Cambodia: Sponsor gains firsthand insight into the dangers facing women and girls

From seeing the isolation to witnessing the everyday struggles of children – child sponsor Anne Rich told us all about the experience of travelling to Cambodia and meeting her sponsored child.

Meeting the child you sponsor and seeing their personal circumstances can be life-changing in powerful, humbling, but also challenging ways.

Anne spoke honestly about the experiences that brought her closer to understanding what life is like for Rann, the young girl she sponsors in the Rukh Kiri project in Cambodia. Rann is one of four children in her family and her father was away for work. In between school, which she enjoys and doesn’t like to miss, Rann helps her mother raise a cow. But attending school isn’t as simple as a short walk or catching a bus. In fact, getting to school can be quite dangerous, particularly for girls.

“While I was in Cambodia I had learned that girls and women are vulnerable to kidnapping for the sex trade when out walking and they are very much safer riding a bike. I learned that Rann was walking five kilometres to and from school and she was walking barefoot. When I knew she was on her own walking to school five kilometres, and five kilometres home, and completely vulnerable to kidnapping, I decided to purchase a bike for her. This is all that is required for a female child to be safe!”

When supporters visit their sponsored children, it is sometimes possible for them to purchase modest, but practical gifts for their sponsored child or family that can help with specific needs related to education, health or income generation.

Anne told us that the bicycle cost a mere 40 Australian dollars, and for another $6 she was able to buy a pair of shoes for Rann and each of her siblings, serving as a reminder that a small act of kindness can have a big impact. “It’s not a matter of being generous, it’s a matter of seeing the poverty,” she said, humbly.
Difficulty with transport is common in rural areas. When Anne was taken to visit a school, she was able to understand these challenges firsthand - when she had to squash into the back of a car with four other people for the journey!

“It is a very isolated place, and quite a long way out of town. And the school we went to, I don’t know where Rann’s school was, but this other school was miles from anywhere and if Rann was walking to school five kilometres, and home from school, well it was pretty isolated too.”

While visiting the school, Anne learned more about the challenges faced by children in the area, specifically in relation to domestic violence, and told us she was struck by the realisation that the children had witnessed it in their personal lives.

“The children put on a play for us relating to domestic violence and were very enthusiastic. And I can assure you those kids knew what domestic violence was. The work World Vision has done in this regard has lowered the rate of domestic violence in the community. World Vision had installed a water tank and a toilet for the school which makes a much healthier environment for the children.”

World Vision’s work in the area includes programs designed to protect children and families from violence and exploitation, by creating stronger reporting systems as well as teaching community leaders and parents about the risks. As well as this, the project is working to improve access to clean water for children in schools, partnering with a local organisation to provide clean water across 10 primary schools. But among all the projects that World Vision is carrying out in the area, it’s clear that for Anne, ensuring that Rann and other young girls like her are protected is a high priority.

“The bike would help to overcome this problem. Plus, make it easier to get to and from school. The last I saw of Rann, she was waving as she took off on her bike to ride home with her gifts in the basket.”