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.
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”
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.
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”
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.
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.
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.
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”