An imaginary black cloud hovered over my head as I gathered the sights and sounds of suffering and despairof the past few days. However, where there is bad, there must be good. Amidst all this anguish and misfortune, there are angels who shine a rays of hope for all of us. I can't forget about Father Tuan of Can Tho who dedicates his life and medical skills to those whom society has casted aside as not worthy.
Then I meet Father Vincent on January 18 in the village of Anlong Kgan, Cambodia who proves that one person can make a difference in the lives of many. A missionary from France, Father Vincent has lived in Cambodia for seven years. Fluent in the local language, he travels from village to village doing evangelical work while also teaching literacy to the local Vietnamese people. With nominal possessions, his gentle and humble demeanor commands respect. I applaud his sacrifice for leaving his home country, situating himself amongst strangers, with a self-calling duty to help the local population. I reflect on my life, and though my career is encompassed by helping those in the most vulnerable of times, it would appear I am selfish in the way I live in all other aspects of my life. I buy more food than I can eat and more clothes than I can wear. When off duty, I often put my needs and feelings before others, especially those closest to me.
Of course, angels don't have to come in the form of religious figures like Fr. Martino, Tuan, and Vincent. Every day people can be equally influential. On January 19, we visited another village called Kampong Luong. Here, we meet a lady named Nga. Not only is it already difficult to be a single mother of 2 in the unforgiving living conditions of rural Cambodia, she finds it in herself to support her sister, her 6 children, and 3 homeless children off the streets. Her selfless and self-giving display is commendable and admirable. She shows us that there is alternate way of living than the "dog eat dog" approach to life in Cambodia.
Nga tells me that it usually takes $20 USD to feed everyone in the house each day. Let's remember that most families in rural Cambodia barely make $1 USD. Lucky for her, she is a lady of skill, motivation, and drive. Not only does she impress me with her ability to speak both Khmer and Vietnamese, Nga is more impressive with her ability to support her large family with a blacksmith business that appeals to tourists with beautifully detailed decorative and religious items. Like most village children in Cambodia, her 11 kids are not given the opportunity to attend school. With their nifty little fingers, they help her create beautiful works of art out of silver and other metals to sell.
Though I am relieved to see that these children have a safe home and are at low risk of being sold and trafficked, I also find myself disheartened that they are void of the opportunity to be real children. Most importantly, they are not privileged enough to go to school in an environment that fosters and supports their imagination, curiosity, and learning. They know nothing but to eat, sleep, and work hard at manual labour to help support their family. I play this sad, heartbreaking cycle in my head where their children and grandchildren will face the same unfortunate, unlucky fate.