Our hearts were so moved by the little ones at Water of Life orphanage in Cambodia. It’s hard to imagine that babies are sold for $10 on the streets. Randy and his team do their best to bring in as many children as they can fit and feed. Each day is a faith walk. Sometimes Randy has no idea where they are going to get enough rice to feed the kids. But somehow, it always comes.
But the love and support doesn’t stop with the Water of Life orphanage in Cambodia. There is also a Center of the Arts for teens and twenty somethings called Water of Life. When the children are old enough, they can live here IF they commit to continuing their education.
Randy and his team of teachers (who are mostly local Cambodian twenty-something, young men that were once his first orphans) teach the kids piano, flute, guitar, singing, drawing, English, writing, computer skills, Internet tools of building websites, and some are even law students. These young men are AMAZING! They have so much to give the world, and they work harder and study more than anyone I’ve ever known. We had the honor of doing a photography workshop with them that you can see here.
Channa Bo is a fourth year law student.
He is on the other side of Randy, opposite of me doing hand motions. 🙂 When he isn’t studying law, he’s helping out the little ones whether it’s playing with them or doing the hand motions for songs.
Channa is in the middle with the can of Coke and black shoes. His smile is so gentle and unforgettable. This is the smile that is fighting to finish his law degree and help his people.
Randy has taken Channa through the system of filling out all the right legal papers for the Cambodian government, so the orphanage adopts the kids legally with no loop holes. Channa now does this on his own, sometimes travelling five hours by bus to help claim a 2 week old baby before it is sold into the sex industry for $10. Shawna is amazing.
Rin’s story is also powerful. He’s the one wearing a hat.
He was an orphan by the time he was 8 years old.
He refers to his boyhood as being a rat on the streets, living an insane life of danger and recklessness. But what does a boy do when both their parents have left him alone at 8 years? He ended up in a Christian school and discovered his passion for art. Rin can sit down with almost any instrument and play it as if he has been practicing for years. He is also phenomenal with drawing. Rin was commissioned by the Cambodian government to take his drawings on exhibit throughout the US.
He has been offered many teaching opportunities that would pay him a pretty penny, but he has moved into the Center to teach the younger boys music and art. Rin Yame has a passion to give back to his own community and see other young boys achieve what he is achieving. Become his friend on FB, and you can see his amazing drawings for yourself.
Rith Sang comes from a remote village in Cambodia.
Several years ago, Randy was helping with a medical clinic in the village where they met Rith. The doctor was so taken with the emotional stress and malnourishment that Rith was suffering. They worked with Rith over years, praying for his mind and heart to be healed. Rith…brings tears to my eyes. He has a spirit full of love, kindness and a passion for learning.
He is now an AMAZING English teacher at the Center—teaching me a few things about past and present participles! His mind is so sharp! And his heart if so BIG, so full of joy, hope—to think he was once buried under burdens as a young boy. Rith is a miracle, and Brian and I both feel so honored to have him in our life.
Water of Life orphanage in Cambodia is changing lives.
Within the Center is a quiet room. When you open the door, you find two brothers. The older brother is named Rath. He is sitting on the floor.
The younger brother is Roth, and he sits on the bed.
Both brothers suffer a fierce and rare form of Cerebral Palsy.
It is genetic and only attacks the boys. Randy told me that if the mom had daughters, the Cerebral Palsy wouldn’t have ever come. Such a huge burden for a mom to carry. She loves her boys and cares for them with every inch of her being.
Randy heard about these boys, and went to their village to find them. When he found them, they were almost dead from malnourishment and the disease. He invited the two boys and their mom to come back to the orphanage and live there. Their muscles and bodies were twisted so tight. And then a man showed up from England, and the man just happens to be a Physical Therapist. He went and found a massage table for the boys bedroom and started working on them every day. Slowly, their muscles began to loosen.
They now go to school everyday. The orphanage was given special wheel chairs for both boys. Their mom helps around the house and in turn she and her boys are loved and cared for. Randy said that several months ago, they brothers had to return to their village for a short visit. Randy was unable to go, so one of the young men drove them. When the boys arrived, the village gathered around them in shock. They couldn’t believe the boys were still alive. They couldn’t believe how much better they looked. But this is the part of the story that brought me to tears.
The boys asked if they could have their wheelchairs put in the middle of the village.
Then they invited all the village to gather around them. When everyone had gathered, the boys began to share their hearts. They told the villagers that they wanted them to all know something. The brothers wanted them to know that they had forgiven them. They forgave them for all the years that the villagers had made fun of their bodies, cursed their lives, neglected them and shamed them. The brothers said that they had been adopted by a Father in Heaven that called them his own, and that they now had a family at the orphanage. They have learned what it means to be loved, and how important it is to forgive. They sat in their two wheelchairs and forgave their village.
The villagers were so struck at the change in Rith and Roth that they begged them to come back and share more of what they had learned. A couple months later, the boys went back in their wheelchairs and brought almost 200 Bibles with them. They sat in their wheelchairs with hands that sometimes won’t even open from the Cerebral Palsy, and they shared the hope and forgiveness they had found. And then the villagers asked them to pray with them, and they called Randy on a cell phone and said, “Randy, tell us how to pray with our village.” And over the phone, Randy guided them in praying with their villagers.
There are so many powerful elements to this story, but what hit me most is that Randy didn’t go to their village and try to teach the village a thing or two.
Randy is all about empowering the boys to follow the desires of their heart.
So the brothers, Rith and Roth, went back alone and found that they have a voice and have healing and love to offer. They are not worthless. Their lives are not a mistake. They are symbols of hope.
Randy has sent their medical records to doctors all over the world. The doctors say that these boys may only live for two more years. As I sat on the bed with Roth, he said he is now ready. He is not afraid to die anymore. He is excited to see God in heaven. This boy’s face was so calm, so full of peace.
I wanted to sit with him and his brother for hours.
They taught my heart so many things that I have yet to process. They sit in this small room, working on their homework, and they are fearless. But their courage is not made of a strong body and ambitious spirit. Their courage is made of peace and undying hope. That room was one of the most peaceful rooms I’ve ever entered. Heaven itself was in that room. And I shall never be the same.
The stories from Water of Life orphanage in Cambodia go on and on. All the boys and girls are miracles. Some of their parents have died, but many of them have been given up because their parents can’t afford to feed the family. They have experienced traumas that would cause them to sleep with the light on and the door locked for the rest of their life. And yet, they have risked to love again—to let Randy and his staff in—to believe that there may be more to life than being abandoned—that there is a God of the impossible who loves, has not abandoned them and can heal the most broken of hearts.
They are the living testimony that healing like this is real. The boys look at you and smile. They hug you and share their powerful stories, and then they share the hope they hold for their lives—I have never been so inspired in all my life.
All they need is someone to have a bit of confidence in them.
Randy says that when someone believes in them, they are unstoppable.
I felt so humbled with their invitation to teach photography. They had already taught me so much. And I wasn’t sure how this was going to work? Teaching Aperture to a group of Cambodian teens with Rem and Rin taking turns translating for me… that quiet voice said “Have a little Confidence in me Me Ra.” What worked was something that was so beautiful, so moving—tomorrow.
You can donate to Water of Life orphanage in Cambodia and learn more about the children. A lot of them have their own FB pages and love having friends, just search their names on FB!