Love is the greatest gift, says Ris, who lives in the community of Meanchey in Cambodia. But he didn’t always feel that way.
Meanchey is home to 230 households and 1,135 people. The adults primarily work as farmers. But life was difficult in the community, and families were struggling, explained Ris.
Residents were very poor, uneducated, and most residents lacked knowledge related to health, hygiene, and nutrition, he said, adding that parents weren’t focused on the well-being of their children and didn’t prioritize school attendance. Gender-based violence and child abuse were also common in the community, he said.
Sadly, some adults grew frustrated and left, leaving their children to be raised by their grandparents.
Ris, the father of two young children, was among the frustrated. “I was a farmer but knew nothing about modern agricultural methods or how to save or manage money. I was also not aware of the need for higher levels of sanitation in the community,” he said.
Frustration Led to Family Violence
His family life was discouraging, he added. “I criticized my wife and lost my temper with her often. Sometimes, I hit my children with a stick and talked harshly to them. I did not even encourage them to study at school.”
He now understands that his harsh treatment of his wife and children was a result of being unhappy with himself.
Learning and Working Together
Food for the Hungry (FH) arrived in the community in 2015, and Ris began participating in FH programs in 2017. “I learned a lot of things quickly,” he said. “I became involved with a village development committee and then joined a saving group.”
Next, he encouraged his wife, Channrous Yim, to participate. He says they now attend meetings and training “almost every month.”
Their children – Kong Reach, 7, and daughter Sinan, 4 – entered FH child sponsorship, which helped make the changes in their home and the community possible.
“Since being involved with FH, we’ve learned the need for village and home sanitation. We have been involved in FH activities such as helping vulnerable people and participating in environment cleanup day. I even helped to build a kindergarten,” he added.
Learning Love is the Greatest Gift
“Working with FH Cambodia really improved my family’s condition. I learned that when we speak to our children with good words, their attitudes change! We now pay attention to their studies, and I help my son do homework. They have clean water and wash their hands before meals. Most of all, I notice that we are now joyful together!”
Ris said he began to recognize changes in himself. “I am able to express myself in humility, patiently, and am slow to get angry. I don’t hit my children even if they make mistakes.”
Improvements Spread Through Community
Ris says he sees important changes throughout the community. “We clean up trash along the street, and encourage our children to go to school, from kindergarten to high school. And nowadays, I rarely see or hear violence in the families,” he added.
“For the sake of our families, improving our livelihoods became an important focus. FH staff taught us skills, encouraged us, and followed up with us. They taught better agricultural techniques so that our work is productive.”
Looking to the Future with Hope
Ris says he wants to continue to help his family and community. “I would like to see my children finish their education, get good jobs, and create new families of their own. I want them to live in happiness with no violence and to value others.
“Similarly, for the community, it is my hope for us to have good relationships with each other, showing love, generosity, collaboration, and forgiveness.”
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