Be the Change Network

aka "Kari's Blog"

Archive for April, 2013

The Food is the Thought

April 09, 2013 By: karig2 Category: General No Comments →

Bun Thoeun is a student whose story keeps me awake at night. A year ago the lack of $30 to fix a wheel on the family’s oxcart threatened Bun Thouen’s chances of staying in school.  He’s a smart kid, to keep him from being forced to drop out of 4th grade last year, I fixed the wheel.  He and his brother have been using the oxcart ever since to haul water from the river and deliver it to other homes, earning about $1 per day.  It’s his family’s only source of income.  How Bun Thoeun maintains his ranking at the top of the 5th grade class is a mystery to me.   He is 15 years old but looks about 11 from years of malnourishment.  To see how the family was doing, I paid them a visit one afternoon.

Bun Thouen - top student, 5th grade, Charuk Tiek

Unfortunately, Bun Thoeun wasn’t home and the sun was setting as his mother approached from her hut.  She said the boy was searching for their cow.  His mother was visibly thin, fragile and ill.  In the darkness we chatted for a few minutes, she was coughing and slurring her words.

Some western companions asked me if this kind of intrusion was okay, uncomfortable that we might be invading her privacy given that it was getting dark. I’ve been coming here long enough to know that with no gates or doors to knock on, or telephones to call ahead, that this is the way interactions happen. Visitors are welcome at any time of day, our unexpected presence shows that we care and they are not invisible.

I told her that I came to see Bun Thoeun because he is one of our best students and I wanted to make sure he had the support he needed to stay in school. I asked how she felt about him being the top of the 5th grade class.  She smiled a little and feebly said she didn’t know about it, she whispered that she wanted him to stay in school. I asked where he did his homework at night and she pointed to a dark place in the shabby hut.  Apparently a sister living nearby has a cell phone with a little light on it that he can use to see his work.  How does he power it? I asked.  She wasn’t sure, when it ran out he stopped studying.

I asked when her son would be back. She didn’t know how long it would take him to find the cow.  I asked if they had eaten dinner.  She said no.  I asked if they had any food and she said “the food is the thought.”

I asked her to tell Bun Thouen to come see me when he came  to school.  Without the school breakfast this smart child would have nothing to eat,  thankfully he was in the morning class.

After breakfast Bun Thouen came to see me with a welcome smile on his face.  He thanked me for fixing his oxcart and was glad to hear that I talked to his mom. I asked him about the homework situation and said there was a chance I could give him a solar light, if he would be sure an take care of it.  Paul had gotten ahold of 10 solar lights from LuminAID, a socially conscious company that has invented an inflatable solar light that gives 6-8 hours of diffused LED light after charging its tiny solar panel under direct sun for 5 hours.  While Bun Thoeun knew he really needed that, he was afraid that someone might get jealous and steal it while it was charging and he was in school.  Or worse, one of his parents might trade it for alcohol.  I told him to tell everyone that the light was school property, on loan to him as reward for being #1 in the fifth grade class.  He smiled and thanked me.





I knew he would make good use of the LuminAID light.  He wants to be a doctor and I hope the light will last that many years.  I hope I will last that many years.  There are not many children in Bun Thoeun’s circumstance who have such high aspirations.  Where does he get this belief in himself?    The day he becomes a doctor, the world will indeed have changed.

If you would like to help us obtain more LuminAID lights for our most promising students who have no light to do their homework, please visit, GIVE Light, GET Light.




UN Association of North Colorado International Humanitarian Award

April 02, 2013 By: karig2 Category: General 1 Comment →

It was certainly a surprise and an honor to come into work Monday and discover I’m being honored with an International Humanitarian Award.   I am humbled and happy that I will have a chance to speak to more people about SSI’s work in Cambodia.  Another opportunity to make our student’s invisible struggles, visible.   Thank you to the selection committee at the UN Association of Northern Colorado for this prestigious recognition of our efforts!