Because of You, Phal and Her Siblings Have a New Home

Poverty is complicated.

It’s never the same from one family or child to another.

And, while it can be defined by not having enough — material goods, resources, support, opportunities — there are no perfect, broad solutions that help every child escape.

Keeping kids in school helps. Providing advocacy helps. Giving food and medical care helps. And for some families, that support is enough.

But some children need more. They need the individual attention, love and willingness to go the extra mile that parents usually provide.

Poverty also has some ugly, horrible cousins: abuse, neglect, loss.

But every child deserves the chance to reach their full potential. Every child deserves the love of a family to help them grow and reach their dreams.

Phal when she was 10. I received this photo in a sponsorship update on Phal, and it broke my heart.

I want to tell you about Phal. We shared her story in December in an urgent plea for help. And you responded so generously. I finally have a happy update.

Phal is the saddest child I have ever met. Continue reading “Because of You, Phal and Her Siblings Have a New Home”

Realizing Her Potential

Widowed at 38, and supporting six children, Sao Yien struggled to make ends meet. But when she received a Gift of Hope to build a small business, she realized how strong and independent she truly could be.

Thoa Bui (left), Holt’s vice president of programs in South and S.E. Asia, hugs Sao Yien as she cries on her shoulder during their recent visit.

When Sao Yien said goodbye to Thoa, she buried her head in Thoa’s shoulder and cried. She didn’t say anything. She just cried. And so did Thoa.

Thoa Bui is Holt’s vice president of programs in South and Southeast Asia. Sao Yien is a woman in our family strengthening program in Battambang, Cambodia. A widow, Sao is the sole support for seven members of her family, including her own child, her sister’s five children and her 90-year-old grandmother. Until two years ago, when Holt’s social work team in Cambodia began working with Sao, she and her family were living in extreme poverty.

“At that moment before we parted,” Thoa says, “she was crying — and I was crying too to be honest — and I said I have a lot of feelings because I totally understand what you have gone through, and I understand the burden of responsibility that you continue to carry for these children and your family.” Continue reading “Realizing Her Potential”

Your Generosity Is Keeping Them Safe and Warm!

Choy Thy with her two children in front of their house in Cambodia after donors replaced the leaky thatched walls, roof and stairs with weather-proof tin.

Because of your incredible generosity, 10 of the most vulnerable and impoverished families in Prey Veng, Cambodia received new homes or significant and seriously needed renovations. The families and their villages helped with construction, but Holt donors provided all the tools and materials.

There are no greater words of gratitude than from the families who received homes themselves! Continue reading “Your Generosity Is Keeping Them Safe and Warm!”

This Gift of Hope Keeps Kids and Families Safe and Warm!

Preun’s three children outside their home before repairs.

Cold. Wet. Shivering at night. Constant colds and flu. Kids with sleep deprivation. For Preun, a single mother of three school-aged children, this was simply her reality.

With no money to repair her leaking roof and thatched walls, the rainy season in Cambodia was absolutely miserable — and a very serious threat to her children.

Every time it rained, her children’s school supplies, their precious rations of rice and few blankets were soaked or ruined. Her children struggled to keep up in school. The coconut leaves they used for walls dripped with cold, dirty water. When they fell sick, they could not afford to see a doctor.

But in June, Preun received the most surprising, exciting, miraculous news! Continue reading “This Gift of Hope Keeps Kids and Families Safe and Warm!”

With A College Degree, Her Life Will Never Be The Same

When Tham Sao Run is home for a visit, her accounting books are so foreign to her family, they could be written in another language.

Neither of her parents have bank accounts. Sao Run isn’t sure if anyone in her village does.

Sao Run reads in the shade under her stilted house, learning about cash flows and shareholders equity. A rusting blue bicycle rests against one stilt and chickens pick through the grass and dust.

In high school, Sao Run raised chickens to pay for her school supplies, books and uniforms. She was especially proud to purchase her bike, a cherished item that meant she would no longer have to walk an hour each way to her high school classes. Continue reading “With A College Degree, Her Life Will Never Be The Same”

Preventing Trafficking, Keeping Children Safe in Cambodia Part 3/3

Part three of three

Pelly, second from the left, at a community group meeting in her village.

Just down the road from Yai lives Pelly and her family. With four children to care for and feed, Pelly used to travel to Thailand to work, making just a few dollars a day tilling and harvesting fields for other farmers or doing manual labor. Her husband makes about $7 per day working construction, but he often travels for work, too. Continue reading “Preventing Trafficking, Keeping Children Safe in Cambodia Part 3/3”

Preventing Trafficking, Keeping Children Safe in Cambodia Part 2/3

Part two of three

Yai at a community group meeting.

Garment production is booming in Cambodia.

Nearly 80 percent of Cambodia’s exports are textiles — shoes, clothes, plush toys. And of the 300,000-500,000 people who work in garment factories, 91 percent are women. Garment factories dot the countryside, especially southwest of Phnom Penh’s city center, where land is cheaper. Some factories are large — huge, sprawling tin buildings with giant, industrial fans swirling overhead. Some are built campus-style, where many factories occupy the same fenced-in space, with security controlling traffic through a front gate. Continue reading “Preventing Trafficking, Keeping Children Safe in Cambodia Part 2/3”

Preventing Trafficking, Keeping Children Safe In Cambodia

Part 1 of 3

At 4:30 p.m., the garment factories in southwest Cambodia are letting out for the day. Beyond the fences and gates that surround each giant, metal warehouse, a row of industrial flat-bed trucks wait, some already filling with women in bright pants and T-shirts. The two-lane road leading from the nation’s capital city, Phnom Penh, to the small fishing town of Kampot is stacked with these trucks — some with 20 or 30 passengers who sit in the back, shoulder to shoulder, their legs stretched straight. Some have more than 100 passengers, mostly women, who are packed so tightly they must stand with their stomach and back pressed into the women around them. The air is dusty as they drive, and many cover their faces with medical masks or scarves.

“When a truck wrecks, many women die,” Kosal Cheam, Holt’s director of programs in Cambodia, says grimly, shaking her head. Continue reading “Preventing Trafficking, Keeping Children Safe In Cambodia”

Holt Cambodia Repairs Roofs for 18 At-Risk Families

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.

But when palm leaves are used to thatch a family’s roof? This isn’t so good. Continue reading “Holt Cambodia Repairs Roofs for 18 At-Risk Families”

Holt Secures Grants to Reunite Children With Families in Cambodia

In Cambodia, there are many threats to family stability, and when parents or grandparents fall into hardship, they are forced to make difficult decisions about how to ensure their child or grandchild’s basic needs are met. In desperation, many parents will take the last resort — relinquishing their child to orphanage care. But through research and community collaboration funded by Save the Children, USAID and GHR Foundation grants, Holt hopes to create a model of services that keeps children out of institutions and with their families.

Krasaing Mean Chey Village
Sinat’s home in Krasaing Mean Chey Village near Kampot, Cambodia. Sinat, dressed in green, waves as Holt staff leave. Sinat’s grandson is standing in the front of the frame, wearing the Holt schoolbag his child sponsor in America helped purchase for him.

Last January, I was sitting under a tin-covered porch on a rough, wooden platform. Red-faced and sweating, I was not cutout for the heavy, exhausting heat of the Cambodian summer.

The shade of Sinat’s porch was welcome relief. Sinat’s house is a single-room structure, with green tin walls. Unlike many of the homes in rural Cambodia, her home is not built on stilts, which typically protects homes from flooding. For that reason, Sinat and her 15-year-old grandson sometimes sleep in their rice storage room, an additional structure behind the main house, elevated about four feet off the ground on thick, wooden stilts. Continue reading “Holt Secures Grants to Reunite Children With Families in Cambodia”