By Morgan McKeown
“What does the Lord require of you? To do justly, to love mercy, and to walk humbly with your God.” -Micah 6:8
The dust and pollution of the city melted into lush green countryside. Annie and I were in the back of a pickup, watching as we passed flooded fields, houses built on stilts and herds of thin cattle. About 45 minutes after our journey began, we pulled up to a dirt road surrounded by banana trees and tall verdant bushes.
“We will walk from here,” Miu-Ling a missionary from Hong Kong and our guide for the day, said. We followed her down the path. Kids began to run up to her, and women from the homes were excitedly calling out greetings. After talking for awhile with a family she explained, “They are members of the church. I come out here about once a week and make sure that things at House of Love are running smoothly so I know them well.”
Mui-Ling with some of the people from the village. All the pictures in this blog were taken by Annie Bower
House of Love is a center for children which the local church runs and with which missionaries help out. Every day impoverished children from the village are given two meals, and extra education with a trained teacher. Because of financial problems the children don’t receive much public education and only get to attend classes for half a day.
We attempted to sneak into the back of the class, but instantly started receiving shy, curious, glances. Annie, Emilie and I ended up leading the kids in songs and games before talking with the teacher. Miu-Ling asked her if she had any prayer requests. “Please pray for the students, especially the girls. Most of the girls are made to go work in the factories before they enter 6th grade. They never receive any education after that. They have to work there to support their families.”
Playing duck, duck, goose with the kids
“What kind of factories do they work in?” I asked, shocked and upset that so many kids weren’t allowed a chance at childhood or an education.
“They work in garment factories and make clothing,” Miu-Ling responded. I realized instantly that many of the brands I wear are most likely the culprit. I don’t know which brands use child labor but at the markets here I’ve seen Abercrombie, Aeropostale, Gap, J. Crew, H& M, Old Navy, Target and Hollister clothing all made in Cambodia. Later on we were told that the factory workers make an average of 40- to 50 cents a day.
A young girl studying at House of Love
That night at bible study with the college students I mentioned how much it bothered me that children were used for labor. Verito, one of the students, said that his sisters work in the factories. He went on to talk about how important education is for the Cambodian people. He is going to attend a university on scholarship, and his desire, I’m sure like many of his peers, is to eventually make enough money to give his family a better life so maybe, some day, his sisters won’t have to work at the factories.
The kids at House of Love, excited about lunch
Morgan is from San Diego, CA. She returned in November 2007 from traveling to 11 countries in 11 months on a mission trip.