In February, I spent a week visiting children and families in Holt’s program in rural Cambodia, where extreme poverty, under-development, food shortages and un-policed exploitation threaten the stability, health and wellness of children, families and entire communities.
On our last day in Kampot, an older woman met our Holt group just as we were returning to our vehicle to head back to Phnom Penh. She didn’t speak English, so I shook her hand before hopping in the backseat of the SUV. I have no idea how far she walked to find us.
She walked to the driver’s side window and told our community development officer that her family really needed a new roof, and to ask if we could help provide one. He discussed her request with Holt’s director of programs in Cambodia, Kosal Cheam, who translated her request to us as we drove away.
While I didn’t actually see her home, I imagined it was similar to those I had visited all week. It was probably a thatch roof with thatch walls, built on stilts.
A leaky roof in Cambodia is a huge threat to children’s health and safety. During the rainy season, children will be more susceptible to colds and illness. The leaking can rot the floor and ruin the whole home.
I asked how much the new roof would cost, and Kosal said it would be about $100.
Upon returning to the U.S., I donated $100 to our Cambodia program, designated for this family. It was such a minimal cost to change a family’s life and keep them safe.
Last week, I received an email from Kosal and I opened it excitedly, expecting to see pictures of the new roof.
I was heartbroken by her news.
The roof was delayed because the grandmother died just a few days prior and the mother, father and children were preparing for her funeral.
As if that weren’t sad enough, Kosal also said that because the family’s home was in such poor condition, there wasn’t enough support from the walls and central pillars to support the weight of a new roof.
Kosal included two attachments, and I clicked them open. I was shocked by what I saw.
This is a picture of the family’s home.
And this is a picture of the family. Thann, the little boy on the left, is in Holt’s child sponsorship program, so he receives help with his school fees and other critical, basic needs, like emergency food. Thann is a good student and doing well in school. His younger sister is too little to enroll in school. The family makes their income farming rice, but Holt’s on-the-ground staff are helping them to learn new income generating skills, like animal raising. Also, Thann’s mother is in a Holt-funded self-help and low-interest loan group in her village. You can read more about Holt’s self-help groups here.
Children and families in our programs tend to be among the most vulnerable in the world. In Cambodia, poverty is especially pervasive. However, even by that standard, this home is in very, very rough shape.
I can’t imagine the sadness this family is experiencing, having just lost a dear loved one and family elder. And to go through the excitement of learning that one of grandma’s last wishes for her family — a new roof! — was granted, but then impossible to complete… That must have felt just hopeless.
But I know we can make a miracle for this family and give them some hope in their time of need.
For $400 more, we can not only replace the roof, but fix the family’s home to support the new roof.
To make a donation, call Holt Development Associate Courtney Young at 541-687-2202 or email email@example.com and let her know you want to donate to Thann’s roof project. She will be happy to take you donation over the phone. You can also donated here, but be sure to write “Thann’s Roof Project CBACE15-002” in the comment box.
Any amount you give will be used 100 percent to help this family. Anything above $400 will be redirected to a similar program of greatest need.
Thank you for giving this family the resources they need to get back on their feet. Your gift will be truly inspiring and life changing for them.
If you make a gift, we will email you when we receive an update from Cambodia.
Billie Loewen | Creative Lead