When we met Bao, the Vietnamese child lived with his mother and sister in a tiny, one-room home in Cambodia, where they feared rat bites in the night and were continually threatened with eviction by their landlord.
Bao’s family lived in extreme poverty, like countless others who fled Vietnam for Cambodia to escape debt or jail time for crimes committed. Cambodia does not welcome these people, and Vietnamese immigrants had great difficulty finding work from 2000 to 2010, a decade of economic downturn for Cambodia’s economy.
Some found work by collecting recycling, selling food, or working construction. Many, however, succumbed to the hopelessness and addictions that often go hand-in-hand with poverty and prejudice. Gambling and alcoholism were coping mechanisms for many Vietnamese people in Cambodia during that time.
The burden then fell on children like Bao to provide for their families’ needs.
That’s why children as young as three could be seen sifting through garbage for recyclable materials. Often, the oldest daughter was expected to care for her younger siblings, while her parents are incapacitated. That’s why few Vietnamese children living in Cambodia in the early 2000s had any education.
When worst came to worst, some parents became so desperate that they sold their children into sex slavery to pay off debt and to fund their gambling, alcohol, and basic needs.
That’s why Work of Your Hand began working with children like Bao, who made greeting cards. Our prayer was that, by providing an alternative income, Bao and other impoverished Vietnamese children would be protected from the horrendous sex trade in Cambodia.
As the economy got better, so too did life for the Vietnamese community where Bao lived. The boy has to pick garbage less often now, and he attends a good school—all because there is more opportunity for his mother and others like her to work and provide for their families.
Today, Bao is no longer making cards for Work of Your Hand and we are thankful that circumstances have changed for his family.
However, please continue to pray for the Vietnamese population in Cambodia. This vulnerable people group faces many challenges and often struggles. Our prayer is that God will provide for their needs and protect them from harm.