When Kim Barnes arrived in the village where her daughter’s sponsored child, En, lives, the children were thrilled to see her.
“The highlight of my visit was the children in En’s school,” she said. “They ran over to meet us, and as the organizer told them who I was and where I was from, they started to say ‘Hi, hello, how are you?’ in English. I loved their happy, friendly faces.”
Kim recently visited En with a friend. The trip wasn’t just about visiting a sponsored child. It was about returning home.
Her daughter, Theresa, sponsored a child in the same village where Kim’s grandfather lived. Kim herself lived in Cambodia until the 1970s, until she fled during the rise of the Khmer Rouge – an oppressive regime that orchestrated the Cambodian genocide.
For many years, she was scared to return.
“My mother is the oldest of nine siblings,” Theresa said. “Her entire family fled Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge. When I visited Cambodia with my fiancé (now husband) in 2002, it was huge for her because we were going to the country she had fled in the 70s and she hadn’t been back yet.”
Kim has since returned. She visited in 2004 and has gone back every few years since then.
Her most recent trip could be her last, though, and she was anxious to meet En.
“I share all the letters I get from Plan regarding the developments they have in En’s area and also all of En’s letters,” Theresa said. “She doesn’t read the translated letters, she reads the original letters in Cambodian. She is turning 70 this year and she said it may be the last year she can visit so she really wanted to meet En and his family. And she wanted to do it for me so En can see that I am a real person.”
Kim had the opportunity to meet En’s entire family and learn about Plan programs in the area. She brought a backpack filled with school supplies, clothing, school uniforms, and candy for En and his sister.
She was surprised to see that sponsoring a child through Plan doesn’t just benefit one child.
“The most interesting thing I discovered about Plan’s work in Cambodia was that Plan not only helps the sponsored kids, but also helps their family and other families in that community,” she said. “Plan helps to build wells and health clinics for all of the children and pregnant women.”
Theresa hopes to one day visit En as well.
“I want to meet En’s entire family, see the village he lives in, and see his school,” she said. “We have a 6-year-old now and would love for him to see the country where his grandmother and aunts and uncles are from. I want En to share a typical day with us and my son.”