Children who are at home on a city street, collecting garbage. A young country girl, abandoned by her parents, desperately scrounging for food to feed herself and her elderly grandparents. In Cambodia, the needs of the people are great, and span the generations.
Illiteracy exposes people to shame and exploitation and keeps them in poverty. A history of devastating war and genocide mean that many adults, as well as youth and children, have not had an opportunity to be educated.
Seom came face to face with the desperate need of children where she lives in Russeykeo, a district in Phnom Penh. Seom is a 31-year-old pastor of the Phnom Penh Christian Church. She said, “I noticed that there were some children living on the street and collecting trash, so they have no chance to go to school. Many of them are children of migrant workers from other provinces who come to Phnom Penh to work in construction. I have much compassion for these children.”
In a similar plight to these children on the streets, twelve-year-old Srey, in Talt village in the Kampong Chhang province, grows vegetables and scavenges for herbs around her grandparents’ house to sell and bring in a meagre income. Before COVID-19, when the schools were open, she could not attend regularly because she had to work to feed herself and her grandparents.
In Phnom Penh, Seom realised that when she was the age of these children, she was already in school, studying. Seom longed to reach out to the city children and pass down the blessing she had received. “They should have the same opportunities as me,” she says, “but instead they are on the street collecting trash.”
Seom began to think about how she could help them. She realised that, not only did she want the children to be educated, but “I also wanted them to hear the gospel.”
Despite the difficulties, Seom says that she believed inviting the children to study with her was “God’s plan for me and for these children.” She attempted to prepare lessons, teach them, and she shared God’s word with them. When Seom heard about the Bible based literacy program offered by Bible Society Cambodia, she applied immediately and was trained to run a literacy class. It was exactly what she and her twelve students needed, and the resources were free to use.
“This class has helped them gain knowledge and transformed them through the word of God. I believe that the children will have a good future.”
When Bible Society’s literacy class arrived at Srey’s village, she couldn’t wait to participate, and since the classes only take an hour a day, she still had time to work for food. Surviving is top priority for her family, and Srey is desperate to be able to read and write so she can get a good job and earn a living. Joyfully, through tears, she says, “I do not know what the future holds for me, but I will try my very best to study.”
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