This post originally appeared in the May 2018 SEAPC Magazine.
The month of March had me escaping cold, snowy Pittsburgh to spend three weeks in hot (almost 100 degree) Cambodia, visiting every children’s home of NHO and checking out potential lodging arrangements for this coming August’s NHO Kids Camp. It was a great trip. I had not been able to get to Cambodia since Kids Camp in 2016 and was amazed by the changes within the country, and within NHO since then.
The main purposes of the trip were to catch up with everyone and everything that has been happening (there is always so much more than we can hear and report), to actually meet and build relationship with people who have joined the team since the last time I was there, to see homes that did not exist the last time I was there, and to help NHO evaluate where it is right now and prepare for the large growth that all of us see coming in the very near future. These were done, with some additional things added, and we are now sorting through the vast amount of information and ideas to help NHO prepare for success as it continues to grow. However, one of my favorite things on any trip — and this trip was no exception — is to be the one to deliver gifts to a child from their sponsor. The reward in watching the child’s reaction is priceless.
Now, let me tell you, this is not as easy of a task as it sounds. We now have almost 400 sponsors. It is physically impossible to gather gifts from every sponsor for every child on every trip unless thousands of dollars would be spent on airline baggage fees. However, on every trip an SEAPC staff person takes to one of the children’s homes, there is always at least one — and sometimes a handful — of gifts being delivered to a child that are from their sponsor. Naturally, these gifts are usually lightweight and small in consideration from the sponsors of how much we already need to take and we greatly appreciate their thoughtfulness.
This trip, I was able to take gifts for four children plus be there when a couple of packages that had been mailed to Cambodia were delivered as well. The children ranged from a 6-year-old to a 19-year-old. Their reactions were just as varied.
Brosnun, a 6-year-old boy, was very excited but controlled. He meticulously took each item out of the backpack for inspection and then, just as meticulously, put it back. He had a smile on his face the entire time.
Chantrea, a 6-year-old girl, was rather shy. She wasn’t quite sure how to act with the foreigner (me) hanging around but she paid very close attention to Sarah John (NHO financial administrator) as she translated the letter from her sponsor and gave a sweet smile when we took a photo of her with her new hair bow in her hair.
Sreyneth, a 12-year-old girl, was rather shy too as she received the package that had been mailed and needed to be prompted to open it. She paid very close attention when Sarah translated the letter from her sponsors and was thrilled to get a yellow backpack since her favorite color is yellow.
Ly Ly, a 17-year-old girl, was very mature about her gift. She is now the oldest girl at her home and was one of the dancers in the 2014 NHO tour to the USA where she met her sponsors. She was busy helping with dinner at the home but paused long enough to say thank you and to let us get a photo of her smiling with her gift. Later, when she was done, I glanced and saw her looking at the items with her friends.
Vith, a 19-year-old boy, tried to act cool and collected, but his smile showed all. This was a great blessing because for many years, this young man would not smile for any photos. Like Brosnun, he meticulously looked through his items. Before we left the home, he was already sharing his new soccer ball with his friends (although they clearly knew it was his).
Five kids with five very different responses, but it was easy to see that they felt the love from their sponsors as they received their gifts and heard or read the letters. This is why I love being part of the gift giving so much — to see the impact that such a small action has on the child. Thank you again to these five sponsors and to all of you for the letters, photos, and small gifts that you send. It is making a difference in these children’s lives.
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