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Published: August 11th 2010
I have been sponsoring 7 year old Vuon for the past 2 years or so and after arranging to visit his village months before leaving Australia I have been really looking forward to the trip. I decided to sponsor a child after years of saying that I wanted to but always using the excuse that 'I cant afford it right now' well finally I realised that with that attitude I would never have the money so I just did it. Now two years after signing up and after several letters back and forth (translated from Khmer) I finally got to visit the village and meet Vuon and his family.
Vuon's village is called Rum Deng in the Commune of Tram Sarsar, District Srey Snam, Siem Reap Province (say that 3 times quickly). Plan staff member Tino picked me up from my hotel at 8am and together with the driver we made the 2 hour journey to Rum Deng, which happens to be the furtherest village that Plan work with.
Once off the highway the roads were pretty bad, with a lot of bumping and jumping going on, not to mention the occasional flooded sections. One of the reasons Plan
works out in this area is because it is so isolated. Before Plan started work in 2007 there were no schools, medical centre's and few clean wells. Now with the help of sponsorship as well as many other funding sources the communities have several primary schools, one large high school, many wells with pumps and one very important medical centre. The medical centre is staffed only by nurses but in the 10 days of August this year they have delivered 12 babies already! These babies would other wise have been delivered in the villages in unsanitary conditions with a high risk of complications or infection.
After passing through many very poor villages and past countless rice fields we finally arrived in Rum Deng. All the neighborhood children were out to greet us and I recognised Vuon from his photos straight away. As we pulled up to the family hut his mother quickly tucked his shirt in and made him stand up straight.
Vuon's family are rice farmers and have 2 hectares of rice fields which is apparently large for this district. He has two younger brothers, one under 12 months old. The thing that struck me as I
entered their hut (with the rest of the neighborhood following) was the complete lack of 'things'. Their hut is built on stilts and is one large wooden planked room with 1 bed and mosquito net, two other mats and some cooking pots and pans. Yes folks thats it! So for all those western kids who complain about not having the latest computer game or shiny new bike I would like for you to think about these children who dont even have a pair of shoes!
So I was invited to sit on the mat and served a fresh coconut (yum) whilst everyone gathered round. I had brought books, pens and balloons for the kids so I handed out the balloons and then Tino explained that we would ask the children to play some games in order to establish who got to have a notebook and pen. Really there was plenty for everyone but it was nice to make a game of it, interact with the children and have a good laugh.
After all the children had participated in some kind of game and received their notebook and pen Tino showed the whole group the folder I had made
with pictures of Australia and a few bits and pieces. He explained that I was from Australia and demonstrated how a Kangaroo hops around, it was pretty funny. When he told them my name was Lisa, they were happy it was an easy name to remember and it turns out they have the name Lisa in khmer as well. In fact one of the little girls in the village was named Lisa, so there you go my boring name came in handy for something!
As the end of the visit neared I gave the family a gift of toothbrushes, toothpaste, shampoo etc and then had to say my goodbyes. It was a fabulous day and I definitely hope to visit again in the years to come in order to see the differences and improvements that Plan are constantly making.
On the way home we visited a couple of Plan schools and the medical centre. The high school is 15km from Vuon's village so any teenagers who wish to go to school make the 1hr journey on bicycle every day. That makes the 20 minute walk I did and complained about as a kid seem ridiculous!
was a fantastic opportunity to see where the sponsorship dollars are going. I know some people have the view that sponsorship funds get caught up in admin fees and never reach the community. Now I have seen what Plan is doing I can say that I wholeheartedly believe in the process and know however small, it is making a difference to the health and education of these villagers.
Sign up for child sponsorship now at
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