Can a Sewing Machine Actually Help?

sewing machine in Cambodia

When Narin’s dad lost his job because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Gift of Hope of a sewing machine saved their family.   

Narin’s family was empowered, independent and thriving.

At the beginning of 2020, they were doing well. They had food to eat, a stable income, the children were going to school, and 16-year-old Narin finally had the medical care he needed — all thanks to the generosity of Holt donors.

But then the coronavirus pandemic began. And their family plunged once again into crisis.

Around the world, COVID-19 has had dire effects on families in poverty, and Narin’s family was no exception.

Narin (right) with his mother and younger siblings.

Narin’s father worked on a construction site. But to prevent the virus from spreading, the construction site closed down. Just like that, they lost his entire income.

It felt like they were right back to where they started before — struggling to get by. Except for one thing… a sewing machine.

How does a sewing machine save a family in poverty in a time of crisis? To truly understand, it’s helpful to know Narin’s full story.

Narin is 16 years old, although small for his age. WIth the help of generous Holt donors, he is receiving ongoing treatment for his blood cancer.

When Narin was a baby, he was diagnosed with a blood cancer.

A diagnosis like this is devastating for any child and their parents. But especially for a child and family living in poverty.

Unable to find work in his community — a small village in rural Cambodia — Narin’s dad migrated to work on a construction site where he made about $7.50 per day. Although too far away for him to live with his family, this was the only job he could find. Even still, he barely earned enough money on the construction site to provide enough food for his wife and three children. How could he pay for ongoing medical treatment for Narin?

Thankfully, Narin’s parents found a hospital that would provide treatment for Narin for free. But the hospital was over 100 miles away from their village. They would have to hire a driver for the entire day to go to and from Narin’s regular appointments.

They couldn’t afford it.

Instead, they took Narin to the hospital for treatment whenever he got really sick. But they simply couldn’t afford the ongoing medical care he needed.

Narin was a good student. He excelled in primary school. But when he was 12, Narin wasn’t well enough to go anymore. Besides, the cost of uniforms, books and supplies had become too much for his parents. They couldn’t afford to send him or his younger siblings to school anymore.

There wasn’t even enough money even for food. They needed help.

The only option they could think of was for Narin’s mom, Ary, to migrate to find work somewhere else, maybe at a garment factory in the capitol city of Phnom Penh. Many parents in their village did this. It’s common.

But migration — separating a family — is never the best solution.

When one or both parents migrate for work, their children will often stay with grandparents, or other family, or even all alone. They become vulnerable to neglect, abuse or exploitation. If their parents are working, there may be enough money to send their children to school now, but children often fall behind academically without a parent’s watchful eye. When children grow up without their families, the result can be catastrophic.

But Narin’s family didn’t have a choice. Most likely, the children would go to live with a family member, or maybe even be relinquished to an orphanage — a heartbreaking reality for many children in Cambodia.

It was at this point, when Narin’s family was on the brink of separating, when Holt Cambodia reached out to them, offering another way.

Right away, Holt staff assessed the family’s most immediate needs. Through the generous gifts of Holt donors, they were able to provide emergency food for Narin and his family. Holt donors also stepped up to pay the transportation costs for him to receive regular treatment at the hospital.

But that wasn’t all.

Not only do Holt donors meet the immediate needs of families, they also empower them to become stable and self-reliant for the long-run. For Narin’s family, this meant finding sustainable income for his parents.

That’s when a generous Holt donor came up with the perfect solution — giving Narin’s mom a gift from Holt’s Gifts of Hope catalog. A sewing machine! This gift was just the tool she needed. She began working as a tailor right away.

In the beginning, she only made about $1 per day. But she kept practicing, and she got better and better. Before long, she was earning $5 a day. And the best part? She could do it all from home, and still care for her children.

Next, Holt Cambodia helped Narin’s father find a job closer to their village.

Now that this family had two incomes, Holt Cambodia didn’t need to bring them emergency food anymore. While Narin still wasn’t well enough to go to school, his two younger siblings were ready to return. They had the school uniforms and school supplies and everything else they needed to succeed. And with the regular medical treatment he was now receiving, Narin hoped to join them at school someday soon.

But everything changed when COVID-19 hit and Narin’s dad lost his job at the construction site. Once again, they were in crisis.

But this time, they still had hope. Hope in the form of a sewing machine.

the gift of a sewing machine
Ary is so proud to provide for her family through her tailoring business.

That’s what’s so great about a Gift of Hope. It’s a gift to empower a family for the long-haul. It’s the gift of security, even in crisis. The gift of a safety net.

And it’s the safety net Narin’s family fell into when the coronavirus pandemic hit.

“Without this tailor business,” Holt staff in Cambodia report, “they would not have any income now.”

But instead, even through this pandemic, Ary can still work as a tailor. She can still make around $5 per day. It isn’t a lot, but it’s enough. Enough to buy food. Enough to keep Narin and his siblings from going hungry.

When you give a Gift of Hope, you never know just how much of a difference it will make. For families like Narin’s, something as simple as a sewing machine is what saved them. It’s bringing them through this most difficult time.

Until Narin’s father can go back to work, and until they are back on their feet, Holt donors are going above and beyond to help Narin’s family. For now, that means continuing to provide the transportation fees he needs to get to and from the hospital for his treatment, and meeting any other emergency needs that come up until they can get back up on their feet. While this time is difficult, they have the hope and stability to see through it.

“Although this business was small,” says our Holt staff in Cambodia, “it brought a new hope to this family.”

Little girl holding a baby chick

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