Eleven-year-old Thak Kan and his family had trouble sleeping every time it rained where they live in rural Cambodia. The roof would leak. The house would flood in heavy rain. But what worried them the most were the poisonous snakes and scorpions that crawled through the holes in the walls of their house seeking dry shelter. Thak slept on the ground with his parents and three younger siblings. And he was scared of snake bites.
Thak Kan’s family was one of the poorest families in their village in rural Cambodia. They could hardly afford food, much less the materials to build a safer house. But when, on Giving Tuesday, we asked you to help build new safe homes for families living in dangerous conditions, you responded with overwhelming kindness and generosity.
You helped provide home repairs and new houses for some of the most vulnerable families living in some of the worst conditions — including for Thak Kan and his family!
In the summer of 2016, Holt sponsor and then Holt employee Billie Loewen met a very sad, hungry girl in a remote village in Cambodia. She immediately signed up to sponsor her. Four years later, she receives an update that makes her heart soar.
In the first week of every month, I pull open the Excel spreadsheet with four years of monthly budgets. I open the Chase app and Wells Fargo and drift quickly over the charges, looking for anything amiss. The single line with a shortened title, “HOLT INTL CHILD,” and associated charge — $38 — always catches my eye.
Most months, paying bills is the only time I think about what it costs to sponsor the beautiful, shy, heartbreakingly sad little girl I met in a village in Cambodia on a scorching hot, dusty day in 2016.
Tiny, impossibly thin with straggly hair turning yellow from lack of nutrition, and a broad face with deep, serious eyes, 10-year-old Phal captured my entire heart the moment I saw her.
It’s been four years since I met her, and I think about her a lot.
As the oldest child in a single-parent home, Mol Vey felt the need to help support his family. After losing his father at a young age, his mom struggled on one income. But he could only do so much, and often missed school to help his mom. Then sponsors and donors stepped in — providing the tools and resources his family needed to stay together, and grow stable and strong.
Mol Vey lives with his mother, Leng Sina, and younger brother in Prey Kuy village — a small village located in Cambodia’s rural Prey Veng province.
His father died from diabetes when Mol Vey was just 4 years old, and his family already struggled to survive on minimal income. But when he passed away, their living conditions grew even worse.
In Cambodia, palm trees are used in all kinds of ways. The tall stalks act as landmarks, designating a family’s home and property. Its fruit is used to make delicious “fish amok” — a traditional Khmer dish featuring rich, creamy coconut curry. And when you pull apart the different strands of the palm leaf, you can bend and twist it upon itself to create the traditional craft of a rather lifelike locust.
Cambodians use palm trees for all kinds of good things.
If we ever wish to see a world where every child has a permanent, loving family, then keeping families on the verge of separation together is critical.
In Cambodia, this concept is absolutely central to Holt’s programs.
With the generosity and commitment of sponsors like you, Holt’s on-the-ground partners are empowering women to combat some of the biggest threats to family stability — migration, trafficking, poverty, poor job opportunities and food shortages.
By training moms in diversified sustainable agriculture (a fancy way of saying farming and ranching), they are able to generate enough income to provide for their families without migrating for work. This helps to keep children safe. By creating women’s self-help groups and community loan programs, women are learning to save money and also have access to low-interest loans. This helps ensure children’s basic needs are met. And, by providing children with school supplies, teachers, advocates and education-based leadership opportunities, children are staying in school longer and staying safe from exploitation, abuse and trafficking. And, children share what they’ve learned with their parents, too.
All together, these efforts mean healthier, happier children, stable families and stronger communities.
And it’s all because of you, because you provide the support to ensure these programs are possible. By sponsoring a child, you are giving a voice to the voiceless and preventing child abandonment, and not just in Cambodia but everywhere Holt has programs.
In early February, Holt staff had the opportunity to visit children and families in Cambodia, and we hope you will take a minute to see how sponsorship is transforming the lives of children and families in two of the poorest districts, Prey Veng and Kampot.
Overcoming financial and family pressures — and one fast-moving river — a young woman in Cambodia pursues her dream of a college education. Research and interviews for this story were conducted by University of Oregon student Hallie Rosner, who recently interned with Holt Cambodia through IE3 Global Internships.
Every morning before class, Sath Chheangly puts on her uniform — a neatly pressed, knee-length khaki skirt and crisp white button-down oxford that proudly displays the logo of the university she attends in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. She looks like any other college girl, with stylish, blunt-cut bangs and a little personality coming across in her choice of shoes, often a pair of yellow, flowered flip-flops. Quiet and contemplative, Chheangly is a serious student, majoring in economics, rural development and agriculture with extra classes in Chinese.
But she, more than most, knows just how much personal appearance matters.
Join Holt partner Friendship with Cambodia on a tour to learn about life, culture and the needs of children we serve in Cambodia! The tour will run from December 30, 2013 to January 11, 2014, and all funds raised will go to support programs for woman and children in Cambodia.
Friendship with Cambodia (FWC) is a nonprofit organization based in Holt’s hometown of Eugene, Oregon. FWC provides humanitarian aid to families and children impacted by a legacy of violence and oppression in Cambodia. Instead of creating dependence on foreign aid, however, FWC strives to empower and create self-reliance. Since their founding in 1992, FWC has helped landmine victims and poor women in Cambodia market their handicrafts in the U.S. They also started a sponsorship program for Cambodian children to attend school.
Earlier this year, Holt’s senior executive for S.E. Asia traveled to Cambodia to visit families and children in programs Holt supports in the region. Here, she shares the story of one young woman named Soriya. Despite economic hardship, Soriya’s mother held strong that her daughter should stay in school. With Holt’s help, she did.
by Thoa Bui, Senior Executive, S.E. Asia
Soriya* is a shy and very quiet 14-year-old schoolgirl who lives a very simple life with her mother in Takheo, a province in southwest Cambodia that lies along the Vietnam border. Their home is made of leaves and bamboo, and is bare inside save for a few belongings. Soriya also has an older brother and an older sister who live away from home. Her father died a year ago.
Soriya’s family is one of hundreds of families Holt International serves each year through local partner organization, Pathways to Development. Since 2006, Holt has supported family preservation projects in Cambodia with the goal to strengthen family units and prevent displacement of children from their families. Through the years, Holt and Pathways have helped hundreds of children and families grow stronger and more self-reliant.
In the rural farming village where Soriya and her mother reside, a family is considered very lucky to have farmland. However, growing up, Soriya’s family did not have any land. Instead, her parents worked as daily laborers for local landowners, earning barely enough to get by. During the dry season, the father climbed palm trees to collect palm juice to sell. Soriya’s mother earned additional income by sewing together palm tree leaves. Together, the parents made about $2.50 each day.
When Soriya’s father died last year, the family fell into more severe economic hardship. During my visit, Soriya and her mother were still very saddened by his death, and Soriya’s mother often broke into tears when sharing about her family’s life.
After Soriya’s father died, their neighbors pressed Soriya to quit school and help support her family by finding work in Phnom Penh. But Soriya’s mother did not want that for her daughter, and tried hard to keep Soriya in school. Through a community referral service, Soriya and her mother received help from Holt and Pathways to Development. Pathways provided the family with emergency food as well as loans from the rice bank that Pathways operates in Takheo. As the roof on her house is made of palm leaves and is frequently damaged in heavy rain, Pathways also provided home repairs to protect Soriya and her mother from the elements.
Most important to Soriya’s mother, Pathways has equipped Soriya with the resources she needs to attend school – including uniforms, books and school supplies. She also receives counseling on health and education to keep her in school. During our visit, she said, “My daughter can go to school regularly thanks to all the support given by the program to my daughter and family.”
A little bit of support has gone a long way to keep Soriya in school and keep her family together… As I left their house, I kept admiring the strength of this widow and her daughter, despite all the challenges they face in life.
In impoverished communities around the world, girls are far more likely than boys to be deprived of an education. But when girls are educated, they have the unique capacity to create sweeping social and economic changes in their communities — for generations to come. In Cambodia, Holt recently took over an educational sponsorship program for 79 outstanding high school and college students. One of these scholars is a young woman named Jorani. When she graduates from college next year, Jorani has big changes in store for her small rural village. (Molly MacGraw, Holt and IE3 Global Intern in Cambodia, interviewed Jorani for this story.)
Holt provides educational support for at-risk girls — and boys — in countries around the world. Give your mother a truly meaningful gift this Mother’s Day. Honor her with the gift of education for a young girl in India, or an orphan in China! Click here to view Holt’s Gifts of Hope catalog online.
Jorani* is a shy, soft-spoken young woman in her third year of study at Royal University in Phnom Penh, Cambodia. A student of sociology, she loves to sit in the library for hours at a time – researching topics related to her major. The issue of community development is particularly compelling to Jorani, who grew up in an economically depressed region of Kampong Thom – a large, geographically diverse province located in the center of Cambodia. When she graduates, she plans to return to Kampong Thom and work either for a non-governmental organization or as a teacher. In either role, she hopes to help create a more prosperous and hopeful future for the people of her village.
Jorani is one of 79 students from impoverished communities in Cambodia whose education Holt helps to support. Like all students in the educational sponsorship program, Jorani was chosen for her extraordinary performance and motivation in school. Now 23, she is excelling in her classes and on track to graduate from college next year.
In September, Molly MacGraw arrived in Phnom Penh for a three-month, IE3 Global Internship with Pathways to Development – Holt’s partner organization in Cambodia. A human development and family sciences major at Oregon State University, Molly will over the coming months assist Pathways with child sponsorship reporting, grant writing and other tasks that will benefit from her native English skills. In turn, she will have the opportunity to immerse herself in the work of a small nonprofit serving children and families overseas. Here, Molly describes her first trip to Takeo province, a rural region where Pathways helps struggling families to care for their children. Click here to learn more about Holt’s work in Cambodia.
by Molly MacGraw, Holt and IE3 Global Intern in Cambodia
This past weekend, I traveled to Takeo province for my first work trip with Pathways to Development. Takeo is a province 2-3-4 hours southwest of Phnom Penh and is among the poorest provinces in Cambodia. (I say 2-3-4 hours of travel because depending on how you get there – bus, motorbike, van – transportation in Cambodia can be quite the challenge and you never know what you could get.)
There are several communes within Takeo made up of many villages, but Pathways focuses on and serves two communes. This work trip was important to me because it allowed me to see what my organization does and how they help and who they serve. Now that I am back in the city, I have a much better understanding of what I can do to help after seeing the faces of those who need our assistance.