Hin awoke on a day like any other in May of 2012 to find his mother lying next to him on her floor mat dead with her 10 day old twins cuddled up next to her. She had starved to death.
Dying a little each day perhaps not recognizing the difference in this hunger from the usual hunger, she passed with her baby twins, Piseth and Pesey, two other children, Sokuntea and Ratha, and Hin in their bamboo hut.
The hut is about a mile from the orphanage so the neighbors packed up the kids and brought them to Sitha and Mom.
They agreed to take in Hin and his school age half brother and sister but couldn’t take the babies.
However, true to form they arranged with one of their supports to move a young lady into the hut and were able to get a generous donor to send a monthly stipend to support the twins and their caregiver.
I’d grown close to Hin and asked if he’d take me to visit his infant brother and sister. He loved the idea and off we went. Janice and John, the orphanage’s patron saints, were coincidentally visiting Bridges and joined us.
We were shocked to find that the little boy had broken his arm and the girl had broken her leg …. perhaps when a piece of rickety furniture collapsed. Not clear.
We were all on the edge emotionally, being confronted with these injuries on top of this unthinkable poverty, and wondering what can we do to help when suddenly there was a downpour and it became clear – we could fix the very leaky porch roof.
I looked at Hin and asked if he and the boys would come with me next week and fix it. He beamed a big toothy yes. “They did after all put the metal roof on the chicken house,” he informed me.
All the boys are excited and even my Tuk Tuk driver whom I visited in the hospital today wants me to wait a couple days so he can help. Wonderful people!
Imagine for a moment the total positive impact on all of us….a few dollars of metal roofing , a bag of nails and 6-7 of us laboring for 4-5 hours. Imagine!
We undertook this side project after finding that his siblings both had broken bones from a fall suffered when a piece of furniture collapsed. They live in absolute poverty on only a small stipend given them monthly by a supporter of Bridges.
There are many questions . Hin, his school age half sister and brother and the baby twins are the prodigy of two or three fathers all long gone.
Sitha says the mother was weak and sick but continued to nurse . They simply say she didn’t get enough rice.
The stories of Rithy and little Sochenda being abandoned in the jungle by their mothers to be found later by a villager , or of Thai and his sister, Srey Nyt, starving as their grandfather drank every day.
The stories are heart wrenching, the behavior of the adults unfathomable but it is too depressing to dig into. If you see these lovely little creatures, happy, gentle and kind children then somehow you know we need to ignore the back story, withhold judgement, and look to the future.
Let us not judge the mothers…long since abandoned by their husbands.
Imagine the depths of hopelessness and desperation that a mother must feel to believe giving up or even abandoning their child offers the child a better chance of survival or a dream of opportunity that they cannot provide.
Fast forward two years ….
Sokuntea and Ratha are happy, doing well in school and showing no signs of the sadness I had detected two years ago. Hin has left the orphanage and is doing well in his new home.
Just recently, Sitha and Mom, CIO’s Director and his wife, brought the little boy and girl and their teenage caregiver (Auntie) to the orphanage to live permanently.
Sokuntea and Ratha are so happy to have their twin brother and sister, Piseth and Pesey, back with them.
Debra Nicholls, an Australian lady, has found sponsors for the twins and their caregiver.
So, CIO (formerly Bridges Orphanage) continues to evolve. Eight of the older kids have gotten jobs or returned to relatives’ homes, and eleven new children have joined the family in 2014-2015.