Keeping a Girl in School and Family
It was a steamy midday in the midst of Cambodian rice paddies. Menghong was sitting across from Bopha*, a widowed mother of eight, under the shade of a mango tree. He had had this conversation many times before with other families. He wanted to search for the right words in order to inquire about her family’s needs.
Menghong looked Bopha in her eyes, asking directly, “If we can help, do you want your daughter to return to school?”
She responded, “Yes. I want [my daughter] to have more opportunities. I want her to finish her education.”
Bopha is not only a widow but also a person living with HIV. She felt a renewed hope for her 15-year-old daughter, Maly, that day. Maly had recently dropped out of school and began long days in a garment factory to support the family. The decision was not easy. Due to her mother’s illness, either she worked, or the four children still at home would go without food and education.
The government connected Children In Families (CIF) to Bopha’s family. Menghong shared this as one of his most memorable cases. It’s why he loves coming into work each day. With CIF’s support, Maly was able to return to school and her family has enough food to eat.
Experience in Child Rights and Protection
Menghong started working for CIF about a year ago. He is our Kinship Care Project Manager. His job entails helping staff with case management, strengthening the quality of our work, and regularly conducting supervision and case meetings. Staff and family training are also a part of his role, as well as report writing.
He joined CIF with a wealth of experience. His previous employers included many NGOs: World Relief, Agape International (AIM), Prison Fellowship, and International Cooperation Cambodia (ICC). A lot of what he did focused on child protection and child rights. Menghong said, “I was attracted to CIF because the values fit my perspective and personal beliefs in caring for children – how we support and care for them. We work closely with families to build relationships. Also, we don’t limit who we are willing to work with. CIF takes all types of children from any background regardless of age, ability, and the type of family.”
He explained that Kinship Care crosses over with our other projects, including ABLE, which focuses on children with disabilities.
Menghong continued to say, “The work of CIF is to promote child protection, child rights, and child participation. We take a holistic approach.”
A Calling From Childhood
The journey began for him as a child and is directly linked to his faith. From a young age, he said God showed him that he has a good mind, therefore, he can use it to do good work to help people. He likes to use his skills and education to promote family and help others in Cambodia. His wife, whom he met at World Relief, fully supports him in serving God.
He said, “I am not perfect, but the love of God has helped me love people better.”
He and his wife are also huge advocates of domestic adoption. They have a daughter and son, so it closely touches them to see family preservation and children in loving homes.
Caring About the One
Menghong finished his interview with another story that personally touched him. He shared about a 13-year-old with a severe disability. The girl, Soriya, was to be left at an orphanage because her mother did not know how to care for her. Menghong said, “Even though Soriya cannot speak, we could tell in her non-verbal communication that she understood her mother was going to leave her at an orphanage. She understood everything that was happening.”
CIF worked closely with the government and mother to prevent this from happening. Rather than be separated due lack of means and access to help, Kinship Care and ABLE Project stepped in to support the family. He said he has seen the relationship and joy in the family improve. “It was a very special thing to help keep Soriya in her family.”
Throughout his interview, it was clear how deeply Menghong cared for every individual who Kinship Care works alongside. His main focus was on each person he’s interacted with over the year. Through his personal life and his work, Menghong is an advocate to ensure Cambodian children belong in a loving family.
*CIF changed names and locations of families in order to protect identities and respect privacy.