Monday, July 20, 2009

Sometimes, the bravest thing a child can do is survive.

So writes Dale Edmonds from Riverkids I'm one of the trustees of this great project run by Dale and Jimmy, a Singaporean couple, and their super Cambodian team, including director Phy Sophon. Here is a glimpse of the work they do:
In the last month, two very different girls came to Riverkids for help. The first girl was lured from her birthplace in the provinces, to a 'good job' in Phnom Penh. A year of rape, starvation and battering in a brothel ended when a family member paid for her escape.

Briefly, she seemed to have made it with a job at a garment factory. That went bankrupt, and she found a job as a housekeeper. It only paid $35 a month, but with room and board. She was hopeful. She was never paid. Instead for months, she was imprisoned in the house by her employers and beaten with electrical cords or burnt with an iron if she made a mistake. Neighbours found out and brought her to Riverkids in late June. We rushed her to hospital.

Today, for the first time in too long she is safe. She is recovering from the physical and mental trauma in a shelter we found for her and she is pursuing a legal case against her abusers. She is only 17.

For the other girl, after her parents died of AIDS, she vanished to 'a job'. Her siblings were farmed out to relatives, and no-one knew or would say where she'd gone. Two of her siblings eventually ended up at Riverkids, where they are now thriving.

Last week, she tracked down her older sister who is at Riverkids and she is now staying with us. She is very thin and won't talked about her past yet. Her most recent job has been cleaning, she says, but for now, she refuses to meet her other relatives or venture far beyond our weekly shelter. We will find her a safe place to stay, medical and psychological help, and hope. Thanks to all our supporters like you, we could help these children and more.
I recommend Riverkids to anyone who would like to donate to a worthwhile charity. Not least of it because all the financial information is available online on the website.

One of the projects teaches mothers to make recycled paper bead necklaces and Bloom is proud to sell these in our shop. If you haven't seen them, you must. Some are made from recycled cigarette boxes and some from Cambodian magazines. It is super cool--the men smoke the ciggies and the women convert them into amazing jewellery. The children do not disappoint either. RK has a 92% pass rate for our primary school children, a few of whom came top of their class. Very impressive.

A recent highlight was a "Korean Festival". Changkyoung, a Korean lady I met at the Bloom shop and later took to visit RK brought a team from Korea. They donated books and school uniforms and spent a day with the children. Changkyoung and I became friends when we met at the Bloom shop in Phnom Penh more than a year ago. She was working with KOPION an NGO started by JoongangIlbo, one of Korea's leading newspapers.

We started talking and found we share the same views on Christians who come to Cambodia with the expressed purpose of converting the Buddhist Khmers. Changkyoung is very bright, speaks very good English and took a sabbatical from her job at Exxon-Mobil. She is still keen on development work, but says NGOs in Korea pay too little..."so I'm thinking, thinking, and thinking." I hope she'll return to Cambodia.

Anyway, do check out Riverkids yourself. Jimmy and Dale are people I know personally and I know them to be good, honest, and sincere people who are trying their best to help other people. I am so pleased RK has achieved so much.

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