Stories: Children, Communities, Futures

Janelle and Sophall, Cambodia

When planning our trip to visit my daughter Rachani’s biological family, we decided it was also an ideal time to meet the child whose life chances have been changed by our support.

Sophall, who lives with her family in the small community of Svay Thum, seemed at once both delighted and confused by our arrival, but when given her mother’s approval quickly opened the small pack of goodies we had brought along especially for her. She eloquently answered the questions asked of her, seemed bemused by the sight of one of her sponsors being a Cambodian girl just like herself, and was eager for a girl-to-girl chat when the two scampered off to play at the edge of a nearby pond covered with flowering lotus plants.

Though they had no language in common, I looked on as the two little girls touched the sensitive weed with the tips of their shoes and watched fascinated by its reaction, chased butterflies together, and stretched themselves to their limits as they attempted to reach the unreachable flowers growing on the pond.

While they played, Sophall’s mother chatted to me through a translator about her life in Cambodia. She expressed her thankfulness for the work being done in her community – including improved access to water through a new well and health education initiatives that have improved the quality of life for her family. She also spoke of her hopes for the future, particularly the benefits that a school and education can offer her children. All things which are taken for granted as their rights by my own family.

Finally, it was time to call the girls in from their play in the sun and to say goodbye to Sophall. There were smiles and best wishes all around – from the community members who had come to meet us, and from one mother and her daughter to another mother and her daughter.

At the day’s end, and after an exhausting but thrilling 6-hour journey by 4WD, it was impossible not to feel the sense of self-gratification and happiness that comes from witnessing the differences being made to the life of this little Cambodian girl.

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