Interview with Phyllis – Hands of Hope
Meet Phyllis, a child sponsor of the Sponsor a Child (Non-residential) programme! In this interview, she shared what it was like to meet her sponsored children in Cambodia and recounted, among many other highlights, how amazed she was at seeing a motorcycle carry a 50kg rice bag, as well as 2 adults and 2 children!
You were considering to cancel the sponsorship for Sarou Rin because her grades reflected poor results. Did you decide to do so?
I’m glad I went for the trip. During the visit to her house, I came to find out that she faces a lot of stress and pressure at home with her family. Her mum is out working, and the father is absent – probably with her step mum.
La (OHF local staff) told me that Sarou Rin is a very hardworking girl and she always wants to go to school but her grandmother wants to keep her at home so that Sarou Rin can take care of the family. All we can do is to make it clear to her grandma that she needs to go to school, if not, the food pack supplies will stop. Hopefully, this helps. When we visit the children, we will always check on their school work. It’s good to let the family know that our priority is to make sure that the children goes to go to school and this food pack is to help the family so that the children don’t need to go to work and can continue to go to school.
When I looked at Sarou Rin, she was always frowning. There were a few instances when I went up to talk to her, and she would give me a very bright smile. It took her a while to get her to warm up to me.
What did you get to do at the food pack distribution sites?
I tried to talk to the kids but they didn’t understand me! We treated the children to lunch and they were happy. We gave them two packs, one for the guardian, and one for the child. The kids would bring it to the parents. There were meat, some salad and a lot of rice in the packed lunch, and I was happy to see them eat a meal with meat.
We watched the entire process of the food pack distribution. Every family had to have their photos taken and a thumb imprint on an official document to show that they had collected their benefits.
Describe the home visits.
When we visited the families, we also brought them snacks. One family left a deep impression on me. A boy supported by another child sponsor did not do well in school, and La was screaming at him in a positive manner to encourage him to go to school and study hard. When his sister, a toddler, saw the snacks that we brought over, she quickly chased after us. When we handed over the food, she wanted to grab the snacks but she was stopped by her mum, triggering her to cry loudly. The first thing the boy did, upon receiving the packs of snacks from us, was to take the biggest pack of snack for his baby sister. There were only 2 big packs, and the rest were smaller packs. He gave the biggest pack to the youngest sister, and she was still crying, so he gave her another one. It is very heartwarming to see the boy taking care of his sister.
When you had to leave their homes, did you give any parting words to your sponsored children?
I prepared some materials like colouring books and exercises like Super Cool, Join The Dots, and Mazes. I was telling them if they completed the book, they can pass it to OHF so that I can give them new ones. I’m hoping that they would work on all these exercises and know that beyond what they see in school, there are so much more that they can learn, and that there are so much more fun stuff. Besides all the blue, black and red pens that they receive, there are so many coloured pencils around. I hope this can motivate them and tell them that there are so much more out there. As long as they are willing to work hard, we are willing to help them.
What would you say to a friend who is considering to sponsor a child?
Do it! I think in Singapore, we are all so well taken care of and within my circle of friends, we are all working adults. How frequently do we visit Hai Di Lao and all those hotpot places? We can easily spend so much in a single meal, so what’s $50 to us? How we spend that $50 versus what that $50 means to that family there – it’s very little to us. If we can afford so many Hai Di Lao and so many good meals, why can’t we spare that $50 there to help a family. When I share these experiences with my peers, they often voice that they are interested to sponsor a child but I’m not sure if they actually do it. I was quite surprised when I went to the distribution site expecting to see a lot more children. There were 100+ children and I thought there would be more!
What could be some concerns supporting a programme like this one?
I think everybody is skeptical, wondering if most of the money is going to the organization paying for all the admin costs. How much is really going to the child? That was my concern when I first supported. I asked so many questions that I don’t remember now what I had asked. This trip sealed the deal. I went there and I witnessed the food pack and the school packs being distributed. I witnessed the whole process and I saw what they did.
For sponsors, it’s not just about spending money. It is also knowing what kind of difference the money is making on the child. It’s different when you meet them. You don’t see them only from pictures and papers from the report that OHF prepares. When you go there and interact with the child, you talk to the family and you gain a lot more. Very few people get to meet their sponsored child. None of my peers get to meet their sponsored child so if I feel if I’m given the chance to meet them again, I would do it.
I’m happy there is this avenue for me to help the children.
Was there anything else that left an impression?
We were really amazed how the families at the distribution site could fit a 50kg rice pack onto a very small motorcycle with 2 children and 2 adults!
At Hope Village Prey Veng (OHF children’s home), I saw two boys playing with a flat keyboard, and another was playing with the drums. I thought it was from a music source before I realised it was from the boys. We were all standing outside and watching them. Their playing was not too bad. I also think that the children in the home are very well mannered. We bought them snacks and when we distributed the snacks to them we were very surprised when the whole group said “Sister Phyllis, thank you. May God bless you”. It’s the first time I received a “thank you” so sincerely.
I like the idea of OHF’s UV clean water system project because that is for the long run. The other projects like building a toilet, well, house helps a family. With a UV clean water system, you will help a whole group of children to bring drinking water home with their water bottles. I think this is a very good initiative. I understand there are more schools with the need.
What is your biggest takeaway from the trip?
Don’t waste food! We can enjoy a cup of cappuccino here, but this, to them, is 2 or 3 meals of white rice. Whenever I go to Cambodia and come back, I always remind myself how lucky I am, how fortunate I am, and I am also very thankful that I get to help them. It’s like a reflection time.
The next Hands of Hope for child sponsors will be in June 2020! Write to us at firstname.lastname@example.org to register your interest.