A FCF project in Japan received a donation of 18,000 new pairs of shoes, earmarked to be sent as humanitarian aid. A Singaporean company shipped them to Cambodia for free.
In a joint project with the Cambodian Red Cross, we distributed these thousands of pairs of shoes to children in four provinces. While handing these shoes out, we had the opportunity to get to know many of the children.
Here are some of their reactions and personal accounts of life in Cambodia, translated from Khmer:
Today the barangs (foreigners) came. They gave me two pairs of new shoes. They asked me to give them my old pair so they could send it back to show to their donors, but I had to tell them that even though I am nine, I never had any shoes. My parents are too poor to afford shoes. Only my dad has old plastic sandals because he needs them for his job as a moto-taxi (motorbike with sidecar) driver. My mom walks barefoot, and so do my six brothers and sisters. On Sunday we all climb on the moto and go for a ride. It is lots of fun. My youngest brother stands in front of my dad, and I sit behind him and hold my younger sister, right in front of my mom, who carries the baby in her arms. My two other sisters sit behind on the rack with all the food and things. We are one happy family. We don't have much, but we appreciate what we have and have learned to make do with it.
Today the barangs came with some of our government people, so I went with my mom and dad to see them. My brothers and sisters stayed home with my aunt and my grandmother, who also live with us. Our house is not fancy, but it is ok. The good thing about living so many in one room is that you never get cold even when the rainy season comes. Yes, our house has only one small room, just big enough for us to sleep side-by-side on the wooden floor. It is well situated by the edge of the Mekong River, so we don't have to go too far to get water to wash or drink. Our toilet is just next to the house. The other advantage is that we don't have to move when it is flood season. Every year it floods here, and all the farmers come to our road--the only road in the province that doesn't flood--and camp in tents for a couple of months with their families, cows, and other animals. When the waters go down, they go back to their rice fields. I am grateful for our little house by the river.
I was a little scared because I hadn't seen so many barangs at one time. There were six of them, but I felt safe because we were 3,000. Each family had been asked to send one representative to receive things, so many people came from all around, mostly by boat, of course. A television crew was also there, so I figured they must be somebody important. The Cambodian people who were with them talked about the Red Cross and Cornerstone helping us and caring about us, and they gave us many things to bring back home: rice, shoes, jerry cans, soap, sarongs, blankets, mosquito nets, water-purification tablets, and other things. They told us not to use the mosquito nets for catching fish because they were soaked with insecticide, and that we could use the blankets to sit on and eat our meals.
Today our moto was totally covered with gifts. Things were stacked 2 meters above our heads, and lots stuck out the sides. I had hardly room to sit on it. A barang woman from Cornerstone came toward me, but I wasn't afraid because she had love in her eyes. She spoke Khmer a little, and she put nice shoes on my feet. My first pair of shoes! Wow!
People came in their boats from all over the countryside to the only dry land in the area to receive gifts from the barangs--and they were not disappointed! Each of the 3,000 families received a 110 lb bag of rice, bar soap, laundry soap, two 6-gallon jerry cans, water purification tablets, medicine, blankets, mosquito nets, and two pairs of new shoes.