Little Sophea wasn’t gaining weight like her twin sister. Then her mom learned why: Sophea had a heart condition. But living in poverty, she couldn’t afford the care her daughter needed to survive. Then Holt Cambodia stepped in to help Sophea get the heart surgery that would save her life, and the food and other help the whole family needed to be healthy and thrive.
In northwest Cambodia, there’s a village in the jungle home to many Holt-supported families and children. Along narrow dirt roads winding through lush palms and ferns are the homes where they live — some thatched and on high stilts, others made of concrete and metal sheeting. In many ways it’s a tropical paradise.
But families who live here also struggle with poverty and, among other things, a lack of medical care.
Heng and Her Children
One of these families is 35-year-old Heng and her three children. At first, the help she needed was similar to many of her neighbors in the village — food deliveries, educational help for their children and income-generating support. But her family’s needs ended up being greater, and more life-threatening, than she ever expected…
Heng lives on a piece of her cousin’s land in this jungly village outside the city of Battambang, Cambodia. She has a 10-year-old son and just two years ago, she also gave birth to twin baby girls, Sophea and Neary. She has no support from her babies’ father, and struggled to provide for them on her own, often going without even the basic items she and her children needed.
She didn’t have enough money to buy cow’s milk or even enough food for the babies, her older son or herself. Her own malnutrition and poor health meant that she also wasn’t able to produce enough breastmilk to feed Sophea and Neary. Both girls were beginning to look dangerously thin. That’s when neighbors in the village first referred her to Holt Cambodia.
Food for Hungry Children
A social worker from Holt Cambodia came to Heng’s home, sat down with her and listened to her share about her life and the needs her family was experiencing. It was evident that they needed help, and they especially needed more to eat. So right away, Heng received milk, bottles for the babies, rice, noodles, cooking oil, soy sauce, fried fish and more.
Finally, relieved, she had enough food to feed her children.
But even after weeks and then months of nutritious food, one of her twin daughters, Sophea, still wasn’t growing. This was all the more evident when Heng compared Sophea to her twin sister, Neary, who was putting on weight and developing with the increased nutrition. Sophea, by contrast, cried all the time, and refused food and milk. She even seemed to have difficulty breathing.
Heng’s Holt Cambodia social worker took note of Sophea’s health over several visits she made to check up on Heng and her family, and strongly encouraged Heng to take little Sophea to the hospital.
Access to Medical Care
When Sophea was 11 months old, Heng took her to see a doctor at their local hospital in Battambang. And they received difficult news: Sophea had a congenital heart condition.
A diagnosis like this is extremely difficult for every child, and every parent who loves them and wants to do all they can to care for them. But for a family living in poverty, it’s all the more devastating. Heng, like so many other parents of children with medical conditions living in poverty, knew she wouldn’t be able to afford the lifesaving care her daughter needed. She didn’t know what to do.
But children like Sophea are exactly why we have the Molly Holt Fund.
The Molly Holt Fund Provides Critical Medical Care
Molly Holt was a nurse and the daughter of our founders, someone who spent her life caring for children with special needs. She loved all of them deeply, and believed firmly that every child deserves a family and medical care to give them the best opportunity in life.
It’s because of Molly’s amazing life and legacy that we have the Molly Holt Fund. Each year, Holt donors generously give to care for children with special needs in Molly’s honor. The Molly Holt Fund is a continuation of Molly’s life and work — providing heart surgeries, cleft lip and palate operations, physical therapy, lifesaving medications and more to children who desperately need it.
This past spring, we shared Sophea’s story and need with Holt donors, who gave generously to the Molly Holt Fund to help her and children like her. And because of this support, Holt Cambodia and her mother, Sophea got the lifesaving surgery she needed.
Sophea’s Heart Surgery
The local doctor told Heng that there wasn’t anyone who could do the surgery in Battambang, but that she should take Sophea to a children’s hospital in Siem Reap. Amazingly, this hospital would even provide the operation for free. But Siem Reap was over 100 miles away — which would mean unreachable travel expenses for a family living in poverty.
But thankfully, Holt donors — through the Molly Holt Fund — were able to cover the transportation costs, accommodations, food and more that Sophea and Heng needed for their journey and long stay at the hospital.
Sophea received the surgery to correct her heart condition, and made a full recovery. She and her mom returned home soon after.
Almost right away, Sophea began to gain weight. She began to grow — nearly catching up with her twin sister!
Not only did Sophea receive the urgent and lifesaving medical care she needed, but her family is continuing in Holt’s program, receiving the food they need to grow healthy and tools they need to overcome poverty someday.
Without help, Sophea would have continued to be sick, and her life would have continued to be in danger. But now, she has the healthy heart she needed to grow healthy and strong.
Give to the Molly Holt Fund!
Provide urgently needed medical care, therapies or adaptive equipment for a child with a disability or healthcare need.