In October I wrote about the elderly woman caring for her three orphaned grandchildren, who walks the streets scavenging for recyclables to sell in order to feed the family. I will call her Belle. Back then I shared this photograph of her at home with the children.
Since then a friend has been donating AU$35 per month to my account on behalf of his adult children, in lieu of sending them Christmas presents, which I send to Belle. Last week I sent money to Chom, who today sent me this euphoric message and photograph of himself with Belle, reminding me of the allure of Cambodia.
Hello Helen Belle she laughing very much make me very funny too. she wish to the God bless you I gave 50$ to her. Please say thanks to your friend for me hope to see him in Cambodia one day thanks again Hellen take care see you.
Clearly Chom continues to get a thrill out of helping people, and I feel a pang of jealousy to see him enjoying the experience without me. He recently made an impromptu visit to Paula to see the transformation he’d heard about, with his own eyes. Again, I was envious to see the photograph of them together, with Paula standing straight and strong. For the whole time I knew Paula, she spent her life lying flat, sitting up for short periods or walking with assistance for very short distances. It will be an incredible day when I finally get to see her in good health.
Maintaining alliances with Cambodia is not always easy sailing, however. Kim, the landmine victim, was in touch very soon after I mentioned him in my blog on June 4. At that time he had written expressing concern about paying his rent. A few days later he tagged me in a photograph on Facebook, apparently unaware that it would lead me to the connected Facebook page. It came as a shock to see a page dedicated to raising funds for Kim, his family and their rural village! Kim had never so much as implied that anyone else was involved in helping him on a regular basis so it took me some time reading through this page, to make sense of it. I located the contact details of a guy who I’ll call Bob, an Australian tradesman who spends significant periods of time in Cambodia and has been involved with helping Kim since 2012. We had a long telephone call together and among other things, I discovered that he has paid Kim’s rent through to October. The message from Kim expressing concern about paying his rent, was a lie! The majority of Bob’s help, however, has been building toilets and water wells, supplying bicycles for children to travel to school, and supplying school equipment, for families in Kim’s village. He does it all with donations made from family and friends.
I asked Rav, our mutual tuk tuk friend/translator, did he know about Bob? He replied “yes, he also help Kim”. I then wrote to Kim that I knew his rent was paid and I was very disappointed to learn he had lied to me. Instead of apologising, he denied the lie. We had a brief to-and-fro about this before I told him I was not going to help him this month as I needed time to think. For two years I have been sending him money each month with no strings attached and at no time did I link these payments to rent. His message to me last month was merely a reminder that my monthly donation was due. His life is challenging and impoverished and his English is very limited, particularly in written form. I have been to his home, spent hours with the family, and I know their situation. Still, he felt a need to deceive me, which I suppose is his perception that I may not understand, with my rich-world-eyes, if he told me someone else was also helping? I spent a few weeks processing the situation and wondering if I would continue to help someone who thought it was okay to deceive me? It’s also possible that his use of the word “rent” was his way of saying “expenses”. I’ve spoken at length with Bob, who has also had problems with Kim, who at times resents that Bob helps his village instead of helping Kim and his family directly. Bob and I have agreed to communicate regularly and to form a united front with Kim. I have also decided to continue helping Kim despite this hiccup. The fact remains, Kim’s life happened to Kim and not to me, through sheer fate. Just because he’s poor, does not mean he has to also be perfect to earn the help he needs, anymore than I must be perfect to earn the life I was so thankfully born to. Which is just as well because I am not.
Kim and I are equals, with the irrelevant exceptions of his disability and poverty which make him no less human than me. As with all relationships, we are humans interacting with each other as the imperfect and contradictory beings that every one of us is.