In Cambodia, Saoly's family used to live in debt and hunger: she and her seven siblings used to fight over who got rice to eat that day.
But families are greater when they work together and when they're empowered with God's love. Watch this family transform!
Saoly’s home was a battleground.
Every night during the long dry season in Cambodia, she would fight with her brothers and sisters over who would get rice. There wasn’t enough for all.
Saoly’s father, Sok, and her mother, Samnang, fought nearly every day. Sometimes the arguments turned physical.
Sok spent his days drinking with his friends. “I didn’t care about the many difficulties of my family,” he says. “I was drunk. I hung out a lot. I just hung out with my friends. I ate on my own. I did not care about anything.”
When Sok did try to feed the family, he borrowed rice seed, but this required paying back double. The family was trapped in a cycle of poverty. To repay the debt, they sold themselves as laborers to others in the community.
During this time, Saoly often would only go to school a couple of days a week. Finally in sixth grade she stopped going to school altogether. She worked for others to help repay the family’s debt.
“The family was a burden to the whole community,” says the manager of World Vision’s Phnom Sruoch Area Development Program, Narin Ouk.
In 2004, World Vision began registering children for child sponsorship in Saoly’s community. Saoly’s younger sister Saolun became sponsored and the programs funded by sponsorship benefitted the entire family and community.
Saoly began to see a change in the children who participated in the World Vision-run youth clubs. They became more courageous and outspoken. She longed to bring some of that bravery into her own life.
“I was not courageous, I was not able to talk to people,” she says. “I was like the isolated people.”
After joining the youth club, she didn’t feel as isolated anymore. The club members knew of her family’s need so they raised funds and donated rice to Saoly’s family.
“I believe that there is a God who showed his love to me,” says Saoly. “God made the club and the club members to raise some rice to support my family.”
At the same time, Sok joined a World Vision-run agricultural cooperative where he learned better agricultural techniques and had access to a rice bank. The bank allowed him to repay loans at a lower interest rate, which relieved the family’s financial burden.
The training helped Sok grow more crops, but his continued drinking slowed the family’s improvement.
After Saoly had attended the youth club for four years, World Vision staff members helped bring a home church into the family’s village.
Saoly started attending as a test to see how good and true God’s word was. She had first heard about God at the youth club and wanted to know more. “God changed me,” she says.
After about a year at the church, Saoly got up the courage to share Jesus with her father.
“My father got drunk and the spirit of God told me that you have to talk in order to change your father,” she says. “So I started to talk.”
Saoly persisted sharing her newfound faith with him for several years. Finally in 2013, Sok agreed to go to church with her.
The pastor’s words moved him.
Sok and his wife became Christians.
Through his faith, Sok has become a loving husband and a solid provider. In the past, his children feared him and his violent ways. Now he says, “They consider me as number one. They love me indeed.”
Sponsorship funds also allowed World Vision to install an irrigation system in the community. That meant water and crops during the dry season. This along with the agricultural trainings helped make hunger a thing of the past for Saoly’s family.
After a year away from school, Saoly returned full time. This thrills her father. “I am very happy now that my children can go to school and I really hope that they study hard,” he says.
The girl who once was afraid to speak and felt like an isolated person, now regularly leads the youth clubs. She teaches the younger children, organizes community-cleaning events for the club, and speaks publicly about her life experiences.
Her face radiates happiness. “I changed because I’m braver and more courageous than before,” she says.
This once-troubled family, the burden of the village, now serves as a role model to other families in the village. Their home is no longer a battleground, but a place of peace.
Sponsoring a child is one of the most powerful ways that you can help families in need be greater than the challenges they face, like hunger. Choose a child in Cambodia to sponsor today!