Sophea

From her father:

My house lies right next door to a mostly deserted church, built by an NGO that abandoned its cause of helping my country merely months after its volunteers arrived. I live with my daughter and wife, but my 15-year-old son left home a few months ago to become a monk. My daughter, Sophea, is only ten years old, and goes to TASSEL to learn English during the afternoon.

Disclaimer: To protect the privacy of the child, the story does not match the name and photo used in this profile.

My wife and I work to support our children; despite her heart condition and joint pain that renders her too weak to stand on some days, she works 20 days a month as a cleaner for the local park. She earns about $60 a month, and when she is home, she almost seems lifeless. We have tried to receive help at a hospital that is supposed to provide medical care for free, but it demanded that we spend $50 to stay overnight, even with our poor certificate in hand. Finally, we decided to turn to a private doctor to provide my wife with medicine for her joint pain. This medicine costs us $100 a month, more than half of our monthly income. Despite the costly sacrifice, my wife is still suffering due to her heart condition.

Two weeks in a month, I am able to find construction work wherever my contractor takes me. This job allows me to provide about $110 to my family each month; however, I go in every day knowing that I may not be able to return to my family safely. I have seen it happen to many of my peers: a brick falls on a head, or an axe drops on an arm. Once, a man I knew was carrying a metal rod near a faulty wire, which suddenly showered down electric sparks on to the rod. The electricity travelled down the rod and on to man’s arms, electrocuting him and forcing him to get his arms amputated. I know fully well that an accident can happen to me, or any other man, at any time, which could cripple my ability to provide for my family.

    Cambodia has to be changed to end the constant danger of my job and the ceaseless pain my wife endures so that my children can thrive. We manage to avoid starvation with 70 dollars to feed our entire family every month, but it’s not enough. There are many like me; most of the country is in need of change but nobody can stand up to lead the effort because of the oppression and poverty that consumes the country. Maybe in the future, children like my daughter will use their education to ensure that no one has to worry about feeding their families as my wife and I do.