In September 2019, we met Linna, a Holt-sponsored child living with her family in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. The leaky roof over her head made it hard for her to sleep at night when it rained — and even harder for her to concentrate in class. Her family also needed help covering the costs for her to attend school. Learn how Holt sponsors and donors worked together to help Linna succeed!
Linna lives with her mom, dad and older brother in the slum community of Phnom Penh. She just turned 10, and was about to start 5th grade when we met her last year. She was washing dishes in a big metal pot on a wooden table in front of her home, still wearing the white button-down sailor shirt and long blue pleated skirt of her school uniform.
Her mom works in a garment factory. Her dad had a good job as a security guard, but now works as a fisherman. It was just Linna and her dad at home when we visited.
We asked Linna about school, her life, what she likes to do, what she wants to be. Linna has a Holt sponsor who helps pay the monthly fees for her to attend school, and both she and her father shared how thankful they are for the kind and generous support of this wonderful person they’ve never met. Linna showed us a birthday card she received from her sponsor, and told us that sometimes, she writes letters in response — to say thank you. She told us that she loves math and Khmer literature, and loves playing a game with her friends where they write letters in the sand.
“I want to be a teacher,” she said. “But if that’s not possible, I want to work in a beauty salon.”
Although Linna is among the top students in her class, she knows that her opportunities will be limited if she doesn’t graduate. She also knows that where she lives, going to school is a privilege — not a right.
“Before Linna had a sponsor, my children sometimes could not go to school because I had no money for them,” Linna’s dad told us. “We lied to the teacher and said, ‘Oh, my children are sick.’ They would stay home. Sometimes, they would help me fish.”
If not for her sponsor’s help covering the cost of fees, uniforms, books and supplies, Linna would have to drop out of school, he said. He would also struggle to provide enough food.
“The sponsor helps my daughter a lot,” he said. “[Her sponsor is the] reason I can afford three meals a day for my daughter.” Before, when he couldn’t afford food, he would borrow from the neighbors, and pay them back when he earned enough.
Linna sat quietly by her dad as he talked, playing with a ring on her finger. Her shoulders were a bit hunched, but she smiled brightly when we asked her questions.
“Is there anything you’d like your sponsor to know?” we asked her.
Just as we were about done with our interview, the winds picked up and the sky started to cloud over. Linna started walking around her house, moving inside anything that needed to stay dry.
Her house had no walls or doors, and no real roof — just a series of tarps layered over metal slats to form a makeshift shelter.
Like many families in this community, Linna’s family migrated to Phnom Penh because they believed they would have better opportunities than in their home province — a rural area.
The garment factories just outside the city pay relatively well, Kosal Cheam, director of Holt Cambodia, explains.
“But land and homes are very expensive in Phnom Penh,” she says. “Jobs are temporary. Housing is temporary.” And quite often, our support is temporary, too, because families often migrate again — leaving the area, and our sponsorship program.
But Linna’s parents are determined to keep their children in school. And if they stay in this community, Linna can also stay in Holt sponsorship.
“If she could get a high education and then get a good job, her life will be better than my life today,” her dad said.
Linna said it was hard to sleep when it rained at night. She had to move around a lot to avoid getting wet from water dripping through the roof. She would still get up the next day and go to school. But she would be tired, and try to nap during breaks.
A few months after we visited Linna, in December 2019, we made safe shelter the centerpiece of our Giving Tuesday campaign. Thanks to the Holt donors who gave on Giving Tuesday, Linna’s family now has a new tin roof to help them stay dry when it rains. With better sleep, Linna can concentrate better at school!
Thanks to her devoted sponsor, Linna also has everything else she needs to continue her education — and work toward a better quality of life for herself and her family.
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