One of our teams was visiting a small village just outside of Sihanoukville recently when they met six year old Mealea* and her 1 ½ year old brother. Although the little boy was naked and Mealea was dressed in old tattered clothes, what our team noticed most was the look of longing and hunger in Mealea’s eyes as she sat watching someone nearby eat a bowl of rice.
We learned that the little girl and her brother have been living with a neighbor for the last couple of weeks since their mother was arrested and sent to jail. Their father had left two years ago, before his son was born, moving to Thailand with a new wife. The neighbor, herself living in poverty, had agreed to take care of the two young children for a short time.
Our Outreach team returned to the village to provide some rice, fish, and other supplies. The team has visited the mother in jail and has also been trying to contact other family members for help but so far has not had any luck. Until we can find a relative to help, Mealea and her brother will stay with the neighbor as long as they can and the Outreach team will continue to provide support to make sure the children have clothes to wear and food to eat.
In the event that Mealea’s mother will be in jail for a long time and that the two young children cannot continue staying with the neighbor, our Outreach and Child Protection teams will collaborate with the local Department of Social Affairs to find them a suitable, safe, temporary place to live.
*name and photo changed for confidentiality