Every morning as dawn slowly edges its way over Phnom Penh, Chhay* arrives at the OM Cambodia base with his grandmother, Arun*, who immediately proceeds to unlock the gate and doors. She then starts tidying up the place in preparation for another day of ministry.
While she is busy, five-year-old Chhay scampers around and plays in different corners of the base.
Arun has been a faithful volunteer at OM Cambodia ever since she received help from them to raise Chhay.
The leader of OM Cambodia describes Arun as an angry and brusque woman when they first met her. Her daughter was a drug addict who had just given birth to a baby boy. She wanted to sell him for money, but Arun managed to prevent it and took over the responsibility of caring for her grandson, Chhay.
After learning about Arun and Chhay, OM Cambodia supported them with food and milk powder under their family and social work programme which helps poor families living in the slums who struggle to provide for their children. The team of social workers also helps these parents with counselling and emotional support.
Over the years, Arun’s temperament has changed, and she can often be seen smiling as she chats with others. Chhay has grown up to be a healthy boy who is about to begin Grade 1 at school very soon.
Sadly, the social workers at OM Cambodia tell us that Arun and Chhay’s story is not an uncommon one. They have come across several families with a similar tale in their years of ministry in the slums. In these families, either one or both parents have a problem with drug addiction. When they find themselves with a new-born baby, many choose to sell their children.
OM Cambodia offers food support to such families, as well as education when the children are older. They also refer the parents to organisations that specialise in drug rehabilitation in the hopes that they can take an active role in raising their children in the future.
*Names changed to protect their identities
MTI’s Vibrant Hope for Children fund is a partner of OM Cambodia’s family and social work programme. The fund seeks to provide holistic development for children in the Southeast Asia region who find themselves increasingly vulnerable to poverty and the negative consequences it brings.
- That Chhay will continue to grow healthily despite the problems in his family
- For wisdom for OM Cambodia’s social workers in knowing how to best help and support these families that are struggling with drug addiction issues