We first met 7-year-old Natasha and her two younger sisters in 2017 when they enrolled at our Rangsei Believe In Me school in Cambodia. After getting to know the family, we discovered that the girls had to travel a very long way through the Cambodian jungle each day in order to receive an education.
What a sweet smile Natasha had!
Natasha’s parents had come to the border region near Poipet, Cambodia under the promise of being given jobs by a labor broker. They had given the broker all the money they had for his services with the sincere hope of creating a better life for their three children. But then, like so many others trying to escape severe poverty, they realized too late that they had fallen prey to a scam.
Left with nothing, the family began building a shelter deep in the jungle so their little girls would have a place to call home. On the day that we first visited, it was clear to us that their house might have been meager, but the love of the mom for her children was immense.
As we walked the long distance to their home from the closest road, we followed a narrow dirt path deep into the woods. While the setting was incredibly peaceful, we quickly realized that their home didn’t have access to water or electricity. Natasha and her family were truly living “off the grid.” The girls told us that when the sun goes down at night, the entire jungle becomes pitch black.
As the girls’ mom talked about the family’s struggles, she kept circling back to her dream that her children were going to have a better life someday through education. She smiled and said her most important possession at that time was her daughters’ school uniforms because she knew they symbolized a better future. Natasha and Elsa look pretty smart in their uniforms, don’t you think?
Natasha and Elsa are both such good students. They never want to miss even a single day of school despite the long distance they must travel to get there. They work hard at their studies and listen closely to their teachers. In no time at all, Natasha had risen close to the very top of her class!
There was just one problem, however. When the girls would return to their home each afternoon, all of their studies had to stop the moment the sun went down. At that point, everything in their lives went completely dark.
Later that year, we first started distributing a clean energy lantern in Cambodia that is powered completely by the sun. Natasha and her sister were two of the very first children who received the waterproof lights called Solarpuffs.
A few months later, Natasha’s mom told our team that she now had a new most-prized possession. Having solar lights at their home had allowed the girls to finish their homework at night, and it had allowed them to walk safely outside their home in the jungle. They used the lights every single day.
We know these solar lights last for three full years because, in 2020, Natasha’s mom let us know that the original lights we had given them in 2017 were now wearing out. This reminded us that we hadn’t done a solar light distribution in quite a while, and we were able to distribute 1,000 lights to families in rural regions of India and Cambodia. In these locations, many children are trying their best to do their homework by using a candle or kerosene lamp, both of which pose a huge fire danger when living in small wooden homes.
Now in 2023, it is time to replenish the supply of solar lights once again. During our Give Light campaign this week, you can purchase a sun-powered light for a child for just $15. That is half off the normal retail price of these wonderful lanterns.
We know what having access to light has meant to Natasha and her family. Will you join us this week to light the night for as many other children as we can? We hope to repeat our goal from 2020 of once again providing 1,000 children with a safe, renewable solar lantern.
Please help us give light to children just like Natasha. Their desire to study and explore the world through reading should never end simply because the sun goes down. Thank you in advance for bringing these children and their families a brighter future!
An Update on Natasha
Now 14 years old, Natasha has graduated from Grade 6 and will soon be moving up to middle school! Our staff tells us that she never missed a day of school or a lesson or assignment. Her teachers were pleased that she always listens intently and she is quick to understand new concepts. She consistently ranked near the top of her class, no doubt helped by the ability to study at home during the evenings.
At home, Natasha is a great help to her mother, keeping their home tidy, washing dishes and clothes, and helping to prepare the evening meals. She hopes to help her family to have a better home in the future…and for that to happen, she will need to continue her education!
Natasha tells us that she would like to be a teacher, helping children like herself and her sisters in Cambodia to improve their literacy. We love the thought of a ripple effect starting with the sweet 7-year-old girl that we first met in 2017, spreading out to bring knowledge and a better life to the community around her. We are very proud of this bright and compassionate girl!
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