Experiencing Cambodia: Meeting sponsored children with Global One

By Melanie Houston, Child Sponsorship

Watching six-year old Kemhuong and 10-year-old Phartsokly burst out laughing at the youth leaders was a moment I’ll never forget.

I was at a primary school in the Rukh Kiri project, Cambodia. Among me were 150 young students, 18 World Vision supporters and around 20 Cambodian youth leaders.

I had spent the last week on an Experience Cambodia trip with World Vision’s Global One team – where I experienced a number of challenging, yet rewarding moments. From rubbish dump communities in the city to some of the most remote communities in Cambodia; I had the chance to meet with and hear the stories of very inspiring people.

It was an encouraging moment to witness sponsored children, Kemhuong and Phartsokly, actively learning about child rights and what they should be protected from within their community. Heads turning, the girls giggled with the crowd as they listened and watched World Vision’s volunteer youth team on stage acting out a skit about the importance of education.

Despite not knowing the language, I knew from the silly faces, high-pitched voices the ridiculous costumes (including cross-dressing) on stage that the play was funny.

I turned to Sokchea, the Rukh Kiri project’s sponsorship coordinator and asked what the children were entertained by.

 

“Kemhuoy is laughing because the mother in this story doesn’t let her children go to school,” Sokchea says.

 

He tells me how World Vision use plays and other events like this to teach children about the importance of education and how to speak up for their rights against violence.

 

“It’s not good,” Phartsokly says, pointing at the mother on stage holding the child by their ear. “I’m happy with my family because they let me go to school” she says smiling."

Understanding the impact sponsorship makes...

Once the play had ended I found Mr Rasy in the crowd, Rukh Kiri project’s manager, and asked him how these initiatives had helped reduce violence in the community – a concern I knew was evident by the way the youth and children spoke.

 

“With child protection [awareness sessions], there is a reduction in the violence. Families stop committing domestic violence against their children in World Vision [Rukh Kiri] areas,” he told me proudly.

“There is still violence in the home, but children know now about what’s right,” he said.

“From the staff’s observation, there are no serious issues. The parents know now. Especially in the immediate town where World Vision works - it never happens, but there are still some [cases] in the remote areas.”

 

Sponsored children like Phartsokly and Kemhuoy attend awareness events quite regularly. Sometimes they learn about child labour and how to say no, other times they’re taught the importance of personal hygiene. It’s all part of being a sponsored child in Cambodia.

 

“When World Vision came to work here, they made changes like hygiene awareness,” Sokchea said when I asked him what else sponsored children benefit from.

 

Phartsokly remembered attending one of World Vision’s awareness sessions held at her school. “Before I didn’t know how to wash my hands properly or make myself clean. I go home now and clean my hands before eating,” she told me.

Since the project started, there has been significant change ...

Mr Rasy says there have been many changes since World Vision established the project two years ago.

 

“Staff check in the home, they check that the child is going to school, then they check the environment – that there is child protection. Then they check how far the school is.”

 

Most of the children in the Rukh Kiri project have to travel a couple of kilometres on their own each day to get to school. Before World Vision came in, if the school was too far, the young children usually didn’t receive an education until they were old enough to walk to school, at the age of nine or 10.

As a result, the Rukh Kiri project organised classes for the younger children throughout the communities.

 

“In 2014, we have 12 community pre-schools so that children can attend. We track the children in the pre-school so they have better knowledge,” Mr Rasy says.

 

Despite only being established for such a short time, the Rukh Kiri project has made significant progress in challenging the attitudes of communities.

Since returning to Australia, the experiences I had speaking with children and youth are the most memorable– their ambition and motivation to change their communities was inspiring and their dreams are achievable because of supporters in Australia. So, thank you!

Interested in joining a Global One Experience Cambodia trip? Check out the dates here.

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