“This child is really someone special. I met her in a government orphanage in the section for mentally and physically disabled children and her eyes literally bored into me, willing med to pick her out of the other sadly, seriously handicapped children. A closer inspection revealed that she was only suffering from polio and was unable to walk. She was more than mentally normal and we were very excited at the prospect of being able to have her transferred to Sunrise. With help from the Ministry of Social Affairs she was with us in less than a month.
She said she remembers lots of fighting in her province before her mother travelled to Phnom Penh to put her in the orphanage. She has a far-away look in her eyes and said quite defiantly, ‘I have a lot of brothers and sisters and I am a lot of trouble to take care of, so my mother brought me here. It’s not my mother’s fault.’
What a sad world we live in when an 8-year-old disabled child has to apologise for her mother.
She screamed blue murder when she first arrived at Sunrise and saw there was no ceiling fan in the dormitory like she had in the hospital! But within a day or two she was mixing with the other children and whirling round in her wheelchair terrorizing 14-year-old boys! There is very little she can’t do for herself. She is fiercely independent and loves attending the village school.
We were able to raise funds to send her to Australia for a spinal fusion operation to correct her scoliosis and this has made a huge difference to how she looks and feels about herself. She is now studying IT and recently got a job in administration at the International school at a nearby village.” – Geraldine Cox
“Our heart broke when we learned this particular young girl was present with her other siblings when their father bashed their mother to death with a brick during a drunken rage. The father was angry because she refused to give him more money for his gambling addiction. After the poor cremation ceremony, the villagers chased the father out of their village, vowing to turn him over to the police if he did not run away. The children were then handed from family to family, but when it was clear that the villagers could not continue feeding the family of four, the village chief contacted Sunrise and provided the necessary documents to allow us to move the children to our centre.” Geraldine Cox
On the first attempt to collect the children, they were clearly terrified of Geraldine and suspicious of foreigners in general. They were still grief-stricken from the loss of their mother and fearful that their father would return for them. They refused to get in the car. On the second visit, Geraldine took some children with her from the centre to convince them that they would not be mistreated and they reluctantly agreed to come. The children have since found their home at Sunrise and have grown in to healthy, loving and trusting youth who enjoy going to school.
“A group of widows pleaded for our help in caring for their children. They lived on the island of Koh Kor, in the Mekong River nearby and the history of this island is very interesting. During the Khmer Rouge, from 1975 to 1979, it was a forced labour camp and a killing field. Then during the Vietnamese Occupation from 1980 to 1992 all the city’s sex workers were rounded up and dumped on this island to separate them from the community. When the United Nations came the women were released and the land was taken over by the Ministry of Social Affairs and subsequently given to a group of 32 families including the widows asking for our help. The land on which they live just does not provide enough food for them to live on and they are reduced to collecting clams from the river bed each morning, sometimes only earning 2000 Riels a day – about US$0.50.
We assessed the family situation and consulted with the community leaders until we were satisfied that their conditions more than met our requirements for the children to be referred in to Residential Care. Arrangements were made for 13 of these women’s children to join our family.” – Geraldine Cox
“Plean joined us during the violent coup of 1997. She is 61 years old and a Pol Pot regime survivor.
When she started working with us she would never take her one day off a week, and would work seven days. When I realized this, I took her to the gate one Sunday, put a hat on her head, a bag on her arm, gave a smack on the bottom and said “I don’t want to see you until tomorrow.”
She burst into tears and said “Please don’t make me go. Everyone in my village was killed during Pol Pot days and I have no one to go and see on my day off. The Sunrise kids and you are my only family.”
In the last 18 years she has become a sister to me. She has also built up a network of friends, and can be seen on Sundays happily leaving for her day off.” – Geraldine Cox