Success of a program (foster care) is best measured over time, looking at long-term results. In the line of work we do, we get to meet a lot of great families. Some are exceptional.
Pisey’s* family is one of those. As one of CIF’s first families to foster and care for children, here is their story.
“He’s really tall,” our social worker told me, as we drove through the village to meet one of our foster children. I pictured a young man who was tall by Cambodian standards. As we pulled up, a teenager unfolded his long legs and stood from the wooden pallet he sat on. He was over 6 foot, I was surprised as I craned my neck to look up at him.
It was clear, he did not suffer from malnutrition.
From Lonely Past to Brother and Son
When Pisey was eight-years-old, his parents divorced. His biological mother, sick with HIV, struggled to care for her son and wanted to send him away to an orphanage. She wanted him to have a chance at school, something she could not provide.
CIF’s National Director, Annie, found out about Pisey and intervened before he could be placed in an institution.
She has two biological children. She loves them and thrives at being a mother (and a fantastic cook). Chanthou saw the needs of so many children around her in the community. Her heart broke for the neglected and orphaned. Initially she and her husband applied to work at an orphanage but were turned down for the position. Thankfully, things worked out for the best, and the family has taken in several foster children in the year since then.
Chanthou said, “I love children a lot. I want to take in kids without family and give them a place to belong; give them a safe home for them to thrive.”
It became the perfect match for Pisey to join Chanthou’s family. Her older children call him brother and none of them can imagine life apart from the whole family. Pisey told me, “This is my family.” The look he and his mother exchanged said more than words could. While he towers over Chanthou, on observation, he’s still very much her little boy.
Free to Dream
He attends the local school, so I asked what he dreams of doing in the future. Pisey said he really wants to be an electrician, but Chanthou interrupted in motherly fashion stating she wants him to finish as much school as possible first. She told him he need not worry so much about making money right away since he would always have a home and family to be a part of.
Pisey’s face also lit up when I asked him about sports. He plays football and volleyball, but his heart is with volleyball. Noting his height, I joked he must be the first pick on any team. He said, “Yes.” A wide grin spread across his face. He is quiet accomplished at the sport and dreams of pursuing it further.
When asked about favorite memories, Pisey responded that his family is what he loves best. On holidays his older siblings return from the city and they spend days hanging out, eating together. He likes being taller than all of them, so they can’t tease him as much now.
He does not remember much about his life before joining Chanthou’s family. To him and Chanthou, he has always been one of their own.
A Hope and a Future
As the interview ended, I could not help but be filled with so much hope for children of Cambodia. All of us needed each other. CIF is blessed to partner with wonderful families like Chanthou’s; Pisey is blessed to have been placed with them; they are blessed to love more children; and we are blessed to be a part of seeing children thrive in love.
*names were changed to protect privacy