ith* is a hardworking mother who lives in Cambodia. The country is faced with many challenges and sociopolitical issues, among them widespread poverty, hunger and the legacy of the Pol Pot years. Rith worked 12 hours a day in a garment factory to earn about $A40 per month, with only her strong work ethic seeing her through.
Born into a community of few choices, Rith learned to sew. So after finishing school, she landed a job at a “progressive” garment factory where, despite its representations, workers’ rights in the crowded workspace were minimal.
Not long after being married, her philandering husband contracted HIV, a disease that he later died from, but only after he had infected Rith and their son. After her husband’s death, Rith and the boy were expelled from their village because they were HIV positive. Forced to fend for herself, Rith would hide her small son in the rice fields during the evenings and early mornings while she worked in her exhausting, low-paying job. Their shelter was constructed from cardboard and plastic sheeting. Her son, who had been born with his intestines protruding outside of his stomach and weakened by HIV, was in a dire situation.
Some of the products produces by the women working for Flourish Cambodia
Rith’s plight was alleviated when International Children’s Care (ICC) staff in Cambodia discovered her appalling situation and set about doing something to save them both. Today, she no longer lives hand-to-mouth on the verge of death. With access to antiretroviral medication, their HIV is under control; her son has fully recovered from intestinal and abdominal surgery; and they have adequate shelter and nutritious food.
Rith’s life has turned around. She receives a fair salary from Flourish Cambodia, a social enterprise run by ICC, which allows her to live reasonably well, and her son attends school.
Her current job consists of working at a modern sewing machine in a spacious building, where she supervises trainees. Many of them are fellow HIV sufferers who employ their creative talents making beautiful accessories and decorative pieces for sale through local social enterprise outlets and the Flourish Cambodia online store.
But ICC doesn’t simply help to turn lives around. With a vision to bring true hope and lasting peace, especially to those living in extreme poverty, ICC also shares the love of Jesus and His enduring plan for everybody’s lives. As Rith says, “I discovered what it meant to have Christ make things new for me. I found peace.”
Worship time at Flourish
*Not her real name.