Sina is desperate to break this cycle and give her sons a better life. She feels she could do this, if she could fulfil her dreams of growing vegetables and keeping animals – the first steps towards a better future.

This would provide the family with more food, as well as the option to sell vegetables and animals at market to make more income. Eventually, Sina would love to have her own piece of land and live there with her family in a house that is more secure and fit for purpose. Then she and her husband could work the land and make a sustainable income – he would not need to go away for work, and she could contribute while still being there to care for the children.

When she talks about these things, she gets tearful – the prospect is so lovely to her, and seems so far from reach.

She feels she currently lacks the power, skills and resources to fulfil these ambitions – and has no option to lead her family out of poverty. ‘I hope the future is better than the here and now, where we have nothing. Right now, because we have no money, it’s hard to dream dreams about the future.’ (Sina)

HOPE
Sina is not forgotten. The local church is helping villagers like Sina beat poverty. They’re pulling them back from the brink and helping them build a future that’s safe and secure.

Sina_kids.png
But people like Sina need your support.

Around the world, churches are reaching out to whole communities, right to the edges. Can you help them stretch further?

Please download this ‘Sina giving flyer’ and make a regular gift to Tearfund and make life secure for many more like Sina. Today, tomorrow and beyond.

A regular gift of €7 a month for one year could give 12 people like Sina the chance to learn skills such as breeding chickens to sell for extra income.

You can also donate here.

For more resources (including prayer ideas and kids activities) on our project in Cambodia visit our Resources page.

Tragedy strikes Peah’s family

Tragedy strikes Peah’s family – 1 Jul 2011

Tragedy has struck the family of Peah, the young boy featured in Tearfund Ireland’s autumn 2008 film (view film here). Over the past few year’s Peah life has been transformed after being fostered into this loving family. Now he has lost his foster father.

In the frantic traffic of Phnom Penh, Cambodia his foster father came off his motorbike on his way to collect Peah from school. He suffered what appeared to be minor injuries and got back on his bike and went home. Later that evening he started vomiting blood. His family rushed him to hospital but tragically he died in the hospital four hours later.

Peah and all his family are in a state of shock and grieving his loss. Tearfund and our local partner Little Conquerors are also sad at the loss of this wonderful man. We will continue to support this family Please pray for the family during this difficult time.

Rescued from the streets

Peah was abandoned on the streets of Phnom Penh, Cambodia when he was only 6 years old. Fortunately Chendai, who works with Tearfund’s partner Little Conquerors found him. We were were able to place him with a loving foster family who raised him as their own son. Little Conqueror’s supports foster families by providing social work assistance, helping to pay school fees and helping the parents establish small business to sustain themselves.

Give to our Forgotten Children Fund today

  • €22 per month can support two children in foster families
  • €86 can pay for school fees and books for four families for one year
  • €125 can pay for a social worker who places children in a foster family

Download a Standing Order Form to give regularly
Give online here

Christmas Appeal - Give Hope

Christmas Appeal - Give Hope – 10 Dec 2010

Red ants and snails. When hunger gripped Mol and Tol Tuch and their children in Cambodia, these were the options left available to them. In their village, that we visited last year, one in five children were dying from malnutrition.

‘I was shocked when I saw Mol and Tol’s children eat,’ says Ralph, who recently visited Cambodia. ‘It was as if they hadn’t seen food for a long time and would not see it again. There was something disturbingly “urgent” about the way they chewed and swallowed – as if their lives depended on it.’

A small amount of money can make such a huge difference in a country like Cambodia.

A gift of just €34 can provide a family with two pigs and five chickens, providing food and income for the future.

Mol and Tol have a field. They depend on this for survival. But the rice harvest enables them to grow enough food to feed themselves and their four children for just six months of the year. Then the food runs out.

Tearfund’s partner, the Wholistic Development Organisation (WDO), has begun working in villages across the region to tackle the problem of chronic hunger. Because of their support, things have changed in Mol’s village. ‘They (WDO) came here and helped us. This village was one of the poorest in the area. The work has changed tremendously the way people live.’

Tearfund has enabled its partner, WDO, to loan chickens and pigs to needy families. Mol and Tol are already breeding theirs. They will eventually give back the adult animals, keep the offspring and start a business selling chickens and pigs. Alongside this, WDO has provided crop seedlings – and trained families like Mol and Tol’s to use their land in the dry season, growing watermelons and vegetables.

‘They have helped our family completely’ Mol smiles broadly. ‘This is the outcome,’ he says, pointing to his field full of crops – a contradiction in a country where fields normally lie bare in the dry season. ‘You have helped us to thing of the future. You have given us hope,’ he says.

Could you give just €34 this Christmas? Donate here

Saving for the future

To cope with the uncertainty of the harvest a ‘rice bank’ has also been built. It is a secure shed on stilts used to store rice. In Mol’s village fifty families have already joined the scheme. The church runs the initiative – they were the only ones the villagers trusted to manage it.

‘I took my 20kg of rice to the rice bank’ explains Mol. ‘Then when I was lacking food, the rice bank loaned me 100kg. It really helped us. It is much cheaper than most other ways of getting rice.’

Because of the work of Tearfund’s partner WDO, the Tuch family now always have two meals a day. During the next five years, Tearfund’s partner WDO is on track to reach and mobilise every church in Cambodia to support its community and ensure people have enough to eat.

How your support can transform a community

  • €124 can provide 30 families with seeds so they can grow up to eight different crops, which means they don’t just rely on one food group
  • €61 can provide agricultural training for eight church volunteers, helping nearly 200 orphaned children to farm their own food
  • €34 can provide a family like Mol’s with two pigs and five chickens, providing food and income for the future

Irish-funded health centre opened; Cambodian PM says thanks – 23 Jul 2010

A new TB/AIDS respite care centre was built in July in Poipet, Cambodia with funding from employees of ESB in Ireland. At a ceremony to open a new TB/AIDS health centre, Tearfund was presented with a gold medal and certificate of appreciation by the governor of Banteay Meanchey province on behalf of the Cambodian Prime Minister, Hun Sen. The recognition reflects the growing influence of Tearfund partners working in Cambodia to tackle poverty.

Poipet City, in north-west Cambodia, is an epicentre for HIV/AIDS due to its thriving sex trade and human trafficking industry. Tearfund’s local partner, Cambodian Hope Organisation has been supporting people living with HIV for many years. However they realized that the local hospital facilities were inadequate for people with HIV and tuberculosis (TB). TB was spreading to immune-compromised patients and causing a high death rate. The new facility allows the isolation and improved care of highly infectious patients.

David Crooks, Tearfund’s Country Representative for Cambodia, said the timing of the recognition was important: ‘This growing influence comes at a time when the government is tightening up its control of civil society and will hopefully demonstrate to the government the validity of civil society groups and the church.’

Would you like to see our work in Cambodia in Spring 2011? Deadline for application 30th August. Apply today.
Find out more about our work in Cambodia here.

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