Gratitude humbles child sponsor on Cambodia visit

World Vision child sponsor Charles Chan recently travelled to Cambodia to meet his sponsored child Cheang. As you also sponsor a Cambodian child, we thought you might like to hear from Charles about his experience.

"Visiting your sponsored child is a life-changing experience," I was told before the trip. I definitely think this is true. Even now, two weeks after the visit, I can still feel how it’s changed me.

I have sponsored Cheang for two years. He lives with his family in a remote village in Cambodia.

During my visit, I was accompanied by An from World Vision Cambodia who has lived in the village for some years and knows the people there well.

I met with An at the hotel in the morning to travel to Cheang’s village. It took us around an hour and we have to travel by boat.

Cheang came to meet me at the World Vision centre with his parents and older sister. They only travel to town 2 or 3 times a year as they live a fair distance away. It cost them US$2 to get there, traveling on a 'tuk tuk' (motorcycle). With An acting as our interpreter, Cheang’s parents tell me that the family has been living there for a few generations. They have had no plans of moving anywhere.

Cheang loves playing soccer. He soon took the mini soccer ball I brought him and off he went with his sister to play with it. Cheang is a diligent student who loves going to school. Cheang tells me he likes mathematics and came third in his class this year. Since entering the child sponsorship program Cheang can now afford to attend school 5 days a week. According to his teacher, he has not missed a day at school this year.

After school, Cheang herds buffaloes and helps with housework, then does his homework under the oil lamp for two hours before bed. He wants to be a teacher. The family would like him to attend university, and the only university around is in Phnom Penh.

The idea of World Vision Area Development Projects is to help the villagers help themselves. The project where Cheang lives is no different. Once World Vision assesses that the people can adequately care for themselves, they will move on to another village. I went to see the various World Vision projects in Cheang’s community, such as their education program, clean water project and the disaster coordination centre. It is great to see the villagers helping out each other.

After lunch, we took the 'tuk tuk’ and dropped the family back home. Cheang’s mother tells us folk stories on the way, like the love story of a couple who lived in the mountain village. I play thumb wrestling with Cheang. The children’s smiles are pure and genuine. I think they have really had a fun day.

I was born and raised in the city. Cheang’s family and I truly come from two different worlds. They liked hearing about my life in Australia. I guess it's hard for them to imagine it, just as it was for me to imagine theirs before I visited.

I am thankful for the opportunity to witness how World Vision takes the donation it receives and transforms so many lives. I was truly humbled by the family’s gratitude, and I am grateful that I am in a position to be able to offer them some help through sponsoring Cheang.