We first learned of little Jennifer during the COVID-19 pandemic of 2020. Schools in Cambodia were shut down then, and LWB began doing Emergency Food Relief to help families in many poor, rural areas of Cambodia.
During these deliveries, our staff met Jennifer’s mother, Elva, who was struggling to provide for eight small children. Their home was little more than a simple shelter, far too open to the elements. Elva’s story was a tragic one, as she, her children, and her husband John had traveled to the Thai border some months earlier in search of work. During this period, John tragically lost his life when he stepped on an unmarked land mine.
Elva was left with absolutely nothing. She and the eight children had no income and no home, which is how they came to be living in the small tent shelter shown below. The youngest child, Jennifer, was weak and malnourished. She rarely smiled and cried weakly most of each day from hunger. Life was beyond difficult.
We knew we had to step forward and give immediate help — beyond emergency food rations — to this family that was at high risk for trafficking and exploitation. We wanted the children to have the best opportunity for a new start following the death of their father.
We asked Elva if she would be interested in moving to one of the villages where LWB has ongoing programs. She could become a nanny at our Sokhem Village Early Childhood Development Center, and we could monitor the children’s health and development. With great relief, Elva agreed! Soon after, our LWB tuk-tuk driver went to pick up the family and their meager possessions.
Thanks to LWB supporters, we were able to build a more suitable and weather-tight home for Elva’s family in the village. When Elva heard this news, she broke down crying and expressed her deep gratitude to everyone who sent love and support for her family. The older children told us they were excited to have a home that was clean and dry so they would no longer have to sleep on the ground.
At that time, little Jennifer was just 11 months old, and it was a tremendous blessing that she could accompany her mother to ECDC each day where she could receive nurturing care and nutritious food in a safe environment. In this new environment, she began to truly blossom. There were many more smiles (and adorable dimples!), and no more cries of hunger.
At the same time, Jennifer’s older siblings benefited from our education program, with a brother attending ECDC alongside Jennifer, and the rest of the children attending our Believe In Me school in Sokhem Village.
Now four years old, Jennifer is thriving. She shows lots of love to her younger sister Ruthie, who came along in 2021. Occasionally it’s just a little TOO much love, as Jennifer will often disrupt poor Ruthie’s afternoon naps with a flurry of kisses — much to the dismay of both Ruthie and our ECDC staff.
Jennifer is described as an active and strong-willed little girl who occasionally likes to push boundaries with the ECDC nannies — just as any healthy and spirited child of that age might be expected to do. She can be argumentative, sometimes picks fights with her playmates, and has been known to use some colorful language from time to time. Thankfully, she also realizes that life is so much more fun when she follows the class rules, and she can be talked into correcting her behavior and playing nicely with her friends once again. Jennifer really is a good kid at heart!
We love each and every photo and story of this adorable girl. One of our recent favorites has to do with her incredibly wispy, fine hair. “Jennifer is very precious about her hair at the moment, wanting her mother to tie it up prettily even though there is so little of it.” It doesn’t seem quite fair that big brother Vicente has such a luxurious crop of hair by comparison, but it’s very cute that Jennifer has such strong opinions on what will make her feel pretty. She really is a lovely girl, wispy hair or not!
Jennifer has a great sense of style for fashion accessories too. The Spiderman mask paired with a princess tiara pretty much sums up her personality to a T!
We are so grateful that Jennifer, her siblings, and her mother all have a chance for a better life through our Cambodia Education program. THANK YOU to our wonderful supporters who give children like Jennifer hope for a brighter future!
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