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Story of Hope: Lulu from the Landfill Site

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In 2020, we met a lovely little girl named Lulu. She and her family were living an unspeakably harsh life at a rural landfill site in Cambodia. At that time, Lulu’s parents had lost employment due to the COVID pandemic and had no way to feed their three children.

Girl in red soccer shirt at a landfill

The family had moved many hours away from their home to the border region, hoping to cross from Cambodia into Thailand to find work. When they reached the border, they were refused entry into Thailand and resorted to collecting recyclables along the road so they could feed the family.

A trash collector that they met told them about the landfill community, so Lulu’s family made their home there in 2020.

People working at a landfill in Cambodia

In the unsafe and toxic environment of their new home, the family continued to scavenge through garbage for food and recyclables. It was a difficult and dangerous life for both parents and children.

Little girl sitting in garbage at a landfill in Cambodia scavenging for recyclables

Education for Children Living at the Landfill

According to the World Bank (2022), the national poverty rate in Cambodia fell between 2009 and 2019, and the situation was improving for many Cambodians. When COVID hit, however, jobs disappeared and many families’ incomes fell well below the poverty threshold. This is what happened to Lulu and her family.

We at LWB know that education is the key to escaping the poverty of this region, so we were happy to welcome Lulu and her siblings into our Believe In Me (BIM) education program. This vital program provides free education, transportation, hot meals, books, and uniforms to impoverished children like Lulu.

Each day, the children at the landfill are so excited to board the LWB tuk-tuk for safe transport to school. Our Believe In Me school is not only a nurturing place to learn and play but also a respite from the toxic environment of the landfill.

Cambodian tuk-tuk filled with children going to school

Until her family moved to live and work the landfill, Lulu had only attended school sporadically as her family moved frequently to find work in the building construction industry. We started Lulu in our our Grade 3 Catch Up class. It wasn’t long before this hard-working girl advanced to Grade 4!

Girl in a blue school uniform writing in a notebook

Despite being a little bit on the shy side, Lulu pushed herself to speak up and participate in class. She proved to be an inquisitive girl, unafraid to ask questions about the more difficult lessons. Teachers quickly noticed that she was an exceptionally bright student.

Lulu told us how grateful she was to the many LWB donors for making it possible to not only attend school but also receive food support for her family.

Girl in red and white striped shirt sits in her shack in Cambodia

By the fall of 2023, Lulu had been promoted to Grade 6. She ranked third in her class of 22 students by the end of her first semester. Pretty impressive for a girl who was unable to consistently attend school for much of her life!

Following her BIM school graduation, Lulu prepared for middle school by attending LWB’s tutoring class for three months. She worked hard to refine her understanding of the Khmer language, practiced writing essays, and improved her knowledge of mathematics, studying both at school and at home.

When she isn’t studying or attending school, Lulu cares for her little sister, Cherie, who is enrolled in our Early Childhood Development Center.

Girl in a blue hat holds her baby sister at a landfill in Cambodia

Dreams Beyond the Landfill

Lulu is now enrolled in Grade 7 and enjoys reading, storytelling, art, and dance. She dreams of one day becoming a teacher. It’s a lovely thought that in the future, Lulu may be helping children who have endured very similar upbringings.

Girl in a white shirt stands in front of a table with a water bottle

Through the gift of education, vulnerable children like Lulu will someday have very different futures from a life of poverty at the landfill. Thanks to this life-changing Cambodia education program, these kids have a chance for a healthier and brighter tomorrow!

Girl in red shirt and braids stands in front of garbage at a landfill

Interested in learning more about our Cambodia programs for children living at the landfill? Check out our CEO Amy Eldridge’s interview from 2023!

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