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Sonia Sui and Joseph Cheng return from Cambodia with stories of need and transformation (12/06/11)

Celebrities Sonia Sui (隋棠) and Joseph Cheng (鄭元暢) have returned from a six-day visit to Cambodia as World Vision Taiwan’s Child Sponsorship Spokespersons. During their stay from November 27 to December 2, the two celebrities visited children in rural communities to participate in their daily life, listen to the children’s stories, and witness significant differences between children from a program area that is in its initial stages of development and children who have already been sponsored for a few years. On their return to the country’s capital Phnom Penh, Ms. Sui and Mr. Cheng also spent time with a group of children who are seeking refuge from life on the streets.
As the enlightening journey concluded, Ms. Sui and Mr. Cheng came to realize no matter how down life may seem to be, a small opportunity can lead to a big hope. They also gained valuable insight into their own life and profession by learning from the children.
Upon arrival in Cambodia, the two celebrities immediately took a six-hour drive to the newly established Chi Kreng II Area Development Program (ADP) funded by Taiwan in Siem Reap Province, where they met children faced with food insecurity and lack of access to clean water, health care, and quality education.
When visiting 9-year-old Thea, Mr. Cheng went to see the family’s only water source – an open well next their house. 
“The water is very dirty! I could see fallen leaves and insects in the well,” said Mr. Cheng “This family does not know they have to boil and filter the water before drinking it. No wonder the children often suffer from diarrhea.”
At 6-year-old Makra’s home, the celebrities learned of how Makra’s single mother was preparing to migrate to Thailand in search of work. Makra’s family is so trapped in a cycle of debt and poverty, her mother has no choice but to leave her children behind to find a way to survive. If Makra’s mother remained at home, each day would continue to be a struggle to have enough to eat and put Makra through school. As a gift, Ms. Sui gave Makra a new stuffed toy to accompany Makra’s ragged snoopy doll, her only other toy.
While children like Thea and Makra are able to attend school, the quality of education is still much to be desired. During the celebrities’ visit, they had a chance to visit a primary school where they donated 500 solar powered LED lights on behalf of Taiwan’s donors and demonstrated how to use the lights for students. These lights are meant to improve educational opportunities for children by allowing them to study at night, and also ensure they return to school each day as the battery chargers are stored at the primary school
After Ms. Sui and Mr. Cheng left Chi Kreng II ADP, they visited Stong ADP, which has been supported by World Vision for four years in Khompongtom Province. There, they saw thriving villages and families filled with hope.
Many families in Stong ADP are now drinking safe water from protected wells and water filters, and their livelihoods have been improved through learning new farming techniques, such as livestock breeding, home compost production, and alternative vocational skills.
What impressed the two celebrities most was a group of children sharing their brave dreams to become teachers, doctors, and social workers to help their communities develop. These children not only continue to study at school, but also attend a Children’s Club, where they receive lessons on important issues and basic life-skills, participate in talent classes, and other enriching activities.
“This is what ‘heritage’ really means,” said Mr. Cheng, “These children are seeds and the future of Cambodia.”
The celebrities also described the obvious differences they observed in the children’s eyes from the two different ADPs by saying, “The mood of uncertainty does not exist in the eyes of children in Stong ADP. On the contrary, their eyes shine with smiles and hopes.”
On the last day of their visit, Ms. Sui and Mr. Cheng visited World Vision Cambodia’s Street Children Center in Phnom Penh, which supports children who moved from rural areas, such as Chi Kreng II ADP, to the city with their families in search of a better future but ended up living on the streets.
As street children are vulnerable to violence, exploitation, and human trafficking, the center works to offer them an informal education, medical check-ups, vocational skills, food, temporary shelter, and a library to encourage literacy.
After learning how to make charms bracelets, an income generating skill for the children at the center, Ms. Sui said, “I was saddened to see how children at such a young age are forced to face the cruel reality of life and struggle to survive in an adult’s world.”
When reflecting on their journey, the celebrities realized that anyone or any place that lacks everything only needs an opportunity – the opportunity to transform their own lives.
“After tasting the first drop of clean water, he told me he wanted to be a doctor to keep his villagers from diseases; after receiving her first textbook, she said she wanted to be a teacher to lead her villagers away from poverty,” said Ms. Sui referring to the children she met.
“Thank you, children, for teaching me to dream big and never look down on myself!”
Mr. Cheng shared, “A girl told me she once played the role of an abused woman in a drama performed by her Children’s Club. Her father, who sat in the audience, saw her performance and cried. The alcoholic father used to beat the girl and her mother often, but he never did it again after seeing the drama.”
“As a professional performer, I want to thank the children for showing me the true meaning of performance,” Mr. Cheng said. “The power of performance can actually change other people’s lives and bring on such a powerful, positive impact.”
Taiwanese donors are supporting children in 42 countries and regions through World Vision’s Child Sponsorship Program. Ms. Sui and Mr. Cheng call on people to take action before Christmas to sponsor 500 Cambodian children to help give them food, clean water, education, a sustainable livelihood, and a better future for the next generation.
To support World Vision’s Child Sponsorship, the Broadcasting Corporation of China (BCC) will be hosting an “Embracing Hope and Spreading Love” charity sale on its I Like Radio (FM103), I Radio (FM96), and I Go (AM531) channels from December 12-23.
The listeners can call World Vision Taiwan at 02 2175 1995 at 9 am to 5 pm, Monday through Friday to buy limited quantity items, such as bed mattresses, travel packages, health food, facial masks, and thermal underwear, at attractive discount prices.
‧Child Sponsorship
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